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Aug. 4, 2023
First impressions are everything. A first course can impress your guests and set the mood for the evening. Here are some ways to start the evening off right, from creating a charcuterie board to picking the right aperitif.
Determining your menu is a delicate dance. You want all your flavours to play nicely together, without becoming too repetitive. While you may know the basics of food and wine pairings, things can get a little more complex when it comes to cocktails. That’s because, as opposed to reds vs whites, cocktails offer nearly infinite possibilities, mirroring the diversity of food itself.
To simplify the selection process, it's helpful to follow some rules of thumb. Choose cocktails that complement the overall flavour of the food, striking a balance without overpowering or competing with it. Traditional flavour combinations (lemon and blueberry, olive and tomato, coffee and cream) can provide inspiration, as can world cuisine themes, like French or Mexican food. Get all our tips for food and cocktail pairings.
For pre-meal festivities, follow the timeless tradition of serving aperitifs. These are frequently low ABV drinks with complex tastes, including vermouth, sherry and amaro. You can serve these straight, or you can mix them with other ingredients to create cocktails. We have several aperitif-focused cocktails to choose from.
A charcuterie board is a crowd-pleasing way to serve starters. If meat is on the menu, start by selecting a variety of cured meats, such as prosciutto, salami or chorizo, each offering distinct flavours and textures. Enhance the board with a selection of artisanal cheeses like aged cheddar, creamy brie or tangy gorgonzola. Include an array of gourmet accompaniments, such as olives, marinated artichokes or roasted nuts to add depth and complexity to the flavours. Don't forget to incorporate fresh fruits, like juicy grapes or sliced pears, which provide a refreshing contrast. A small pot of honey provides an optional taste of sweetness. To provide vehicles for several of these ingredients, offer crusty baguette slices or a selection of crackers.
For a fun twist on the charcuterie board, you could also create a “garnish board” made to put the finishing touches on your cocktails. From fresh fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers to other types of food and even ice, the possibilities are endless. See our top six ways to elevate your drinks with garnishes.
If you’ll be serving martini cocktails, you can make your board even more specific. For the base of your drink, you’ll need to set out the two ingredients needed to make one — chilled vodka and vermouth. Plus olive brine if you want to offer dirty martini cocktails. Beyond that, the garnishes of a martini cocktail can really help your guests make their drinks their own. Traditional martini cocktail garnishes include lemon or orange twists, olives, cornichons and onions. Learn how to make a martini cocktail at home.
Now you’re off to a great start. By combining a thoughtfully curated charcuterie board and other apps with your favourite cocktails, you'll create a harmonious and sophisticated culinary journey for your guests’ taste buds.