Colleen Mullaney knows how to throw a cocktail party – day or night.
And on a recent morning, she proved it at her home in Larchmont, whipping up a party’s worth of festive drinks – even before noon.
Not that she’s starting tippling early. She’s just sharing tips on hosting a memorable holiday gathering.
Her most recent book, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere: The Global Guide to Fabulous Cocktails” (Sixth & Spring Books, $17.95), takes readers on a journey to more than 50 destinations by highlighting a cocktail from each one.
It sounded like a great theme for a cocktail party, so we headed to Mullaney’s house for some advice. With three drinks – a punch, a cocktail and a champagne mixer – she’s taking us to Singapore, London and Melbourne.
Her first suggestion? Set up stations.
“It allows you to mix, mingle and do other things,” Mullaney says. “Put your punch station in places where you wouldn’t expect. If you have an office, put it there. People can sit around and chat.”
Our first stop is Singapore, with the Singapore Sling, created in the early 1900s at the Raffles Hotel.
“When you go there, the floor is actually covered in peanut shells,” she says as she’s pouring Cherry Heering, pineapple juice and gin into a beautiful glass bowl.
The cocktail – which is a brilliant red – makes a great punch, says Mullaney, and the serving bowl often become the water cooler of the party.
At the hotel, people who order the signature drink get to keep the glass, says Mullaney. But not at Mullaney’s house. Her pedestal bowl was a wedding gift, and it usually holds seashells or holiday ornaments.
“You don’t have to have a traditional punch bowl and glasses,” she says. “You don’t have to go out and buy these things. Just look around the house.”
Next destination? England.
“London is the cocktail capital of the globe right now,” Mullaney says. Bartenders there are playing with exotic flavors and fruits, like in the Passionfruit Martini from the Light Bar at the St. Martin’s Lane Hotel.
“They’re into exotic flavors there because London is also a melting pot,” Mullaney says. She pours passionfruit juice from a pitcher into a cocktail glass, adds pineapple juice and tops it with orange vodka.
After finishing off the drink with a pineapple garnish, Mullaney moves on to our third destination: Australia.
The Ladies’ Blush, from Melbourne, is made with raspberry puree, vodka and limoncello.
“It’s the holidays – I always like to have a champagne cocktail,” Mullaney says. “I think we, as Americans, don’t drink enough champagne.”
For this drink, she muddles fresh raspberries, puts them through a sieve and adds limoncello.
“It smells so nice,” she says. “Since this mix is a bit on the sweet side, you want to go with a champagne that’s a little drier… has a little more brut to it.”
Mullaney takes a flute for the champagne cocktail, a vintage-looking glass that turns out to be from a dollar store.
Using what you have – or can easily find – is a way to take the pressure out of entertaining, she says.
“You can think outside the box and use what you have,” Mullaney says.
To accompany the drinks, Mullaney suggests serving snacks: cheese straws, pretzels, nuts and popcorn.
There were little snacks served when she came up with the idea for the book, too. Mullaney – who has also written “Punch: 36 Recipes,” “One of a Kind Weddings” and “Faux Fabulous Florals” – was having cocktails at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris three years ago.
“It was such a lush setting, and they brought us these little snacks,” Mullaney says. “I was like ‘It’s 5 o’clock in Paris, and here I am… I wonder what they’re doing in Rome, in Chicago.'”
Back in Larchmont, it’s a long way from cocktail hour in Paris – but as Mullaney says, it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere.
The following recipes are featured in “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere: The Global Guide to Fabulous Cocktails” (Sixth & Spring Books, $17.95) by Colleen Mullaney of Larchmont.
4 ounces vodka
4 ounces raspberry puree
2 ounces limoncello
1 bottle champagne
Raspberries for garnish
In a glass pitcher, mix vodka, raspberry puree and limoncello. Pour evenly into champagne flutes then top with champagne. Garnish with a few raspberries and serve.
Serve with: Shrimp pizza and lamb croquettes.
8 ounces gin
4 ounces maraschino liqueur
4 ounces Cointreau
2 ounces Dom Benedictine
2 ounces grenadine
1 ounces lime juice
8 ounces pineapple juice
Dash of bitters
Pineapple slice for garnish
Cherries for garnish
Pour all ingredients into a large shaker and mix well. Pour into ice-filled glasses, then garnish with pineapple slice and cherry.
Serve with: Mai fun noodles with coconut shrimp and curry sauce.
8 ounces Absolut Mandrin vodka
8 ounces passionfruit nectar
8 ounces pineapple juice
Pineapple chunks for garnish
Pour all ingredients into a shaker filled with ice and mix well. Strain into glasses. Garnish each with a pineapple chunk and serve.
Serve with: Huntsman cheese and water crackers.
Throwing a holiday party on a budget?
Colleen Mullaney has a few tips.
“You can live graciously,” Mullaney says. “You just have to know how to do it.”
When it comes to the cocktail ingredients, Mullaney says it’s fine to buy in bulk to save money – just remember to transfer your ingredients to nicer containers.
“You don’t want to walk into someone’s house and see a giant gallon of pineapple juice,” she says.
Pick up things like lime juice or cherries at the grocery store, and when you get to the liquor store, ask for advice.
Top-of-the-line isn’t a requirement when making mixed drink, Mullaney says.
“Say ‘It’s for a punch,’ and most people will help you.”
You can also get inexpensive snacks at the grocery store.
“Popcorn is a great party staple,” she says. “You can just microwave it, and add your own mix.”
Her favorites include butter, paprika and cayenne or a blend of cheeses.
With drinks, food and decorations set, there’s one final touch – proper lighting. “I say turn it down and light it up,”
You want your guests to be transported.
“You take them away, and in today’s economy, everybody wants to be taken away, to have fun.”
Especially this time of year.
As Mullaney says, “The holidays are really the time to get together with friends and family and really kick back and enjoy.”
– Mary Shustack