One of my favourite things in life is hosting Friday drinks to ring in the weekend and start the night in style before heading out later in the evening.
I love inviting friends over after a hard week at work and having a little breather whilst enjoying their company, putting on a food and drinks spread for them that is a lot less pricy than going to a bar or restaurant though no less sophisticated! Yes, I take hosting serious and with a few short tips you can too, mixing up some super easy yet super tasty cocktails and lining yours and your friend's stomach with yummy treats that are straight forward to make or order in.
All that's left is sorting out that killer outfit to wear and ignoring the threat of the hangover that awaits the next day!
1. GET SOME NIBBLES READY FOR YOUR GUESTS
My friends regularly make fun of me and my snack tray. Haters gonna hate as they say and I do proudly own a wooden tray on which I without fail serve up a selection of cold snacks, ready for everyone's arrival. I mean let's be honest the Italians totally nail it with the whole idea of aperitivo hour- one simply needs something salty and crunchy to nibble alongside your first couple of drinks of the day and to be honest you can really let your imagination run wild here!
I like picking unusual crisp flavours (favourites of mine are the black truffle crisps from Torres Selecta that you can get at Marks & Spencer or Tesco Finest's goats cheese and sweet chilli variety) but go as fancy or old school as you like, no one will say no to Doritos in the end of the day. I also like to add some sort of dip to the selection, preferably a tub of Sabra hummus which is as good of a hummus as you are going to get in the supermarket, and serve it with some freshly cut, and in my opinion totally underrated, celery as my choice of crudités. When I feel like making an extra effort I sometimes also whip up a guacamole from scratch or get some olives but really it is all about having a nice little selection of what you fancy on that day ready to welcome your guests and which stays looking appetising even if everyone shows up an hour or two late!
2. MAKE FANCY LOOKING COCKTAILS (WITH MINIMUM EFFORT)
Cocktails can be a bit of a pain to make at home- once a cocktail shaker, precise measurements and hard to get ingredients become involved (bitters anyone?!) it also becomes increasingly hard to commit to making them (well) during pre-drinks, especially as ones patience and mixing abilities begins to decline with each drink consumed. The solution? Cocktails with less than 5 ingredients that you can mix in a big wine glass, make with things you can find in any supermarket but which when all mixed together style look like the real cocktail deal:
THE GINGERVIDUAL WITH STONE'S ORIGINAL GREEN GINGER WINE
Now this little cocktail number was a real surprise for me and on first taste instantly won over all my friends. I had never actually tried or even heard of ginger wine before but wasn't going to say no when the lovely people at Stone's Ginger Wine offered to send me a couple of bottles to try and recreate their range of cocktail recipes using the wine.
Stone's have been embracing their ginger roots since 1740 and this summer they have partnered with one of London’s leading expert mixologists to create a range of refreshing summer cocktails, capturing the essence of what it means to be a Gingervidual.
Their range of cocktails are designed as an alternative to your classic summer drinks and The Gingervidual immediately caught my eye, not only because it sounded super easy to make but because the combination of ginger wine, elderflower cordial and sliced cucumber sounded so refreshing and with that perfectly suitable for a hot summer's evening. Assembly may only have taken 5 minutes but the finished cocktail ended up looking rather fancy, cucumber ribbons adorning each glass, and wowed us at first sip. The ginger wine was fragrant and perfectly balanced and worked a real treat with the other components here. It tasted so light yet nuanced that we couldn't quite believe none of us had ever tried ginger wine or this cocktail before! I for one will be adding it to my shopping basket more often and the Gingervidual to my repertoire of regular drinks!
Here is the super easy cocktail recipe for you to make at home:
50ml Stone's G.W
10ml Elderflower Cordial
Top with Soda
Pour the ingredients into a highball, add some ice cubes, stir and top with soda water. Garnish with cucumber ribbons and raspberries (I went for glacé cherries on this occasion)
PS: Stone's Ginger is priced at £6.50 and available at supermarkets and off licences nationwide. If like me you've been won over by Ginger wine there are plenty more cocktail recipes to try out here.
3. LINE THOSE STOMACHS
I am small person by anyone's standard and there is only so much alcohol I can take before I need some carbs to soak up the booze. Here are two great food options that will suit your needs on the night, whether you need something quick, easy and with no cleaning up or if you want to impress with some home cooking. Both are pretty damn tasty and should hopefully avoid you having to dash to some gross kebab shop next to a club as so often happens when you leave the house on a cocktail filled but otherwise empty stomach.
THE NO BRAINER PIZZA DELIVERY
With pizza delivery I do not mean some shoddy Dominoes "pizza" or the like. Especially in London we are blessed with some amazing pizza joints that also happen to deliver so make the most of them! My personal favourite is Pizza Pilgrims. Their pizza is reasonably priced, barely going over the £10 mark, always tasty and big enough to share between two people before a night out.
I always go for the Gianfranco Gorgonzola, a white pizza topped with fior di latte, gorgonzola, ribboned courgette, basil and oregano, which never disappoints with it's outstanding flavours and sets the perfect foundation for more drinking in the most delicious of ways.
SWEET POTATO NACHOS
Now, these sweet potato nachos do take a bit more kitchen prep and ingredients shopping ahead of your gathering but have never failed to wow my guests. I try to head to the supermarket the day before and also put the sweet potatoes in the oven the minute I get home from work as they do take a good hour or so to bake. Once they are in I also try to get all the other components ready ahead of everyone arriving (i.e make the guacamole, drain the black beans etc.) so that once the potatoes are done it is simply an assembly and quickly shove under the grill job that I am more than happy to do even a few drinks in.
I adopted my recipe from here and can only recommend recreating them for yourself at home. The sweet potato "nachos" are super filling and a lot more wholesome, fresh and flavourful than the usual tortilla chips used for nachos, making this healthy sunshine food perfect for sharing. One worth making the extra effort for!
AND LASTLY.... HAVE FUN OF COURSE! DRESS UP, GRAB YOUR FRIENDS AND GO FOR A DANCE!