1 Pick a theme
Are you marking a milestone, getting together for a stat holiday, celebrating a birthday? Think about the occasion and the friends attending. Get creative: you could turn your deck into Shangri-La with oversize pillows and a colourful fabric runner for decorating the table, suggests Trish. Mix a playlist of complementary music. Then think about tastes and ingredients that suit your theme.
2 Invent a signature cocktail
You don't need a bartender's guide to mix a delicious drink, says Merlin, who is on a mission to demystify the cocktail. “It's not rocket science,” he says. A good place to start is with seasonal berries or juices. “A bartender looks for a balance of sweet and sour, strong and weak,” he says. For example, think fresh fruits and lemon zest (sweet and sour), alcohol and soda water (strong and weak). And use lots of ice -- that's the most important ingredient in a successful cocktail, he says. You could even come up with a theme-appropriate name for your drink.
3 Have fun with the presentation
Serve cocktails and canapes in surprise dishes. Trish greets guests with one of Merlin's citrusy sippers, then passes her chilled roasted red pepper soup in clear shot glasses or IKEA glass votive holders. Chinese soup spoons are the ideal vessel for individual tastes of her lime-infused scallop ceviche, which Merlin pairs with a delightful drink featuring grapefruit and lemongrass. And you don't have to use martini glasses, he says. A tall, icy drink might be fun in a pilsner glass or a champagne flute. “Good entertaining is about getting conversation going and getting people inspired,” says Merlin.Perfect pairings
Here's one of Trish and Merlin's cocktail and tapas pairings. Riffing off of Merlin's name for the drink, Trish went for a chic girl's-night appetizer that bridges elegant and easygoing. The sweetness of the drink is balanced by the mild, creamy mascarpone and peppery arugula.
- The Sapphire Chelsea: To a large glass with lots of crushed ice, add 1 oz Bombay Sapphire, 1/2 oz raspberry liqueur, 1/2 oz lemon juice and 1 oz pomegranate juice. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a fresh raspberry. Makes 1 serving.
- Fig, Arugula and Prosciutto Rolls: Stir together 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, the grated rind of 1 lemon, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread thinly on each of 10 slices of prosciutto. Top with arugula leaves. Slice 6 fresh figs lengthwise and lay 2 slices on top of each. Roll up. Refrigerate in an airtight container for a few hours, then slice each roll in half crosswise. Stand the halves flat side down on a white platter. Makes 20 hors d'oeuvres.