“Place four martini glasses in the freezer to chill for at least 30 minutes.” This is the first instruction that Ina Garten gives in her recipe for Pomegranate Spritzers from Go-To Dinners, her latest cookbook. It’s a small thing—a step that takes all of 30 seconds—but one that makes a world of difference.
As any bartender worth their shaker will tell you, a pre-chilled glass keeps drinks colder longer; it’s like wrapping an ice pack around your cocktail, insulating it from the warm air of the room. And it’s advisable pretty much whenever you’re serving a drink “up”—i.e., not pouring it over ice—because no one wants their last few sips to be lukewarm.
It’s a lovely, beyond easy way to level up your at-home martinis, cosmopolitans, and Poo Drivers. But it also speaks volumes about Garten’s approach to hosting.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing The Barefoot Contessa herself for BA’s Thanksgiving issue, and if there’s anything I learned from our conversation, it’s that entertaining isn’t a game of Grand Gestures so much as one of Nice Touches. Pre-chilling cocktail glasses? That’s a Nice Touch, the kind of thing worth doing because it actually makes your guests’ experience better. Grand Gestures—like planning a hard-to-execute menu or shaking individual cocktails for each person—are a surefire way to throw you, the host, off your equilibrium. You get frazzled. You lose focus. And amid all that stress, you start to forget why you invited everyone over in the first place: to hang out with them.
“It’s not about showing off,” she counseled. Whether you’re planning a casual dinner for six or a holiday meal for 16, Garten’s advice is clear: Check your ego. Keep it manageable. When you’re relaxed and happy, you have the necessary headspace to remember the Nice Touches. Warming dinner plates. Lighting a scented candle in the bathroom. Setting the table before people arrive. And, yes, chilling cocktail glasses.
These are the things your guests remember the next day. Not the homemade duck confit you spent three days laboring over because, well, they weren’t there to see your labor (and it probably doesn’t taste that much better than store-bought). They’re going to remember when you produced frosted martini glasses from the freezer like a magician, and handed them a drink that stayed cold to the very last drop.