There are few things more inviting than walking into someone’s music-filled home, getting a great big hug at the door and then immediately being handed a cocktail. Or at least, that’s how I like to be greeted. Which is why upon entertaining our first houseguests after moving to New Orleans from Texas in 2014, my husband Mark and I started a new tradition: The Welcome Reception.
Morning, noon or night when friends or family arrive, we have Rebirth Brass Band or Mark’s painstakingly crafted Zydeco Spotify playlist cued up and mimosas, French 75s, mojitos made with Old New Orleans Rum or — during the holidays — my Rosemary Satsuma punch mixed up and ready to hand off in the foyer. Often, I’ll also light a Mad Darling Garden District Charm or Streetcar Geisha Satsuma & Honey soy candle to infuse the house with a gorgeous scent.
For those times when we are rushing home from work and have to get the welcome reception tossed together in a pinch, popping the cork on a bottle of champagne and tossing a six-pack of mix-and-match local craft beers (consider selections from Wayward Owl, Urban South, NOLA Brewing Co. and Chafunkta) from Martin Wine Cellar into a beverage tub filled with ice is just as festive as a chichi cocktail.
We also love introducing out-of-towners to the New Orleans go-cup tradition. We’ll enjoy the first beverage in the living room or on the porch, then take the party on the road for a “booze jaunt” through our Uptown neighborhood or the Garden District to sip and stroll while taking in the gorgeous homes on St. Charles Avenue or ambling down Magazine Street.
Personalize your own welcome reception with whatever you love most about the city. The smile that breaks out across a loved one’s face when greeted with a sampling of the sounds, fragrances, flavors and warmth of New Orleans is addictive and you will want nothing more than to recreate it over and over again.
Rosemary Satsuma Punch
6 to 8 satsumas, juiced (peel, toss in the blender and strain juice from the pulp)
Rosemary infused simple syrup to taste (Combine one part water, one part sugar and a few sprigs of rosemary, simmer until clear and let it sit until ready to add. Be sure to remove the rosemary before putting it into the mixture)
2 cups of your preferred vodka (I like NOLA Vodka by NOLA Distilling Co.)
3 or 4 healthy dashes of Angostura Bitters
Club soda to taste
Combine ingredients in a pitcher, stir and serve. I garnish each glass with a sprig of rosemary and keep a few sprigs in the pitcher. The club soda is mainly for fizz, so feel free to omit it or for a brunch version (or any time), use champagne in place of vodka and omit the club soda.