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Beverages

August 31, 1995|BOB BLUMER

Surrule No. 1: Never run out of booze.

Surrule No. 2: Never run out of ice.

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The art of the cocktail and the ceremony of uncorking a nice bottle of wine are an integral part of a dinner party. Although drinking may no longer be politically correct, the reality is that many people still savor the pleasure.

For the majority of people, wine is like sex: They've been partaking for years, deriving tremendous pleasure from it, but they still do not come close to understanding all of its complexities.

The first step toward selecting appropriate wines is learning to trust your own palate. Make a point of noting the wines that you enjoy. Write down their names or peel off the label. A good place to start is at restaurants that serve "house" wine. These wines are selected because they are good values, have wide appeal and are easily available.

Quantity

If wine is being served with dinner, most guests will have one cocktail before the meal. As a sweeping generalization, figure on twice as many guests drinking vodka as Scotch or gin. Note: It is a popular misconception that a strong mixed drink is a good one. A perfect cocktail is 1 1/4 ounces of hard liquor and 4 to 6 ounces of mixer. More alcohol upsets the balance and kills the flavor--and thus the pleasure--of the drink. If you can't eyeball 1 1/4 ounces, use a shot glass--most bartenders do. One to 2 ounces of after-dinner liqueurs should satiate most guests.

If wine is the prime liquid being consumed, a safe range is from one half up to a full bottle of wine per person (one standard 750 ml bottle contains 5 to 6 glasses). Increase the estimate if the party is on a Friday or Saturday. Decrease it if the guest list includes pregnant women, athletes in training or teetotalers. Err on the high side--leftover uncorked wines are rarely orphaned for long.

A typical beer drinker will drink from two to four bottles during an evening. Some people will have one beer as a cocktail and then switch to wine.

To cover most of the bases, stock orange juice, tomato juice, cranberry juice, sparkling mineral water or soda water, tonic water, cola, un-cola, ginger ale and their diet equivalents. It is very important to make nonimbibing guests feel comfortable. In addition to the standard aforementioned mixers, it is courteous to provide guests with an assortment of flavored mineral waters, fresh juices and nonalcoholic beers (available in most grocery stores). Or brew up a fruity tea, then add honey, fresh mint leaves, and citrus slices and ice it down in a festive pitcher.

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