It was a gloriously sunny spring day on April 28, and on this day we headed to the penthouse suite of the Thompson Hotel for an event with Pinnacle Vodka. Why the penthouse suite you ask? Because it’s the perfect setting to learn all about how to host a successful social gathering in your own home. We’d learn from entertaining experts about three important elements of successful hosting – the drinks, the decor, and the food, and today we would do it with a French twist.

For drinks, our experts were bartenders Kris Bahamondes and Zak Doy. I still remember the great cocktails Bahamondes crafted at Portland Variety when we visited last summer, so I was looking forward to this collaboration with Doy, and what they would create with Pinnacle Vodka. Pinnacle Vodka is an award winning French vodka made from wheat and pure spring water and distilled five times. Pinnacle Vodka is well known for fun flavours like Carnival, Tropical Punch, and Cinnamon Roll, but today we would be doing a tasting of its pure, unflavoured vodka. We sampled the vodka at three temperatures – room, fridge, and freezer. Room temperature is great for sipping vodka to really appreciate the flavour. On the other extreme is the freezer temperature vodka, more suitable for shooting. The happy medium is of course fridge temperature vodka, and is preferred by most.

Next Bahamondes and Doy showed us how to create three cocktails inspired by three different French philosophies. For the La Bonne Vie (the good life) theme, the cocktail was called A Midnight Kiss, and consisted of Pinnacle Vodka, champagne, and jasmine tea syrup. For the La Boheme (whimsical, artistic) theme, the cocktail was The Flower Child, and consisted of Pinnacle Vodka, white cranberry juice, sparkling water, and garnished with edible flowers. For the La Minimaliste (contemporary, streamlined) theme, it was called A Hot Affair – a martini made with Pinnacle Vodka, olive brine, and vermouth, and garnished with pepper stuffed olives.

All three were delicious, but my favourite was actually their welcome cocktail creation called Un Coeur Brûlé (burnt heart), which had Pinnacle Vodka, lemon juice, balsamic rosemary shrub, and tobacco and plum bitters. It was playfully garnished with a rosemary sprig clothespinned to the glass. During their instruction, Bahamondes and Doy also shared some pro cocktail tips, such as double boiling water to form clear ice cubes. Also, shaking a cocktail versus stirring is a consideration as this affects the temperature and dilution of the cocktail. You’ll want the full recipes for these cocktails – you’ll find them below.

We then proceeded to the living room to learn about decor and food from event design expert Peter Carruthers.  The living room was in the theme of La Boheme, which is all about breaking the rules.  Decor consisted of multiple bright colours, patterns, and textures, which you wouldn’t think could match, but actually do if done the right way.  Suggested food include cheeses but with a twist – perhaps using honeycombs as garnish for example, instead of serving with grapes.  We were served the Flower Child cocktail in this room.

From there we went to the dining room, which was presented in the La Minimaliste theme.  Here it was all about sleekness, streamlining, and sophistication.  Everything matches in a classical way, and colours are much more muted and monochromatic.  Instead of floral decorations, modern decor pieces are used.  Suggestions for food include charcuterie board and an olive display with multiple types of olives.  The cocktail here you might recall is the Hot Affair martini.

Finally, we arrived in the La Bonne Vie themed room.  This room is a mix of modern and traditional, with a lot of gold and silver and rich colours and textures.  This room is all about celebration and living beautifully.   Food here could be more about sweets and desserts.  A Midnight Kiss is the cocktail for this room, which is appropriate as champagne is one of its components.

We had a great time learning from our experts about how to host and entertain successfully. We certainly got a lot of ideas for French-inspired decoration, food, and drinks. I’m especially looking forward to trying the Pinnacle Vodka cocktails at home. And at just $26.35 a bottle, I foresee a lot of cocktail making and vodka sipping with friends this summer.

For more information:
Twitter: @PinnacleVodka #HappyHosting
Instagram: @PinnacleVodka #HappyHosting
Facebook: PinnacleVodkaCA

Pinnacle Vodka cocktail recipes:

Un Coeur Brûlé
2 parts Pinnacle Vodka
1 part fresh lemon juice
0.5 part balsamic rosemary shrub
2 dashes of plum bitters
Garnished with a clothespinned torched rosemary sprig

The Flower Child
2 parts Pinnacle Vodka
2-3 parts white cranberry juice
2-3 parts lemon Pellegrino sparkling water
Colourful edible flower garnish

A Hot Affair
2.5 parts Pinnacle Vodka
0.25 parts spicy olive brine
0.25 parts dry vermouth
Garnish with a pepper stuffed olive

A Midnight Kiss
1 part Pinnacle Vodka
0.5 parts jasmine tea syrup
2 parts champagne
Lavender rim

Photos by John Tan

The WORKS’ New Menu "Patty Like a Rockstar"
In Photos: Wonderful Women presented by Weizmann Canada

John Tan

John is an avid traveller, but equally loves being a tourist in his own city. With camera in hand, he enjoys discovering the sights, sounds, tastes, and everything else that Toronto has to offer. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@iam_johntan) to see what he's been up to lately.