It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jesus was the greatest host of all time. And not just due to the general facilities up in the Kingdom of Heaven (which are rumoured to be top notch, if subject to some stringent membership requirements). But also thanks to that business with all the bread and the fish, and the Wedding at Cana. It’s not simply that JC turned water into wine (surely a common-or-garden task for the miracle man.) It’s that he did so without fanfare, and in prior anticipation of the needs and wants of his guests. Considerate, understated, and with magical hands, Christ remains the gold standard for hosts to this day. And while our entreaties in that direction went generally unanswered (it’s a pretty busy time of year up there, to be honest), we did manage to pinch some top tips and signature cocktails from five seasoned hosts on this particular earthly plain. And here, in no particular order, they are.
Will Woodhams, CEO of Fitzdares, recommends the Horse Neck Martini
50ml VSOP cognac – Hennessy Fine de Cognac
25ml cold-pressed ginger shot – homemade or bought in (Pret, Fighter and Press all do good ones)
1 tiny splash of ginger wine
1 tiny splash of Angostura bitters
Lemon peel, to garnish
Shake in a mixer over ice until very cold, then strain into a martini coupe. Rub the lemon peel around the rim, twist and drop into the glass. Serve.
We created the cocktail in honour of the Horse’s Neck: a mix of cognac and ginger ale that was served at the famous Hennessy Gold Cup. Our version is the perfect cocktail to keep out a cold and start a lunch or dinner. It also works as a digestive with lots of raw goodness to help with a big lunch.
The golden rule for hosting is to have the right mix of drinks, start with a cocktail or a glass of champagne or English sparkling, and then good white burgundy followed by good claret. If you stick to this ancient mix, everything will go well. When you deviate, the wheels always fall off. Every wedding fight is caused by average booze mixed with average booze.
Jack Greenall — landlord at The Surprise in Chelsea — goes for the house negroni
Our most famous and top selling cocktail at The Surprise is the oak aged negroni using our family gin, Greenall’s. Aged in English oak, It has a rich and warm taste and slips down a treat.
It’s become a classic for us and we sell it by default order.
Greenall’s London dry gin
The Surprise vermouth blend
Burnt orange oak
The golden rule for hosting: be discreet, just like a priest!
Michael Hainey, Deputy Editor at Airmail, opts for a Sanbitter Rosso
Thanks to a thoughtful old waiter, I discovered this mildly carbonated alcohol-free drink one afternoon as I sat on a piazza at aperitivo hour in a small town in Italy. From the design of the bottle to the shade of red, everything about Sanbitter Roso is perfect — including the taste, which is similar to Campari in that it’s slightly bitter.
When you serve it to a guest, go all in on the presentation. I bring it to them on a small tray, with a rocks glass jammed with ice and a slice of orange, along with a small bowl of salted almonds — all of which immediately makes anyone feel like they have been transported to that ancient piazza in Ravello, gazing at a sunset as red as what they hold in their hands.
My golden rule for hosting: make sure the light is movie-set low and soft and warm. Everyone is their best self when they feel they look their best self.
Farhad Heydari — Founder of House of Heydari and Editor of NetJets Magazine and Ultratravel — mixes a mean martini
My go-to drink is the dirty vodka martini — which is the perfect savoury cocktail for the epic nibble-fest that precedes every meal at the House of Heydari, usually consisting of any manner of charcuterie, cheeses, cornichons and crisps; plus olives, blanched almonds, trout roe, Cantabrian anchovies on Poilâne — I could go on…
Here’s how we make it: fill your trusted shaker with ice and swirl in 1/2 ounce dry vermouth. Stir and drain. Next fill your shaker with a 2 1/2 ounces of vodka and a 1/2 ounce of olive brine, which you can extract from canned or jarred pitted olives sold everywhere. Shake and fine-strain into a chilled martini glass garnished with three Nocellara olives. I love the drink because the brine softens the vodka on the palette and has been the impetus for so many of my most memorable evenings.
The golden rule for hosting: always have more drink and more food than you think guests will want to have and have it all ready to go, serve and enjoy. Guests shouldn’t be hunting for food or drinks at a dinner party.
David Gandy, founder of David Gandy Wellwear, keeps it simple with a negroni
Being an investor in Saville Row Gin, I’m fortunate enough to always have gin in the house. So I always go for negronis.
30 ml Gin
25 ml sweet vermouth
25 ml campari
Ice and slice of orange.
(A slight twist is adding half a teaspoon of rhubarb and ginger jam — slightly more refreshing for summer.)
Pour the gin, vermouth and Campari (and jam if you choose) into a mixing glass or jug with ice. Stir well until the outside of the glass feels cold.
Strain into a tumbler and add one large ice sphere or some fresh ice, and garnish with an orange slice, using a blood orange when in season.