On the table: Laid-back libations


Photos by Frankie Schneckloth

Sticking with the theme of last month’s column, party preparation, let’s bring our attention to the main event: dinner and drinks. As a relatively social person, I’ve hosted groups of friends and family at my house for dinner, drinks and dessert numerous times over the years. Sometimes I get overly ambitious and attempt to make something I’ve never tried before with the world’s longest recipe in hopes of making our dinner a meal to remember. This usually leaves me disappointed in the results and exhausted from the effort. I’ve since learned, after many stressful moments in the kitchen, it’s best to stick to what you know so you can relax and enjoy your company. The best meals, I’ve found, are the ones I feel most confident making, where I can basically work on autopilot. This also translates to the beverage department—no need for elaborate multi-step drinks. Sure, those are delicious and great for a night out on the town when someone else is making them, but maybe not the thing to execute in your tiny kitchen with 12 people looking on.


For the syrup:

  • 8 ounces ginger, unpeeled
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar (you can reduce amount of sugar for a less sweet syrup)
  • Pinch of salt

For the drink:

  • Bourbon
  • Ginger syrup
  • Soda water
  • Angostura bitters
  • Lemon or orange twist, for garnish

Enter: the signature house cocktail. It’s a drink you know like the back of your hand; one you can make without wildly swiping at your iPhone or paging through the Mr. Boston: Official Bartender’s Guide. It’s your very own secret weapon and contains ingredients you feel confident improvising with. At our house, this would be a Big Man on Campus (B.M.O.C.), an interpretation of a cocktail once enjoyed in Portland. A bourbon-based drink with a ginger syrup, a dash of bitters and soda water for brightness. It’s proven to be a drink that pleases a variety of people, assembles itself with hardly any thought and goes down easy. While this specific drink may not be up your alley, I encourage you to experiment with different spirits and syrups to find one that’s for you. If bourbon isn’t your spirit of choice, try an aged rum or even vodka. Don’t like the zippiness of ginger? Try a mint syrup instead.

Step One

Chop ginger into thin slices. Chop again into rough, smaller pieces.

Step Two

Place ginger, water, sugar and salt in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook for 45 minutes.

Step Three

Let cool. Strain syrup through fine-mesh strainer and discard leftover ginger. If you aren’t using right away, store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Step Four

Once your syrup has completely cooled, fill a rocks glass with ice cubes. Pour 2 ounces of bourbon over ice. Add 1 ounce (or less depending on your taste) of ginger syrup and a splash of bitters. Top with bubbly soda water. Using a zester, remove a piece of lemon or orange peel and wrap into a spiral. Float on top of drink. Enjoy!

On the Table

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