Shirley Temple Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

Petey and I were watching one of the new fall TV shows the other night.  A guy was in a bar drinking a whiskey on the rocks that cost $16.  Petey was shocked.

My poor spouse really needs to get out more.  Going out for a drink has become a seriously expensive endeavor.  Sixteen bucks is a touch steep, but around here, paying ten or twelve dollars for a fancy cocktail is pretty standard.

And going out for a drink is fun.  You get semi-dressed up.  A bar is a child-free environment; which can be a relief.  You’re out at night which is exciting.  And alcoholic beverages and bar food are tasty pure indulgences.

But there’s a hitch in that booze-soaked giddyup.  You’ve got to get semi-dressed up; is that sweater good for one more wear? is this the jacket the jelly doughnut exploded on? where is that other shoe?

No kids!  But that means finding a reliable sitter; not so old that the kids are taking care of them, or so young you need a sitter for the sitter, or nervous, or silly, or cranky, or insanely expensive.

There is excitement; getting lost, hunting for parking, and standing around in uncomfortable shoes waiting for a table to open up, then hoping a second drink will make the ridiculously-loud-thumping-music-induced-migraine go away.

But the drinks and eats are tasty.  And also contain enough calories, sodium, and fat to give you heartburn for a week, and make the chances of your jeans ever fitting again dicey at best. 

There is an alternative.

The Brits call them drinks parties.  Have a few carefully curated, charming friends over that will be amusing, but won’t drink so much that they pick a fight with the dog. 

Think sparkling and urbane, not drunken and naked.

You don’t need a huge buffet.  Have a cheese tray, put out a couple of bowls of Marcona almonds, and something sweet, like little shortbread rounds or chocolates.  That’s it.

Drinks are just as easy.  For the non-imbibers offer a pot of coffee and bottled water or juice.  Have an inexpensive sparkling wine, like Spanish cava.  And make one mixed drink.  Call it a “signature cocktail” and all of a sudden it looks chic and not cheap.  Here is the secret of a tasty, balanced cocktail from a former bartender: ratios. 

That’s it—ratios.  The best is 2 (alcohol) to ¾ (sweet) to ¾ (sour).  So, for something warm and comforting like Granny’s Medicine you’d mix 2 ounces Bourbon, ¾ ounces of honey simple syrup, and ¾ ounce lemon juice.

Simple syrup’s 1 cup sugar (or honey, maple syrup, or other sweetener) and one cup water, boiled until sugar’s melted.  To make an infused syrup, add the ingredient; fruit, herbs, spices like cinnamon or fennel seed, and lightly simmer for twenty-five minutes.  Then pour through a fine-mesh sieve.  A sweet syrupy liqueur counts as a sweet by itself, but you can use half simple syrup and half liqueur for more flavor.

Sour is citrus, green or black tea or water cut with some type of flavored vinegar.  Just remember to go easy at first; you want a pleasant drink, not an endurance contest.

For fall, maybe something warm like rum, apple pie spiced simple syrup and orange juice.  Or for Christmas; rye, chocolate liqueur and tart cherry juice spiked with lime.

And don’t forget a cool garnish.

Make what you like, that’s the whole point. You’re really only inviting other people so that you aren’t a poor lonely Susan, drinking alone with only your cat for company.

But that’s not us, we’ve got a social life and plenty of friends. 


Thanks for your time.

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