The Art of the Cocktail Party

At the artful cocktail party, food is a silent host, enhancing all the elements.

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

(Photography by Adam Ewing. Styling by Richard Stone)

The artful cocktail party has an ease of elegance, an ambience created only when the perfect mix of people gather to engage in witty banter or intellectual debate, or just to catch up on friends’ lives. Food is a silent host, enhancing all the elements so carefully crafted and paired that, in balance, make a party flow. Our menu brings together colors, cultures and the unexpected: The soft green of asparagus mousse is punctuated by the season’s reds and greens in a tomato-montrachet topping; pork belly and kimchi import a touch of Asian flavor; and the traditional goes delightfully askew with a splash of something special in our chef’s eggnog. Like the trumpet that trills above a melody, food is the flourish that makes the evening memorable. 

The Menu


  • Commonwealth Classic 
  • P.E.H.’s Vieux Fashioned
  • Tip My Cup 
  • Old Dominion Nog
  • The Traveller
  • Annie’s Eggnog 


  • Beef in Bondage with Pink Peppercorn Sauce
  • Lacquered Quail Legs with Dip
  • Asparagus Mousse with Tomato-Montrachet Topping
  • Smoked Bluefish Pâté
  • Panko Shrimp with Lemon Aioli and Kimchi
  • Pork Belly with Kimchi
  • Fried Oysters with Cornichon Tarter Sauce and Ancho Chili Sauce


  • Croque-en-Bouche
  • Plum Tart
  • Key Lime Tart

The Recipes
Commonwealth Classic

Scott Clime, wine and beverage director, and Chris Clime, executive chef, PassionFish, Reston

  • 2 parts Kopper Kettle Whiskey
  • 1 part apple-infused sweet vermouth
  • 1-2 dashes orange bitters
  • 1 piece apple peel, fresh or caramelized, if desired

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine whiskey, infused vermouth and bitters. Shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with apple peel. 

P.E.H.’s Vieux Fashioned

Patrick Evans-Hylton, chef, food journalist and cookbook author

  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • 1 teaspoon Belle Isle moonshine
  • 1 dash orange bitters
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 ounces Catoctin Creek rye whiskey
  • 1 three- by one-inch piece of orange peel

Place a sugar cube in an old-fashioned glass, wet it down with the moonshine and bitters, then muddle with the back of a spoon, rotating the glass to coat the bottom. Add rye whiskey and stir. Garnish with orange peel.

Tip My Cup

Danny McDermott, bar manager, Acacia Mid-town, Richmond

  • 1 ½ ounces Casa Noble añejo tequila
  • ¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ¾ ounce Domaine de Canton
  • ginger liqueur
  • ½ ounce Cocchi Americano Rosa

Combine all ingredients in a shaker, add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime twist.

Old Dominion Nog

Eric Prum and Josh Williams, authors of Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails

  • 1 shot Virginia Highland Malt Whisky
  • 1 shot dark rum
  • 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (plus a pinch to garnish)
  • 1 pinch ground cloves

Put all ingredients (reserving the pinch of nutmeg) in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Strain mixture into 2 chilled coupes and garnish with remaining nutmeg.

The Traveller

By Deanna Meade, bartender, and Thomas Burke, general manager, The Georges, Lexington

  • 2 ounces Lexington bourbon
  • ½ ounce Domaine de Canton
  • ginger liqueur
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 dash  orange bitters
  • ginger brew, your choice of brand, to fill

Build in a highball glass packed with ice. Garnish with lemon peel.

Annie’s Eggnog
  • 1 dozen eggs, separated
  • 1 pound of confectioners sugar
  • 2 cups rum, light or dark
  • 2 cups bourbon
  • 1 cup peach schnapps
  • 1 quart heavy cream

In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until dissolved. Add all alcohol and mix well. Whip the whites until foamy, not stiff, and gently combine with yolk mixture. Refrigerate.

You may add for flavor:

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons of grated nutmeg

Makes approximately 10 cups

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

Beef in bondage with pink peppercorn sauce

Beef In Bondage
  • 1 whole beef tenderloin
  • ½ pound bacon, cut in 2-inch strips
  • 4-5 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • kosher or sea salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced vertically
  • cooking string
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced horizontally
  • 4 stalks of celery with leaves cut in 3-inch chunks

Let tenderloin come to room temperature. Cover the bottom of a roasting pan with celery and onions. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make small slits all over beef tenderloin. Fill each slit with a piece of garlic. Cut pieces of string long enough to tie around the tenderloin horizontally. Lay the strings on the kitchen workspace 2 inches apart for the length of the tenderloin. Place ½ of the sprigs of rosemary end to end on the strings and lay tenderloin on top. Place remaining rosemary end to end on top of the tenderloin. Tie the strings to hold the rosemary in place. Place “bound” tenderloin on vegetables in the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then lay strips of bacon horizontally along the length of the tenderloin. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from oven and remove bacon. Continue to roast for 10-minute intervals to desired doneness. Place on cutting board or platter with a loose hood of foil for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

Pink Peppercorn Sauce
  • ½ cup medium sweet red pepper, diced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • 2 cups pinot grigio or riesling
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons pink peppercorns
  • 3 cups beef stock

In a medium saucepan, heat heavy cream with 2 tablespoons pink peppercorns. Simmer until reduced by half. Turn down heat until cream is at a slow boil. Set aside.

