Sometimes the best night out is a night in, and now, with blustery cold and icy sidewalks facing us here in DC, the timing couldn’t be more ideal to host a night-in with your best girlfriends, pretending it’s spring. With a few simple staples from the local market, a good bottle of vodka, and some fun party ware, it’s high time to call a girl’s night in to order.
The Hostess with the Mostest
Unlike a more formal dinner party, girl’s night in can (and in my humble opinion, should) be more casual. Opt for easy appetizers and nibbles that can be quickly thrown together after work, and bring it all together with one really great cocktail. In my tiny studio apartment, that cocktail is a Citrini (my spin on a Lemontini) and it’s as easy to make as it is to drink. With equal parts lemon simple syrup, lime seltzer water and citrus vodka, these martinis are light, refreshing, zesty – and, strong! Winter, spring, summer, fall – my girlfriends can always count on these cocktails when they come to visit.
1 part lemon simple syrup
1 part cold lime seltzer water
1 part citrus vodka (I like Skyy Citrus, but lemon or lime infused vodka works, as well.)
To make the martini: fill a martini shaker halfway with ice and add equal parts of the lemon simple syrup, lime seltzer water and citrus vodka. Shake thoroughly and strain into a chilled martini glass. For added flavor, run a lemon wedge around the rim of the chilled glass and then dredge in superfine granulated sugar before pouring the martini. Add a lemon or lime twist to taste.
To make the simple syrup, combine 1 cup of lemon juice, 1 cup of filtered water and 1 cup of white sugar in heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Whisk together vigorously until the mixture starts to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer at a very low boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Store in a glass pitcher in the refrigerator.
Flings for Spring
Just like new shoes make every day seem a little brighter, beautiful martini glasses make every cocktail taste just a little bit better. And although your closest friends might not care if their martini is served in a Dixie cup, I like to go that extra half-inch and serve my cocktails in pretty glasses. After all, if I were out at the bar, I’d enjoy a beautiful glass, and the same goes when staying in. If you haven’t already got martini glasses, there are several places to seek them out in the city. For vintage finds, head to Miss Pixies on 14th Street. A second-hand emporium bar-none, stock rotates quickly at this popular U Street destination but vintage glassware is often available so you never know what you are going to find (which is half the fun).
Or, spend some time browsing the wares on Etsy, such as these chic hand-painted low martini glasses from Hand Painted Petals in Texas. Graceful and compact, these unique beauties will bring a special something-something to any night in…even if girls aren’t involved.
And finally, if immediate gratification is more your thing, jump on the Red Line and head up to Pier One in Van Ness to browse the Blue Spiral line of cocktail and everyday glassware. Affordable, beautiful and at 9.5 oz per serving…copious, these martini glasses make for a fun party indeed!
All Four Senses
Since I think everything is better with food, what better way to round out your night in with friends than with some yummy appetizers. However, since these drinks are on the sweet side, consider serving food that will complement and offset the sweetness with rich, savory flavors. To start, one of my favorite dips is the Trader Joe’s Layered Hummus Dip: roasted red pepper, traditional, and cilantro hummus layered together create a delicious counterpoint to the martini when paired with crisp blue corn tortilla chips or sea salt pita chips.
Another of my favorite quick snacks are Caprese Bites, made with marinated fresh mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes and fresh basil, and they couldn’t be easier (or tastier!) Simply slice each of the mozzarella balls and tomatoes in half, and then snip the basil leaves into small, bite-sized strips. To assemble, skewer one half of a mozzarella ball, one snippet of basil and one tomato with a toothpick. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste. Finally, I love to offer a selection of cheeses, fresh vegetables with a refreshing yogurt dip, and a charcuterie plate or cold marinated shrimp with cocktail sauce to round out the selection. For dessert, a fruit tart with French vanilla ice cream or Angel Food cake served with fresh berries is a beautiful spring serenade that blends refreshingly with the martinis.
Even though spring is still a way’s off, and a winter snowstorm could bury us under a foot of snow, now’s as good a time as any to channel the welcoming energy of warm breezes and long, lazy nights right at home. So chill a few martini glasses, invite over your favorite girlfriends and raise a toast to the return of the sun with a girl’s night in.