Jazzing up your drinks reception

What to serve as an aperitif in advance of one of our events? Drinks receptions are not a prerequisite, but as ice breakers they take some beating. Over the years we've seen some brilliant drink ideas for this important stage of an event, and we felt the time was ripe to share some of them with you. Remember delicate flavours often work for aperitifs, but don't let this be too much of a stranglehold - sometimes it's best to go for a showstopper. For most of our events Champagne has long been the classic opening act, but a little thought here goes a long way. Champagne is not the only option, and if budget is tight you can make an impression for less than you may think. FOR WINE TASTINGS Our friends at Adnams for instance sell magnums of the very toothsome Prosecco di Conegliano Spumante, Il Colle at just £22.99 per bottle at the time of writing (September 2014) - magnums are great for theatrics and are too rarely used. The lovely Ironmongers Hall also surprised us some years ago by adding a wild hibiscus flower to glasses of sparkling wine. The trick here is to find the driest sparkling wine possible (Prosecco is generally best avoided), otherwise the syrup preserving the hibiscus flower will make the drink cloying. English sparkling wine is also well worth considering (the best beating many Champagnes), or a highly respected sparkling wine from elsewhere, such as Pelorus (vintage or non vintage) from New Zealand, Quartet from California (famously owned by Champagne house Louis Roederer, makers of Cristal), or Petaluma Croser from Australia. They all create talking points. FOR COCKTAIL MAKING AND TASTING Unless you are opting to make virgin/non alcoholic cocktails, cocktail making and tasting events can involve a healthy measure of drink consumption (though the emphasis should always be on quality rather than quantity). Because of this, it can be worthwhile considering non alcoholic cocktails. One ideal mocktail as an example is an elderflower, mint and apple juice sparkler - a lovely, delicate way to start the show. FOR CRAFT BEER TASTING There are a number of 'Champagne' beers available on the market which make ideal openers. As an example Kasteel Cru is a lovely Champagne yeast lager from Alsace in North Eastern France (not terribly easy to get hold of in the UK these days but delicious). Alternatively something off the wall like Lindeman's Kriek - a mad, lovely, and very light Belgian spontaneous fermentation (lambic) beer made with fresh cherry juice. FOR WHISKY TASTINGS Our friends at Mosimanns have created glorious Whisky Mac cocktails for us in advance of our whisky tasting events in the past. Two parts of blended Scotch whisky is blended with one part ginger wine (use Stones) - just the ticket. We've also seen mulled wine receptions in advance of this style of tasting (avoid all recipes that call for vanilla!). FOR CHOCOLATE MAKING AND TASTING Champagne and chocolate are of course popular bedfellows (if not perfect matches) but the Chocolate Martini has also long been a popular choice here (and if you can serve it in a chocolate glass more power to your elbow). All you really need for a good Chocolate Martini is a good, clean Vodka (try the Belenkaya brand) some creme de cacao (from Bols), some milk (full fat) and some posh chocolate syrup (from Monin). Finally, no matter what event (and drinks reception) you pick, still and sparkling water never goes amiss. Happy eventing.

Pip Martin is the Founder of The Tasting Quarter, a Corporate Wine Tasting & Specialist Events Company. After management positions in Harrod’s Foodhall, Pip became Corporate Events Manager at Richard Branson’s online wine merchant, Virgin Wines, where he hosted over 200 wine events in a little over 15 months for companies including BBC, Morgan Stanley, PricewaterhouseCoopers and JP Morgan. Since 2002, via The Tasting Quarter, Pip and his team have produced and hosted tastings in Spain, Russia and South Africa and co-hosted events in Ireland, Holland, Belgium, France, Denmark and Switzerland for groups of 10 to 3000+. He has run virtual, hybrid and AI augmented tastings for companies including AVMI, Oracle, Adobe, Google and Cisco. He also counts all the Magic Circle law firms in the UK as repeat clients for in-person events. Pip’s media work has included wine presenting on Sky One’s Taste programme and BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen. Writing credits include wine articles for Condé Nast’s Gourmet Travel and Esquire.