In a medium pan, sauté the garlic, sweet red pepper, rosemary and shallot in grapeseed oil until soft. Add wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half; add the beef stock and the remaining pink peppercorns and reduce by half again.

When ready to serve meat, heat the beef stock mix over medium heat. Then reduce to simmer and gradually add the reduced cream. Simmer for 10 minutes and serve immediately.

Makes 3 cups

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

Lacquered quail legs with dip

Lacquered Quail Legs with Dip
  • 2 pounds quail legs
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
  • canola, grapeseed or corn oil for frying

For the marinade:

In a small saucepan, bring garlic, sugar, water, soy sauce and red pepper flakes to a boil. Stir in dissolved corn starch and bring back to a boil. Cool the marinade and pour into plastic bag or lidded container large enough to hold all quail legs. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 360 degrees in a sauté pan or fryer. Drain legs in a colander or on a paper towel. Do not pat dry. Fry 3-4 legs at a time for 2-3 minutes or until deep brown. Drain and serve with dip.

Serves 8 as an hors d’oeuvre or 4 as an appetizer

For the dip:

  • ½ cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce (Texas Pete or Red Rooster)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup grated carrots

In a small saucepan, bring all the ingredients to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.

Makes approximately 2 cups

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

Asparagus mousse with tomato-montrachet topping, brie and smoked bluefish pâté.

Asparagus Mousse
  • 2 cups puréed asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • ½ cup cold water
  • 1 ½ cups hot milk
  • ½ cup water from asparagus cooking or ½ cup plain water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Soften gelatin in cold water. In a medium saucepan, mix gelatin, hot milk, water and butter. Stir over low heat until gelatin and butter are dissolved. Remove from heat and add eggs, whisking for about 2 minutes. Chill until mixture starts to thicken but can still be easily stirred.

Add remaining ingredients and stir until mixture is smooth. Pour into oiled molds of choice and chill for at least 5 hours.

Tomato-Montrachet Topping
  • 10 ounces goat cheese
  • ¼ cup tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Beat all ingredients into a smooth paste and either pipe with a pastry bag or spread the mixture atop chilled asparagus mousse.

Makes 2 quarts

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing
Smoked Bluefish Pâté
  • 1 pound smoked bluefish
  • 12 ounces cream cheese
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium red onion
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons cognac

Mix bluefish, cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add remaining ingredients and blend to taste. Refrigerate in a sealed container.

Makes approximately 2 cups

Panko Shrimp
  • ¼  cup finely diced Italian parsley
  • 1 pound shrimp (20-25 count), peeled, tails on
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • seasoning salt or spice to taste
  • oil for frying

Season shrimp with choice of seasoning. Heat 3 inches of oil in a deep pot or fryer to 350 degrees. Put panko crumbs and parsley in a small dish. Add seasoning of choice. Put flour in a shallow dish. Beat egg and water in a dipping dish.

Toss shrimp in flour to coat. Next, dip shrimp in the egg mix and toss in panko to coat.

Fry in small batches until golden brown, turning the shrimp to evenly cook. Drain shrimp on paper towel and keep warm in a low oven at 175 degrees.

Serve with kimchi and lemon aioli (recipes below).

Makes 20-25 pieces

Lemon Aioli
  • 4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry bread crumbs, seasoned or plain
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 ½ cups olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice

In a food processor, blend bread crumbs, white wine and garlic until a paste forms. Add egg yolks and blend until well mixed. Slowly add olive oil.

Pour into a bowl. Blending well, slowly add 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice. Adjust seasoning or add more lemon juice as desired. Be careful not to over-whip the aioli or it will separate into a curdle-like mixture.

Makes approximately 1 ½ cups

  • 1 head Napa cabbage, cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1 small red pepper, cored, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, shredded
  • ¼ cup mint, cut in thin strips
  • ¼ cup basil, cut in thin strips
  • ¼ cup cilantro, cut in thin strips
  • 1 teaspoon grated or crushed fresh ginger
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 13 cup Momoya Kimchi base

Slice cored cabbage thinly. Toss vegetables and herbs with lime juice and kimchi base, mixing all ingredients well to evenly coat. (Do not use an aluminum bowl.)

