Hey doll, grab your whisky flip and join us as we tipple and talk with our spirited friend, Maureen Petrosky. A cocktail expert who also happens to be a Culinary Institute of America grad and a certified sommelier through the Master Court of Sommeliers, Maureen is the author of a fabulous new giggle water guide called The Cocktail Club: A Year of Recipes and Tips for Spirited Tasting Parties. Full of beautiful photos of drinks and nibbles for every month of the year, The Cocktail Club is the ultimate guide to throwing a spirited soiree. You may also know Maureen from her regular appearances on NBC’s Today show and her popular column on TheKitchn.com. Doll, with Maureen in the mix, finding inspired ways to serve the hard stuff has never been so easy.
Maureen, second from right, on the set of NBC’s “Today” show
What are your three must-haves for a great cocktail party?
A pre-batched pitcher drink, plenty of ice and another set of hands. My darling husband is my right hand when we entertain. Don’t go at it alone, even if you prep everything ahead of time. There is always a lot to manage once guests arrive.
What’s the best way to stay cocktail party ready?
Always keep bourbon, a small batch gin, vodka, both sweet and dry vermouth, club soda, lemons and limes, and bubbly wine in the house. And, of course, polished glassware. Dry your glasses with a paper towel before you put them away so you’re not fussing with spotty glasses on the day of your party.
Maureen’s new book includes cocktail party tips for every month of the year
What’s the perfect number of people for a cocktail party?
It depends on how intimate you want it to be. Twelve to 15 works for me because it creates a good mix of people, and I can talk to everyone at the party.
What are the hot cocktail trends for the fall?
Big batches and pitcher drinks. They’re perfect for hosts who want to be part of the party instead of spending all their time working it. I also crave beer and beer cocktails in the fall. I think it goes back to my college days.
What’s the most underrated cocktail?
The Negroni, by far. Made with gin, Campari, sweet vermouth and club soda, it’s a cocktail that works in every season. I find that people who like whiskey like Negronis and people who say they don’t like gin also like Negronis. They are simply divine. (Recipe below.)
What cocktail is due for a comeback?
All the flips. That means there’s an egg in the drink. Flips are frothy, creamy and indulgent, like a nice full-bodied Cabernet as opposed to one that is flat and wimpy. Cocktail bars in the cities have been shaking these up for a while, but I think the rest of the country will catch on once they give them a try. They’re fun.
What are your tips for choosing a signature cocktail for a party?
Don’t over-think it. Make something you really like and chances are others will like it, too. Or, at the very least, you can use your enthusiasm and charm to convince them that they do. Pre-make more than one batch. When people are offered a specific cocktail upon arriving, they usually take it and stick with it.
What’s the best way to create your own signature cocktail?
Think seasonally. Right now, start with apple cider and bourbon and build on that. In the winter, I like to start with a batch of hot toddies on the stove. During the summer, it could be a white peach sangria or a blueberry lavender vodka spritzer depending on what’s in the garden. I always let the garden guide my bar.
What’s your go-to cocktail party hors d’oeuvre?
My tomatoes with vodka and sea salt. Pour a little vodka in the bottom of an olive tray and place a single row of tomatoes right on top. Serve them with toothpicks and a side of coarse salt in a small bowl. Guests should prick a vodka-soaked cherry tomato and then just barely dip it into the salt to coat the bottom. It’s simple, delicious, fun to eat and impresses every time.
Where do you recommending shopping for party pieces?
I like estate sales and garage sales. I don’t like to have what everyone else has. I love to use vintage glassware and fun trays I’ve found along the way. Mismatched, but complimentary, linens and serving pieces let me share my style.
Do you recommend printed or emailed invitations?
Printed. Receiving a printed invitation in the mail is like spotting a rare bird. Chances are if someone mails me a nice invitation, I’ll be there. Unless it’s for another baby shower. Then, I’ll pour myself a cocktail and ponder the idea.
What’s the best way to avoid a hangover?
Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Pace yourself and drink water. Have a glass before you go to bed and put another on the nightstand. Believe me, you’ll want it.
Let’s play favorites…
Favorite vodka cocktail?
Favorite gin cocktail?
Negroni (recipe below)
Maureen calls Negronis “the perfect sip”
Favorite tequila cocktail?
Margarita made with fresh lime juice – no pre-made mixers, please
Favorite bourbon cocktail?
An Old Fashioned
Favorite bubbly cocktail?
Aperol Fizz. It was the drink that started my cocktail club! We kicked off our monthly wine club with this darling, orangey spritzer and, from then on, it was au revoir wine club and HELLO cocktail club! One sip and you’ll see why. Pour one ounce of Aperol into a champagne flute and top it off with 3 ounces of Prosecco.
Coupes. I’m so happy they’re back in style, although my husband would like to know why I need as many as I have. If anyone is throwing a party and needs to borrow 60 or so, you know who to call.
Monogrammed. Whenever someone hands me a monogrammed linen cocktail napkin, I feel like the drink is going to be something special.
Usually the one I’m in.
We’ll drink to that, doll. Thanks, Maureen, for popping by.
Welcome photo: Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins
Welcome quote: The Thin Man, 1934
Some of Maureen’s favorite cocktail recipes:
Fish House Punch
1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
6 cups water
1 quart of lemon juice
2 quarts dark rum
1 quart VSOP Cognac
1/2 cup peach brandy
Chilled club soda or Champagne to top
Ice ring or block
In a large punch bowl, combine the sugar and enough water to dissolve. Stir until dissolved. Then add the lemon juice, rum, Cognac, and brandy and stir to combine. Add the ice and top with the club soda or Champagne just before serving.
Classic Negroni Recipe
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
1 ounce gin
Flamed orange peel for garnish
Combine all of the ingredients in a short glass filled with ice and stir. Run the flamed orange peel around the edge of the glass, lightly squeezing to express the oils. Drop the peel into the glass and enjoy. A plain orange peel works just as well here.
Smoked Maple Bourbon Chai Tea
6 ounces steaming hot water
2 chai tea bags
3 ounces Knob Creek Maple Bourbon
1 ounce half-and-half
Cinnamon stick for garnish
Pour the steaming water over the chai tea bags in a heatproof mug. Let steep for 3 minutes, then remove the tea bags. Add the maple bourbon and half-and-half and stir to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. This recipe calls for two tea bags because I prefer stronger chai spice flavors with this maple bourbon, but feel free to scale back to one tea bag to suit your preference. Though not as creamy as half-and-half, you can also substitute Parmalat when camping. Parmalat is a shelf-stable milk product that is perfect for camping because no refrigeration is required.
From the PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan; makes 1 drink.
2 ounces Cognac
3/4 ounce Rothman & Winter Orchard Apricot
1/2 ounce simple syrup
1 whole organic egg
Fresh nutmeg to grate as garnish
Add all ingredients to a shaker and dry-shake (shake without ice). Add ice and shake again until well chilled. Strain into a glass and grate some nutmeg on top as garnish.
Top photo: Real Woman