For Easier Entertaining, A Make-Ahead Aperitif

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Elana Lepkowski

I learned long ago that I'd rather be mingling with family and friends then be stuck behind a bar at a dinner party or holiday gathering. So I fully endorse batching your drinks the night before. And while Martinis and Manhattans are classy and easy to prep before your guests arrive, they each have enough booze to send everybody to bed early. So today I'm offering an easy-drinking cocktail that can be made almost entirely in advance.

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Woodsy sage permeates everything in my house this time of year, from stuffing to soups to butter and to drinks. Here, the leaves get steeped into a lemon simple syrup to add a little depth. That bright, citrusy syrup meets up with Suze, a saffron-hued French aperitif whose bitter gentian root flavor leans toward amaro territory. Suze is marvelous on its own over ice, more complex than Lillet or Campari with hints of citrus and wildflower, and in a cocktail it balances a mild sweetness with vegetal bitterness. The lemon-sage syrup can be made up to a week in advance and stashed in your fridge, then mixed with Suze the night before the party so you're ready to go.

Since an aperitif before a big meal shouldn't be too heavy, you'll lighten the mixture with a good helping of affordable Spanish sparkling wine. You end up with a fizzy, festively golden drink that puts everyone in a good mood.