Mixology: the must-have ingredients in your cupboard
As a party host, you're going to be mixing a lot of drinks and catering for a wide range of tastes, so it pays to have ingredients on hand to cover all the possible requests that your guests could throw your way. A well-stocked cupboard is a key weapon in any host's arsenal.
What we will look at here are all those other things you need to have on hand for mixing drinks - the various dry ingredients that no self-respecting host should be without.
Salt is very versatile and goes with a variety of cocktails, in a bloody mary or with tequila for example. When used in alcoholic drinks, it tempers bitterness and heightens sweet and sour flavours. In margaritas, it takes some of the bite out of the alcohol – and the ring of salt around the rim of the glass also gives the drink a nice decorative touch.
Choose an unrefined, high quality salt such as Maldon sea salt which has a very subtle flavour or Himalayan pink salt for a touch of pizzazz. We also love Guérande salt; the Guérande salt marshes in Brittany have a tradition for producing quality salt that goes back hundreds of years, and it comes in two varieties: fleur de sel ('flower of salt'), known for its flaky crystals, and coarse Guérande salt.
Whichever salt you choose, avoid regular table salt. It will just make your drinks taste salty.
No discerning host's cupboard should be without a good supply of Muscovado sugar. Muscovado is unrefined cane sugar from which the molasses has not been removed. It is dark brown (much more so than other brown sugars), very soft, slightly coarse, sticky and has quite a long shelf life. By adding Muscovado sugar to granulated sugar and water, you can make a great syrup that forms the backbone of countless cocktail recipes.
Demerara sugar is also worth stocking up on. With bigger crystals and a more 'solid' texture than Muscovado sugar, Demerara works especially well in cognac-based or champagne-based cocktails.
HERBS AND SPICES
Herbs and spices fill every space with an array of enticing aromas, and they add an exotic touch to most foods. They are also well known for their health benefits; peppermint and ginger, for example, are both very helpful treating colds. Adding herbs and spices to drinks can also add a touch of excitement, whether in cocktails or any other combination that you can dream of.
Stock up on rosemary, cinnamon, basil, coriander, tarragon, cardamom, black pepper, ginger (both raw and powdered), dill, chilli and cayenne pepper. Experiment with a Belvedere vodka spritz or with a glass of Veuve Clicquot Rich.