If you've been living in a cold weather region for the past six months, then you know what I mean when I say, "OMG, thank GOODNESS winter is finally over!" As a New Yorker, complaining about the weather is one of our favorite pastimes, but we also love to celebrate when the sun is shining, the days are longer and we can start dining outdoors and on rooftops again. So every year I like to kickoff the season with a spring soirée to celebrate surviving the cold and welcoming the warmth; and what better time to celebrate than Earth Day! We usually focus on the healthy bites we're serving, but this time it's all about the cocktails!
As I started party planning, I wasn't sure what cocktails I wanted to create. For convenience and to please everyone, I usually go with a "Shimmer and Sparkle" theme, serving only bubbly, one red and one white wine. This year, however, I wanted to change things up a bit with at least one handmade cocktail using whatever fresh ingredients caught my fancy and inspired me at my local market. So when I spotted a pile of cactus pears, I knew I'd found my secret ingredient.
Cactus Pear & Ginger Fizz
1 Prickly Pear (juiced)
1/4 cup fresh cherry juice (strawberries can be subsituted)
1/4 cup fresh ginger juice
1 bottle of your favorite champagne
In each glass, add 1 tablespoon prickly pear juice, 1 teaspoon cherry juice, 1/2 teaspoon ginger juice. Slowly fill glass with champagne and serve chilled. You can adjust the measurements according to your tastes. I love the intensity of ginger, so I added more, but it can easily overpower your cocktail, so be careful!
I love the blush tones of this cocktail, so I wanted to use stemware that really highlighted its beauty and gave it that wow factor. Rather than using a traditional champagne flute, I opted for one of my favorite glasses, the elegant, unique Riedel coupe.
The next cocktail was inspired by my Italian circle of friends. I wanted the second cocktail to represent spring–sunshine in a glass. Serving an Aperol Spritz (a traditional aperitif cocktail made with Aperol, prosecco and club soda over ice) seemed like the perfect refreshment for this mission. To highlight this shimmering sea of orange, I chose the dramatic, handsome Riedel vinum XL.
If you're planning a small gathering at your home, these cocktails are sure to impress your guests, but the most important thing is creating cocktails that you love. So I encourage you to experiment with your favorite fruits and flavors. There are no rules! Also, remember that presentation is everything, so choosing your glassware is also a huge part of elegant entertaining. Cheers!