Makes about 6 cups

Pork Belly
  • 3 pounds pork belly
  • ⅓ cup Momoya kimchi base
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

Place pork belly in large baking dish and rub the meat all over with 2 tablespoons of the kimchi base. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees. Score the pork ¼-inch by ¼-inch crosshatch pattern on top. Remove wrap and cover with foil. Bake for 2-2 ½ hours. Remove from baking dish, and cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for 2-2 ½ hours. Discard all fat left in baking dish.

Heat 3 inches of oil to 350 degrees in a countertop fryer or deep pot. Remove pork from refrigerator and cut into bite-size pieces. Put flour on a plate and dredge to coat all sides of pork in flour, topping off excess.

Using a slotted spoon or fryer basket, fry pork in small batches until crispy and brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer pork to paper towel to drain before serving.

For the glaze:

Combine ¼ cup Momoya Base with honey. To serve, dip pork in honey glaze, then present over Kimchi.

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

Fried oysters with cornichon tarter sauce and ancho chili sauce

Fried Oysters
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup stoneground cornmeal 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • chopped herbs (optional)
  • canola, grapeseed or corn oil
  • 1 quart select oysters

Heat enough oil to fry to 360 degrees in a heavy 3-inch skillet. In a plastic bag, mix flour, corn meal and desired seasonings. Toss 3-4 oysters at a time in the flour mix, coating oysters. Shake off excess and drop in fryer. Remove when coating turns deep golden brown and place on paper towel to drain. Repeat the process until all oysters are fried.

Serve with cornichon tartar sauce or ancho chili sauce.

Cornichon Tartar Sauce
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons each fresh dill, Italian parsley and shallot, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Mix all ingredients except mayonnaise in a food processor. Fold mixture into the mayonnaise and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Ancho Chili Sauce
  • 1 cup good quality cocktail sauce
  • 1 can chipotle sauce (extract 2 Ancho chilies)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients except mayonnaise in a food processor. Fold mixture into the mayonnaise and refrigerate for 2 hours.

  • 1 12-inch tall Styrofoam cone form (found at craft shop)
  • 100 cream puffs
  • 1 box round toothpicks
  • 2-4 pounds strawberries
  • 2 dozen chocolate truffles

Cut 2 inches off top of cone, cover with tin foil and adhere to a 10-inch platter or pie plate. Stick toothpicks all over Styrofoam, then stick puffs and strawberries on toothpicks in any pattern.

For the spun sugar:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water
  • extra water for basting

On medium-high heat, dissolve all ingredients in a 10-inch saucepan. Do not stir. If crystals start to form on the edge of the pan, baste with water. When mixture starts to turn caramel color, swirl the pan by the handle. Using a spoon, quickly drip the melted sugar down the sides of the form. Surround base with strawberries and truffles.

Adam Ewing No usage without permission. ©2014 Adam Ewing

Plum tart

Sweet Tart Crust
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • ½ cup confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 2 cups flour
  • additional flour to knead and roll out dough

Let butter sit at room temperature 15-20 minutes, then add to confectioners sugar and toss to coat. Cream at medium speed until thoroughly mixed. Add egg yolk and beat until blended. Add flour and beat until blended. Add heavy cream and beat until dough forms a sticky mass. Place dough on a floured surface and divide into halves. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Allow dough to return to room temperature. Place on wax paper and dust dough and rolling pin with flour. Roll out to at least 10 inches in diameter. Line pie pan or dish with dough, pressing from middle to sides. Dough should be ¼- to ½-inch thick on sides. Freeze for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove crust from freezer and perforate bottom using a fork. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown.

Plum Tart
  • 1 tube Odense marzipan paste
  • 4-5 plums, pitted and cut into 8-10 wedges, depending on size
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • 1 9 ½ -inch tart shell, pre-baked for 12 minutes

Roll out the marzipan on a floured board in a round that will cover the inside bottom of the tart shell. Cover marzipan with plum wedges and fill the shell. Dot with bits of butter. Sprinkle the raw sugar over the top, including the sides of the crust. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.

Key Lime Tart
  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 3 eggs, separated
  • 1/3 cup Key lime juice, fresh or bottled
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 9-inch tart shell, pre-baked for 12 minutes

Preheat to 250 degrees. In a medium bowl, thoroughly combine condensed milk, Key lime juice and egg yolks. In another bowl, whip egg whites with salt until peaks form. Fold ¼ of whites into the yolk mixture, then fold in remaining yolk mixture.

Fill tart shell. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove the shell from the oven, cool completely and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve with sweet whipped cream.

This article originally appeared in our December 2014 issue.

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