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Cocktail Party

Steal This Summer Cocktail Party Menu

Inspiration and tips from our first community gathering.
July 28, 2023
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Photo by Mark Weinberg

This summer, we introduced around 250 new styles of glassware to our Shop. (Maybe you’ve introduced some to your home, too?) With such gorgeous vessels for cocktails coming through our brand-new Brooklyn HQ, we decided to break in the space and have some fun while capturing these glasses in action. So, naturally, we invited a few of our local nexus2018.community members over for a cocktail party and photoshoot.

The event was a chance for us to meet some of our Food52ers in real life, give them a tour of our 21,000-square-foot space in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and of course, take pictures of our guests trying out our newest coupes, highballs, and tumblers. “That human element adds so much,” said our Art Director Molly FitzSimons. “It brings a shot to life, literally.”

The shoot also gave us a good excuse to sample cocktails made by our newest resident cocktail expert, , who flew in from Maine for the event. Food52 Founder Amanda Hesser even stopped by during her latest episode of .

Using Harper’s pro tips, plus our playlist, recipes, and glassware recommendations, we invite you to steal some of these ideas for your next cocktail party.

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From left, Amanda Hesser, Bridgett Lindsey, Duncan Fitzpatrick, Harper Fendler, and Elizabeth Lande. Photo by Mark Weinberg

The Tunes

First, it’s all about setting the right vibe for your cocktail party. Our Studio Assistant Elvin Abril curated heavy on ’70s and ’80s classics to set the mood.

The Cocktail List

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From left, the Bourbon Strawberry Spritz, The Last Word, Blackberry Mint Sparkler, and Queens Park Swizzle. Photo by Mark Weinberg
Harper selected four drinks—two that he developed, plus two classic cocktails. Here's how he paired them with our glassware:

On the Menu

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Photo by Mark Weinberg

Our Senior Food Stylist Anna Billingskog assembled a beautiful cheese board and prepared a summery menu of small bites including:

Cocktail Party Pointers From Harper

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Photo by Mark Weinberg
The Ice Breaker
To crush ice for a cocktail like the swizzle, wrap your cubes in a kitchen towel, not a plastic bag that can break. Then go to town and smack the ice with a rolling pin, reserving a little ice to pile on top like a snow cone. Don’t worry if you’re too busy hosting your party to pulverize ice for every drink—this is an easy-to-explain chore that you can hand off to a guest who wants to help.
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Photo by Mark Weinberg
Don't Over Muddle
You’ve likely sipped many cocktails with herbaceous bits of mint or basil floating in them, but that kind of aggressive muddling isn’t necessary (or appealing). For Harper’s blackberry mint sparkler, you just shake the basil and mint with the ice to express those flavors—no muddling required. You can also release an herb’s fragrance just by slapping the leaves against your hand. (Slapping and rubbing the leaves between your palms will only spread the essence in your hands, not the drink.) To coax the notes of mint into the Queens Park swizzle, he places the leaves in the base of the glass together with the simple syrup and lightly taps them with a muddler rather than pounding them to pieces. Harper reached for the French rolling pin that happened to be on hand after crushing the ice, but you can use a normal muddler at home!
Stations, Please
If you’re going to serve multiple drinks, create stations for each one. Also, make the assembly easy by batching drinks ahead of time and setting out garnishes for guests to DIY. That way not everyone is crowding over the same spot, and, said Harper, “it keeps you from being the designated drink maker.”

Meet Our Guests

Say hello to our first community members to visit our new home in the Brooklyn Navy Yard:
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Photo by Mark Weinberg

, nexus2018.community member since 2018

What do you do? My passion is acting, but I do real estate.
Your favorite cocktail or mocktail: I think a really good margarita goes a long way.
Your favorite drink from the shoot: The Last Word. It was really unusual and complex and it had ingredients I’d never had before. And it didn’t look difficult to make.
The best tip that you learned from Harper: Not to be worried about being daring with your drinks. He’s not afraid to mix things up a bit. I learned to have more fun with it and be creative.

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The playful Zafferano Perle glasses Elizabeth loved. Photo by Mark Weinberg

Your favorite snack from the shoot: That’s easy: the furikake Chex mix.
Your favorite glassware from the event: The first one [the Estelle Sunday Collection Lowball]. I thought that was really beautiful. Then someone handed me a really fun blue glass with white spots on it [the Zafferano Perle Tumbler]. I thought this would be great to have in your house in many different colors. It was colorful and didn’t take itself too seriously.
Your favorite Food52 purchase: The bread basket that I love [The Guzzini Recycled Tierra Bread Box], the one with the wood top. It’s so beautiful and well designed and useful. The lid is a cutting board when you flip it over.

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Photo by Mark Weinberg

Bridgett Lindsey, nexus2018.community member since 2015 (though she began reading Food52 in 2010)

What do you do? My passions are food and travel, and if I could have a job where I combined the two, I would. I work for a communications and marketing agency.
Your favorite cocktail: Caipirinha, my all-time favorite cocktail.
Your favorite cocktail from the shoot: I’m torn between the mocktail and the Last Word—it was surprisingly refreshing and so flavorful.
Best tip that you learned from Harper: The muddling. I’ve been doing it wrong all this time. You don’t have to smash it. I learned so much in such a short period of time, how you release the flavors of things in a certain way.
Your favorite snack: The Chex mix.
Your favorite glassware: The mocktail glassware. I love the scalloped edge. The Shop is so well curated, but it’s curated to be functional. I’m always finding something new and it never seems out of reach or too precious. (See all of Bridgett’s favorite glassware from the shoot.)

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Photo by Mark Weinberg

, nexus2018.community member since 2021

What do you do? I am a food stylist and chef. My passion is food. Cooking it, serving it to loved ones and friends, and last but not least, eating it.
Favorite cocktail: A Negroni. Any kind, type, or variation. I love them all!
Favorite cocktail from the shoot: Bourbon Strawberry Spritz.
Best tip that you learned from Harper: Muddling mint into the syrup first before adding the rest of the cocktail ingredients. That way the flavor infuses with the whole drink.
Favorite snack: I LOVED the Chex mix!
Favorite glass: The coupe—they always elevate a cocktail.
Your favorite Food52 recipes: During the pandemic it was the no-knead sourdough bread. But nowadays, I’m a sucker for the Rao’s Meatballs recipe and my wife loves the simple brine for pork chops—we have it almost every week.

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Photo by Mark Weinberg

Which of these cocktails do you think you'll be making? Let us know below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.
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    Lindsay-Jean Hard
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Written by: Nicole Davis

Contributing Editor, Food52


Lindsay-Jean H. August 11, 2023
So fun to get to "meet" community members!
Fab August 2, 2023
This is so awesome! Makes me wish I lived in Brooklyn, not Los Angeles. LOL! Great tips that I will be using this Friday evening for a gathering at my home. Also so happy to see the coupe in the cocktail glass collection. It's a long lost classic that nobody around my world seems to want to use any longer. I get so many interesting comments when I serve cocktails in a coupe. Cheers!
Nicole D. August 2, 2023
That is great to hear Fab! Do you have any go-to recipes for parties (drinks or otherwise)?
Fab August 2, 2023
Hey Nicole - Summer is all about BBQ and my OONI pizza oven. For drinks I like to let guests choose what they want, I keep a fully stocked bar and wine fridge. However, I do always recommend my cocktail-du-jour per se. LOL! My cocktail tastes vary so right now I'm drinking gin & tonic or margarita....both great summer refreshers.
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