BY KRISTA EHRET
If there ever was an excuse to host a cocktail-driven party, St. Patrick's Day is it. For this article, I decided to do an Irish Whiskey Tasting as the main event, but this could easily be switched out for craft beer if that better suits your crowd's style. Tastings are fun events in general, but toss a boozy holiday in the mix and your stage is set. Here are some ideas and inspiration:
Green, Tartan, and Gold All Over. St. Paddy's offers such a gorgeous color palette if you really dive in. Save the cheesy and cute décor for your family party and bring in a bit of elegance to honor this adult event. Shades of emerald, mixed with a great tartan pattern, dark wood tones, and pops of gold instantly bring an Irish vibe without being inundated with pots of gold and tiny green men in top hats.
Set the Zones. I recommend an intimate guest list with no more than you can comfortably sit around your dining room table. Have a designated seat for each guest with settings to include rocks glasses, a place card, a water glass, a small plate of crackers to nibble between offerings, and a place for jotting notes down. This is your first zone. Plan to have a buffet style dinner or selection of very heavy hors d'oeuvres. Most Irish food is not known for it's yummyness, so feel free to Americanize it a bit. Go for “stick to your ribs” kind of foods to prep the stomach for the booze. This is your second zone. The third zone needs to be a living or outdoor space for people to lounge in a bit after the food and tasting. This shouldn't be a rush in and rush out style party. Lastly, have a bar set up. Offer a couple of cocktails created with the sampled Irish whiskeys, wine, and beer.
Portion Control. When we have hosted wine tastings in the past, we bring in an expert to serve and explain each option. This is nice as it transforms the party from a normal night of wine drinking into an educational experience. Plus, it implements portion control. I highly recommend a similar mentality when you're serving up straight liquor. What you do not want is an open bar with guests sampling lots of options at leisure. Consider bringing in a whiskey connoisseur or at the very least a bar tender to serve your guests. It keeps you from being the bad guy just in case someone needs to not be further served. If you plan to do this yourself, consider having only three or four tastings and pre-pour each glass before guests arrive.
Other Tidbits. By mid-March, everyone has spring fever. Bring in some fresh greenery to use in the centerpieces or to adorn your bar and food table. Dessert and coffee may not seem an obvious addition with this theme, but some guests may be very happy to have this change of pace at the end of the evening. Skip the boozy Irish coffees and go for basic, but offer a nice cheesecake or dense chocolate cake with a bit of Bailey's Irish Cream for context.