I’m not a heavy drinker by any means, but I do enjoy a good cocktail now and then, especially when I have something to celebrate. And as a parent, I find that there are a number of small (and not-so-small) parenting milestones that can – and should - be celebrated. So I put together this list of cocktail recipes for some of those parenting celebrations. I’ve tried to stick with fairly basic ingredients that are already in the average home bar, because after all, with children (of any age) in the house, who has time (or money) to run to the liquor store for all that fancy stuff?
The Big Sleep
The first time that your little one sleeps through the night (defined by this particular mixologist as 6 hours in a row), you’ve earned yourself the right to a little celebration. This cocktail is a variation on an old classic aptly called the Suffering Bastard. Pour one ounce each of bourbon, gin, and lemon juice, plus a dash or two of bitters, into an ice-filled old-fashioned glass, then top with chilled 7-Up. Garnish with a mint sprig. One of these and you’ll be sleeping through the night, too.
Some milestones are more bittersweet than others, and any mother who has nursed then weaned a child knows that weaning is often more bitter than sweet. However, enjoying a nice cocktail after many months of abstinence can help bring out the sweetness. First, make some honey syrup by mixing equal parts honey and hot water, stirring till dissolved (extra may be stored in the fridge). Fill a cocktail shaker with ice and gin, then add a generous splash of honey syrup and fresh lemon juice, shake hard, and strain into a champagne glass (which, as legend has it, was modeled after Marie Antoinette’s perfect breasts).
The Potty Trainer
This cocktail can be used to celebrate both the beginning and the end of potty training. Hopefully those two celebrations are very close together, but if they’re not, mix yourself a double the second time. Maybe even a triple. Shake 3 parts vanilla vodka (or regular vodka plus a shot of Tuaca, or even a few drops of vanilla extract) and 1 part each Chambord and crème de cacao over ice. Strain and serve in a martini glass. Garnish with chocolate shavings or jimmies.
(And yes, I did give very serious thought to making this one a variation on a lemon drop martini. But I decided to take the high road.)
The School Daze
It’s probably not a good idea to enjoy this cocktail immediately after delivering your child to his or her first day of kindergarten, but after picking your child up at the END of the first day and then no doubt listening to a long and very excited commentary about everything that happened that first day, by the time you put your newly-minted kindergartener to bed, you will be more than ready to knock back something stronger than chocolate milk. In a rocks glass with ice, stir together a healthy dollop of real maple syrup, a splash of lemon juice, and a couple dashes of bitters, then top with bourbon, stir well, add ice, and finish off with a splash of seltzer. Garnish with lemon peel.
The Biker Chick/Dude
When your child is learning to ride a bike, you spend a lot of time hunched over, hanging on to the back of their bike seat. When you’re finally able to take off the training wheels and let your kid sail free, your back may be paying the price even while you’re cheering. So the Biker Chick (in honor of your daughter) or the Biker Dude (in honor of your son) is practically medicinal. To a tall glass filled with ice, add equal parts whiskey and Chambord; top with lemonade for a Biker Chick and Sprite for a Biker Dude. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
The Freedom Rider
When your kid finally gets his or her driver’s license and you are free from having to drive him or her EVERYWHERE, the Freedom Rider is the drink for you. When it’s your youngest kid, have two or three. Just be sure that before you drink it, you make your kid the designated driver. In a shot glass, combine equal parts Johnnie Walker, Jim Beam, and Jack Daniel’s (or any other combination of scotch, bourbon, and whiskey).
The First Date
There may be no moment that makes you more aware that your son or daughter is growing up than seeing your no-longer-a-child off on his or her first date. Since you know you’ll be waiting up until they come home, it seems appropriate that the First Date would be a coffee-based drink. Brew yourself up a mug of strong coffee, add in a healthy slug of Baileys and a splash of Grand Marnier, and top with whipped cream. After a couple of these, you’ll be pretty forgiving if they don’t make it home until a few minutes after curfew.
The Gold Rush
My father-in-law once said that when his last child graduated from college, it was like getting a $30,000 a year raise. These days, it’s more like getting a $100,000 a year raise. So to celebrate your child’s college graduation, I recommend one of my personal favorite cocktails, the Gold Rush. Shake 3 parts Domaine de Canton, 2 parts bourbon, and 1 part lemon juice over ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon twist.
The Mother of the Bride
When you are ready to celebrate your child’s wedding, naturally champagne must be involved. And since white is obviously the color for weddings, cream must also be involved. Voila, the Mother of The Bride: Blend an egg white, a splash of simple syrup, a shot of cognac, a generous splash of Cointreau, and a shot of cream over ice in a shaker. Strain into a champagne flute rimmed with gold sugar and top with champagne. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg or cinnamon.
And when your children are all grown and gone, don’t forget to remind them of this every now and then.