Beacon Bar (more here and here) was alive last Tuesday night with the tunes of smooth jazz, melodies of familiar chatter, and the rhythmic shake-shake-shake pour behind the bar. Darkness came in through the big front windows of the chic bar and the lights made the colors smolder and reflect in the mirrors. The occasion was a cocktail party to ring in the holiday season and, at the same time, to celebrate the books Cocktails for a Crowd and Storied Sips by Kara Newman and Erica Duecy, respectively. It truly felt like an intimate gathering of close friends, indulging in their favorite cocktails.
The guests enjoyed tiny pulled pork sliders, sweet and spicy, chicken skewers with a thick and creamy dip, and potato croquettes, warm and savory, all the while the drinks kept coming. Beacon Bar’s bartenders did not skip a beat, serving up the evening’s featured drinks, including three from the authors’ books. The French 75 Punch, a prohibition classic, felt light in contrast to the cool evening. The combination of gin, lemon juice, orange bitters and champagne, makes for a lovely occasion drink, bubbles and all and as Newman puts it, “pairs very well with all kinds of holiday nibbles.” While the Moscow Mule echoed the light refreshing nature of the French 75, its spiciness gives a kick reminiscent to the first chilly days of fall. Finally the classy Negroni executed with gin, bitter campari and sweet vermouth added a darker sophistication. The last selection was Beacon Bar’s signature drink, the Beacon Big Apple, a mix of dark whiskey, apple juice and strawberry and cucumber shrub, garnished with a crisp slice of apple.
Though both are cocktail books, each brings something different to the table. What sets Newman’s book apart is “two words: cocktail math.” Cocktails for a Crowd, she adds, “is the only book out there that presents drinks both in ounces, which bartenders prefer, and cups, which home bartenders prefer,” ensuring that the book caters to a wide audience. It was hosting parties that helped to inspire the book. Newman mentions that she “spent far too many parties trapped behind the bar, trying to make one cocktail at a time, and never enjoying the festivities” and she is hoping to help hostesses with recipes from bartenders across the country.
Storied Sips dives into the past, unearthing “the best stories… in the last 200 years,” using incredible illustrations and “easy to make” cocktail recipes to take readers on a journey. Duecy notes that cocktail history is oftentimes obscure and adventurous: “Wine stories often follow a similar script… So there are a few common formulas. But then, you get to spirits, and all bets are off – you’ve got pirates and outlaws, and emperors and royalty, and literary figures and actors who are bootlegging and smuggling and doing all sorts of nefarious things." She is exploring the “great drama in cocktail history” in Storied Sips.
Both books make great gifts for the coming holiday season, whether it be for the hostess with the mostest, bartending professional, or cocktail novice looking to learn more. The stories and recipes of each book are perfect handbooks for entertaining during this time of year, when good food, good company and great drinks are essential.