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There’s nothing like a classy beverage to make a holiday party feel more festive or to whet everyone’s appetite for small bites. My husband and I are cocktail enthusiasts, but as much as I love drinks with lots of exotic ingredients and elaborate garnishes (hello, flaming limes!), we’ve found it’s best to keep it simple behind the bar when you’re entertaining for a large group. It’s also a good idea to keep drinks on the low-alcohol end of the spectrum so guests can sip the night away without feeling the negative effects the next morning. So, what do you mix when you’re looking for something simple, low-alcohol, festive and tasty? Enter the shim!

The Pleasant Evening cocktail on a tray

Shims are serious, low-alcohol cocktails that are fast becoming a trend in the mixology world. I’ve spotted them popping up on more bar menus and, as luck would have it, my friend Dinah Sanders has written a whole book about them called The Art of the Shim. (Buy it here!) She was kind enough to share two easy-to-make recipes from the book that will keep you and your guests level while taking your holiday party to the next level. Cheers!

Pleasant Evening holiday cocktail

Photo: Kelly Puleio

Pleasant Evening
Created by Andrew Mitchell at Rickhouse, San Francisco, around 2009.

.75 oz. grapefruit juice
.5 oz. crème de cassis
2 dashes peach bitters
3 oz. chilled Champagne or dry sparkling wine

Chill a cocktail glass.
Shake all but bubbles with ice, then double-strain into glass.
Add the Champagne.
Garnish with grapefruit peel

Flor de Jerez holiday cocktail

Photo: Kelly Puleio

Flor de Jerez
Created by Joaquín Simó at Death & Co, New York City, 2011.

1.5 oz. amontillado sherry
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
.5 oz. Appleton Estate Reserve rum
.5 oz. Petite Canne sugar cane syrup
.25 oz. orchard apricot liqueur
dash Angostura aromatic bitters

Chill a port or cocktail glass.
Shake ingredients with ice, then double-strain into glass.

Joaquín recommends using Lustau Los Arcos sherry here.

“Adding acidity when creating a stirred drink is very complicated. If you put in citrus then you’ll need to shake and that will change it a lot, maybe a lot more than you want. So throw a little sherry in there, throw a little madeira in to bring that acid.”—Joaquín Simó

guests mingling around the cocktail tray

Sipping champagne and Pleasant Evening cocktails = a pleasant evening!

We’ve teamed up with our friends over at DIYNetwork.com’s Made + Remade to throw a holiday party, and you’re invited!

Follow along as we craft the party decor, set the holiday table and cook up the menu. Along the way, you’ll get the step-by-step instructions and tips to throw a great party in your home. Catch up on all the posts here.

7 Responses

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  3. […] in the midst of the holiday season, so it’s time to plan out your party menu. Dessert and drinks are must-haves, along with delicious starters like a cheese board and soup. Serving soup as part of […]

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Briana MowreyBriana is a writer and senior editor for HGTV.com. Her self-described design style is "mid-century modern magpie." She lives in a Brooklyn apartment with her husband, their spoiled dachshund, Chauncey,...


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