I’ve always wanted to have a progressive party – where you move from one house to the next for different courses of a meal. I recently made some new friends in my neighborhood, and when I suggested the idea to them they were totally game. Thankfully, one of my friends (who actually doesn’t live at that house) got the ball rolling and picked a date. It was going to be a kick-off to the holiday season, and we were lucky enough to find a Friday in the next week that we were all free (the stars were aligning).
Since I live in a studio, we decided to do appetizers and cocktails at my house and the main course at their much larger apartment. I was feeling a little lazy (and it was a little rainy) so I went for a no-cook appetizer: a log of goat cheese topped with sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts, and fresh basil inspired by Shutterbean. Add a baguette (and gluten-free crackers) and I’m done in under five minutes. Awesome.
I decided to get a little more creative with the cocktail. I searched around and settled on Bobby Flay’s Campagne Bourbon Cocktail. Champagne is festive, vanilla is seasonal, and bourbon fortifies the soul (and body) on a cold and rainy winter evening. Sold.
I made a batch following the directions, and it was… disgusting. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but there was too much bourbon. I didn’t know there was such a thing. I thought no one would drink it. I set up mixers for bourbon and ginger and gin and tonics and figured that would be that.
As I was getting ready, I kept sipping down the drink and adding more champagne. It got better. Then I added a squeeze of lemon, and the cocktail was made. It turned from undrinkable to dangerously delicious.
With trepidation, I made the first batch for my guests, and warned them that the original test was a flop. They loved it, and it’s all anybody drank for the rest of the night.
To the point that at the second house they bought bourbon and champagne so I could make another round (I frantically ran home and made another batch of vanilla bean simple syrup).
I absolutely loved the progressive party. There were several different groups of friends, so everyone got to meet new people. Bonus – it was pretty low-stress hosting. The hidden benefit of a progressive party is that since you are only responsible for part of the night, you can relax and enjoy being at a party the rest of the time. I would recommend being the first house so that you don’t have to worry about anything after you leave home (and can drink as much as you want at the other houses without worrying about being too drunk to cook).
These cocktails are fantastically festive and incredibly delicious. But be warned – since they’re 100% alcohol and really tasty you’ll want to pace yourself!
Vanilla Champagne Bourbon Cocktail
Inspired by Bobby Flay’s recipe, this festive cocktail with get you in a celebratory spirit. These cocktails go down fast, so have extra supplies ready to make additional rounds.
- 1 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup agave)
- 1 cup water
- 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
- Prosecco or sparkling wine, chilled (at least 2 bottles for a party)
- 2-3 lemons, cut into wedges
Make the vanilla bean simple syrup: Combine the sugar (or agave), water, bean and seeds in small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool to room temperature.
To serve (1 cocktail): Add 1/2 shot of bourbon and 2 tablespoons vanilla bean syrup to a chilled champagne flute. Fill to the top with sparkling wine (about 3 shots). Squeeze lemon juice into glass and drop rind in, serve.