I’ve been waiting a long time to get an invite to the Diner en Blanc. What started in Paris thirty years ago as a bit of an impromptu unsanctioned picnic with a few friends all dressed in white, has become a full-blown, invite-only, chic flash-mob style gastro popup picnic. And, this year I finally got my wish when I was invited to join in the table with the lovely ladies behind Treize Bakery (to which I highly recommend a visit once their new Luxembourg garden location is complete.) We were a table of eight, and as it was my first year, I had lots of questions and uncertainties… where do I get a table and chair to bring? Am I ready to wear all white (not the most forgiving of fashion choices) in public? And, really, just how does it all work to get nearly 20,000 people assembled in one spot? But most importantly, I wondered how I would work in some cocktails…
Knowing that we’d be starting at an initial address, waiting around, then walking some more as multiple groups made their way to a mystery location from meeting points all over the city, I started with a round of bottled cocktails. My table mates got either white sangria or white negroni depending on whether their tastes ran to sweet or bitter. It’s a little stressful getting everyone together, moving things across town, doing the hurry up and wait thing. So, these turned out to be a great idea as a nice little treat to make the downtime pass easier. (Plus if we hadn’t finished them so quickly they would have been easier to drink while walking along pushing and/or pulling dolly’s and caddy’s with all of our picnic goods.)
More challenging was my idea for the white lady at the table. To avoid having to transport raw egg whites, I swapped them out for aquafaba (shout out to Joseph at Mabel for helping me with the amounts) and I pre-batched everything I could.
Now, in follow up to my first Diner en Blanc, here are some take aways that could probably work for cocktails at any picnic.
Bottled is best: Bottles win hands down for so many reasons. They’re convenient and a good way to avoid doing any onsite prep. They can be individualized to take everyone’s tastes into account. They’re cute and can be customized with fun tags and labels. (I made special tags for mine with a little personal message on the back.) And, while I did mine with a capping machine, any bottles can work. I’m thinking mason jars might be a fun alternative for next year….
Don’t forget to dilute: With bottled or batched cocktails, you’ve gotta take the water added through ice dilution into account. I used a white sangria recipe that’s a pretty easy hit at parties. However, I usually serve it in a punch bowl with a bunch of ice – so straight into the bottle makes it a bit stiffer. Next year, I’ll make sure to dilute it with more sparkling water or change up the proportions on the recipe to take it into account (i.e. more bubbles, less booze).
Aquafaba all the way:There is no way I want to mess with transporting egg whites – especially in the warm weather that calls for picnics. Load up some chick pea brine in a squirt bottle and you’re good to go. (In fact, I’ll be using this from now on in all my egg white cocktails, even at home)
Get creative with glassware:No one wants to carry delicate martini glasses across town either, so we used Hendricks tea cups for our cocktails. Much sturdier, but still fun. Find something less breakable like tea cups, julep tins, jam jars…
One and done:Without access to sinks to clean between rounds, doing multiple drinks is just asking for a sticky mess in your tins and on your hands. One round was just enough to start the night and give a festive feel. I brought a large format shaker that could hold enough to shake out 8 cocktails. I was originally thinking of 4 standard shakers and letting everyone shake up their own – but given how crazy the table set up is and trying to navigate everything onto it, the big shaker was a better bet. Though you could possibly make an exception for something without a lot of sweeteners, juices, eggs, etc like a martini, as it’s not so sticky or messy. But, once you start getting into multiple rounds of martinis you’re just asking for trouble.
Overall, the entire evening was just as hectic, crazy, beautiful and breathtaking as I expected. Big thanks to Laurel & Kajsa for including me on the table and the rest of our #dreamteam Jennifer, Maxim, Leah, Janna and Lauren. Can’t wait for next year….
White Lady Cocktail
45 ml gin
20 ml Cointreau
20 ml lemon juice
10 ml simple syrup (1 part sugar, 1 part water mixed together until all sugar dissolved)
10 ml aquafaba (juice drained off a can of chick peas)
Add all ingredients to shaker and dry shake (without ice) for ten to twenty seconds. Add ice and shake some more, then pour into glasses.
White Negroni Sbagliato (by Toby Cecchini, The Long Island Bar, Brooklyn)
30 ml Suze
30 ml dry vermouth
120 ml sparkling wine
White Sangria (for punch bowl or large pitcher)
2 bottles sparkling wine
1 cup cognac
½ cup triple sec
2 tablespoons of sugar
Mix sugar into cognac until dissolved. Add triple sec and fruit then top with two bottles of bubbles.