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seeking rec. for light, fresh, not to sweet cocktail

I'm planning to throw a dinner party for my 30th birthday and would love to serve something a little more interesting/special than just wine with dinner. I'll have a little wine around as an option but I'd like to mix up a special concoction for the evening.

I'm looking for something that is:
- not *too* alcoholic, not a martini or anything. I don't want all my guests to get wasted too early in the evening.
- fairly light-tasting, won't overpower a springtime feast (with lots of herbs, peas, greens, seafood)
- not too sweet or not sweet at all

If I could transform the ingredients into something a little sweeter to serve with dessert, all the better.

Tried searching the boards for ideas but couldn't find much, so any thoughts would be appreciated!

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  1. At a favorite restaurant, a bartender put a twist on an Arnold Palmer...1/2 unsweetened iced tea, 1/2 lemonade (we use the "Simply Lemonade" brand...nice pulp and not icky sweet)...and add Stoli Blueberi. She called it a Vanessa Palmer (yes, her name was Vanessa)

    Has a nice almost juniper-y taste....light, refreshing and it's our summer staple when we have guests!

    1. I like the 007 - Orange vodka, orange juice and 7-up, but the orange might clash with what you're serving. One year for a party I made pitchers of a sake cocktail that was a huge hit - 1 part sake to 2 parts ginger ale (or you could use ginger beer for more bite). Garnish with lime. Maybe you could add simple syrup to sweeten it? Or this vanilla ginger saketini might do it (I would use vanilla vodka). http://www.nibbledish.com/people/wils...

      1. What about Pimm's Cups? Pimm's Number 1 is a gin-based liquor made with quinine and a mixture of herbs. To make a Pimm's Cup, you must first put on your tennis whites. Mix Pimm's No.1 with lemonade and some fizzy drink such as ginger ale or 7-up, and add a cucumber spear for garnish. There are variations all over the web. Easy to prepare(you could make a pitcher beforehand and simply top it off with the soda), low-alcohol content, herbal and refreshing.

        1. Bitter Grapefruit Fizz
          1 oz Campari
          2 oz Aperol
          1 oz Lime
          soda to taste

          I don't know why, by this combination tastes like grapefruit. If you can tolerate (or like) things that are a little challenging, it's really delicious. Those who don't like bitter as much can add quite a bit of soda. Others may only want a splash. Not sweet at all, as the lime balances the sugar in the other ingredients. Very summery and light and unusual.

          Then for dessert, serve grapefruit sorbet whizzed up in the food processor with a little Campari and refrozen into small glasses, with some chocolate and a butter cookie.

          There. My evangelism is done. :)

          6 Replies
          1. re: EvergreenDan

            While both your drink and dessert sound awesome to me, I've found most of my acquaintences loathe/detest/are-completely-repulsed-by Campari.

            1. re: EvergreenDan

              They just haven't been properly evangelized. Yet. Get to work. :)

              How about this: Kir Royale (sparkling wine and Cassis (buy the good stuff)), then for dessert, use the Cassis, perhaps over ice cream or fresh fruit. For a modern twist, use St Germain elderflower liqueur instead of Cassis (not sure what that drink is called, but its good). St Germain tastes like lychee to me.

              1. re: EvergreenDan

                I agree with EvergreenDan, and I really like the idea of using St Germain Elderflower Liqueur. In fact, I think I will incorporate that into my own spring dinner.

                If you are unfamiliar with it, St Germain came out a few years ago and was very popular. It has been overused as an ingredient the last few years, and some cocktail enthusiasts frown on it now, but in your case I think it suits your needs perfectly - especially if your guests are not already familiar with it. St Germain is easy to find and versatile. It has a light floral taste and fragrance similar to lychee.

                I think the floral notes would complement a spring menu of spring peas, herbs, seafood, etc.

                To make hosting easier, I would set up tall highball glasses, fill them with an half-ounce to an ounce of St Germain, and then fill w ice as guests arrive, then top with club soda or sparkling water. Stir gently before handing to your guest, because liqueur is by nature heavier, and needs to be incorporated into your drink. Depending on your menu (lemon w fish?, lime with Mexican?), have a bowl of lemon, lime or orange wedges nearby for guests to squeeze into their drink.

                For dessert, you could use the liqueur in, or with, your dessert. I think a drizzle of liqueur over quality store-bought fruit sorbet would be very easy and good. Or use champagne flutes and mix St Germain w sparking wine/champagne for a fancier drink to compliment cake or whatnot. Served this way, the drink is called a La Rosette.

                Also, St Germain comes in a very pretty and tall bottle that would not look out of place on the table at dessert time.

                1. re: jerryc123

                  some Lillet blanc added to the above could also work...although personally I would go for the campari sorbet ;)...you could also do a sake sorbet or granita like Sushi-Ko in DC does...even something inexpensive like Sho CHiku Bai nigori-sake over shaved ice would work, or add some simple syrup or agave nectar to the sake/shaved ice if it's not sweet enough

                  1. re: jerryc123

                    Actually, not to pee on my own idea, but Lillet all by itself would suit your needs. Add a wedge of orange (or lemon or lime). Or complicate it by putting out little pitchers (or a pour spout in the bottle) for a few "seasonings" -- St Germain, Cassis, and Campari. Man, that sounds like fun. The alcohol content would be low, and you would suit any taste. Those who like a dry, cocktail can just add an acidic fruit. Those who like it sweet can add a little liqueur or orange. The adventurous ones can add Campari (or Aperol, which is orange and much less bitter).

                    Those same three pitchers could be used to drizzle over dessert of sorbet, fruit, or pound cake. I'm imagining a slice of pound cake with some summer fruit (peaches when in season would be perfect), and Cassis.

                    1. re: EvergreenDan

                      Ahhh, Lillet Blanc! There's a great entrance to spring...going to get some this week!!!

              2. Lot's of good suggestions already.Two of my favorite spring /summer drinks are (1) A Negroni offshoot using equal parts gin,Aperol and sweet vermouth.I don't like Campari,even in small doses.As EvergreenDan said Aperol is orange flavored and much less bitter than Campari.(2) A 50/50 mix of Lillet Blanc and sweet vermouth.Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lime into either drink.Serve on the rocks.Refreshing and light.Another good combo would be gin,Lillet Blanc and Aperol with fresh lime juice.Keep the gin at about 1 oz. per drink and early evening wastedness should not be a problem.If preferred you could use citrus vodka rather than gin.