NAME: A.J. Rathbun
OCCUPATION: Author, poet and mixologist
FAVORITE LIQUOR: “I’m an equal opportunity drinker.”
ON RAW EGGs IN COCKTAILS: “They add a really good mouthfeel. Just use fresh, organic eggs, shake like the dickens and you’ll be fine.”
For A.J. Rathbun, 41, an average workday involves shaking up a few cocktails behind his home bar. The former Amazon.com senior editor has published six drink recipe books, including Wine Cocktails and Dark Spirits, and the recently released Champagne Cocktails: 50 Cork-Popping Concoctions and Scintillating Sparklers (Harvard Common Press; $12.95). Inspired by the lavish parties his parents threw when he was a child, and building on his experience selling bar tools in Amazon’s kitchen store, Rathbun has become a drink expert, digging up vintage and avant-garde cocktail recipes and creating a few of his own. Here he shares his tips on how to keep parties effervescent this holiday season.
SM: What makes a good drink recipe?
AJ: Not to be silly, but what makes it good is that it tastes good. People sometimes want to throw a bunch of ingredients together because they think it sounds good, but that doesn’t matter if it doesn’t taste good. Balance is a big thing.
SM: What about plain champagne?
AJ: Around the holidays, friends and families are a little more dressed up, a
little fancier, and a bubbly drink really accents that—the champagne glistening, matching all the tinsel. I’m never going to turn down a basic glass of champagne, but it isn’t as much fun as an intriguing champagne cocktail.
SM: Such as?
AJ: The Lavanda. It has lavender simple syrup, gin and Prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine. Something like that at your party is going to really make it stand out. Lavanda—it’s like a forbidden dance.
SM: What’s a must-have for a liquor cabinet?
AJ: A cocktail shaker would be the first thing. Not that every drink is made with a cocktail shaker, but it just makes drinks so much better so much quicker. And you look really cool when you’re shaking a cocktail, so it works on the romantic side as well, if you’re trying to impress at a party.
SM: Other tips for throwing a fabulous holiday bash?
AJ: Think up a couple of signature cocktails for your party that fit what you want the personality of your party to be, whether it’s seasonal or holiday based. To make your parties a little easier, break out that punch bowl grandma gave you. You don’t have to be making individual drinks. Remember—you want to have fun at your party, too. A punchbowl can be your best friend.