Ready to toast 2011 this weekend, but need some last-minute tricks for preparing and serving drinks? We've asked the owners of two local bartending schools for tips to make your New Year's Eve party a smashing success—without anyone getting smashed.
Have plenty of ingredients, ice cubes and tools of the trade.
"Have beer, wine and vodka, tequila, rum and gin for simple cocktails," said David Rattner, owner and director of the National Bartenders School in White Plains. "Few drinks should be served with crushed ice, which dilutes and can ruin (them)."
Stock up on lime juice, cranberry and orange juice, club soda, cola and tonic water for mixers. Lemon, orange and lime slices and cherries are for garnishes; accents can be cinnamon sticks, vanilla and coffee beans, and olives.
Basic tools include: a corkscrew, muddler (for mashing or crushing), and shakers; speed pourers for the liquor bottles, a jigger (for accurate measure), a long-stemmed bar spoon, and a Hawthorne strainer—a flat strainer with coil around the edges, Dennis Ryan, the owner of the Academy of Professional Bartending School in New Rochelle explained.
Use quality alcohol and mixers and know when to shake.
"A three build—three or more ingredients, including the alcohol, needed to make the drink—must be shaken," Ryan said. "An example is a Sea Breeze, which has vodka, grapefruit and cranberry juice."
A Screwdriver, for example, has two ingredients and need only be stirred.
"A drink with sour mix or cream must be shaken, and a drink with pure spirits is stirred so as not to cloud the drink," Ryan said.
There are exceptions to every rule, however.
"A bartender, first and foremost, should always do essentially what the client has requested," Rattner said, referencing James Bond's famous line uttered by Sean Connery in the 1964 film, Goldfinger, "Just a drink, a martini, shaken not stirred."
Avoid under pouring or over pouring after you mix a drink.
"Not filling the glasses to the top with ice and/or using the wrong glass (is incorrect)," Ryan said, "Glassware affects the drinks taste and the overall experience."
For drinks with more ingredients, stick with larger glasses, Rattner said. "A brandy snifter, on the other hand, is architected for sipping fine cognac," he explained.
Provide food–carbohydrates and protein–to help slow down the absorption of alcohol into the body.
Drink Gatorade before you imbibe and keep yourself and your guests nourished and hydrated.
"Alcohol dehydrates the system, and some of the pain of a hangover is caused when the vessels constrict due to dehydration," Ryan said.
He suggests drinking the same kind of alcohol during the evening. If you're having clear drinks stay with clear drinks, if you drink wine, stick with wine.
"There are many dozens of popular "folk" remedies out there (for hangovers)," Rattner said. "Bottom line is do whatever you can to correct the dehydration and vitamin deficiency that's been caused by your overindulgence."
Have an area with non-alcohol beverages like water, juices, soda and coffee.
Keep these separate from the non-alcoholic beverages you'll use for ingredients. Alcohol doesn't quench thirst, which is easy to ignore when you're having fun.
"And let guests ask you for another drink," Rattner said. "Don't keep asking them if they want more."
Consider being a guest at your own party.
"The biggest mistake people make when having a party is neglecting to arrange for a bartender," said Rattner.
Ryan echoed that sentiment. "For larger parties, you don't want your guests serving themselves nor do you want to spend the night mixing drinks," he said.
"Bartenders add a certain element of class and quality to parties, and people don't have to be hampered," Rattner said. "And they can sense when someone needs to be cut off from drinking."
Most important rule: drink and serve responsibly.
"If you're at a party with friends and family and see someone's had too much, enlist the help of the host," said Ryan.
He advised approaching the person with care.
"Handle with kid gloves," Ryan said. "A person (in this case, the host) could be sued under the Dram Shop Liquor Liability, which holds third parties liable if the person drinking is involved in an accident."
And just a quick reminder: No matter if the party is at your house, it's against the law to serve alcohol to anyone under the age of 21.
If you sense a guest is unable to get behind the wheel, ask someone to drive the person home, call a local taxi service or, if need be, let the person stay overnight.
Wishing you a safe and happy New Year!