Connecting over cocktails with Death & Co.’s Dave Kaplan

It’s all about the prep

Autumn weather beckons fall flavors. As we lean into pumpkin spice season, we turned to Death & Co. founder Dave Kaplan for some tricks and tips on in-home entertaining with minimal work and maximum impact.   

The bar at Death & Co in NYC’s East Village

The bar at Death & Co in NYC’s East Village

“I love this time of year,” Dave says. “One of my favorite fall cocktails is a batched drink on one of the earliest Death & Co. menus called Mother’s Ruin Punch. It follows one of my hard core rules for entertaining: do whatever prep you need in advance, so you can be present during your party.” Preparing cocktails in “batches” allows you to get the mix right and ready, so that drinks can be turned out quickly and effortlessly. 

Dave’s next favorite drink is a martini. He says that the best trick for a martini or any stirred drink is to prep ahead of time. “Pre-batch the mix and throw it in the freezer. Keep glasses in the freezer as well. You want them coming out cold. It’ll be the best, coldest martini you’ve ever had… and requires zero work to prepare.” 

Death & Co. Martini

Death & Co. Martini

Simple variations in the base can change up a drink profile to match a theme or cuisine. Dave says, “It’s easy to find a martini spec that integrates sherry, for example, if you are doing something Spanish style, to blow people’s minds.”

Master the cocktail classics

Not all cocktails are created equally. Dave provides us with a roadmap of drink mastery… 

“Equal part drinks are really important and easy,” he says. “They’re great for an amateur.

The Negroni is a classic. It’s sophisticated and provides a great foundation. It’s also very forgiving. A terrible Negroni is still a pretty good drink.” 

For a middleweight drink: the basic Daiquiri. “There are a few things that are really important here. You need to use fresh juice and the balance needs to be correct. You can taste variants significantly. The amount of ice you use and how hard you shake it… all these things matter. For three ingredients, it’s a pretty tough drink to nail.” 

At the pro drink level, we get into the Daisy family. These cocktails have been around since the mid-1800 and include the Cosmopolitan, Margarita, and Sidecar, which are sour drinks, sweetened by a liquor. Dave advises, “These start to become more complex because you’re adding a sweet liquor to foundational elements. The ratios need to be different. It’s not a simple swap.” Although these recipes may be more challenging, there’s no need to fear. Dave says, “The Margarita is like a Daisy with training wheels. A bad Margarita is still pretty good.”

Death & Co. Bartender mixing cocktails in LA

Death & Co. Bartender mixing cocktails in LA

Set the mood 

With the party drinks prepped, you can kick back and focus on what’s most important: the experience and your guests.

Dave’s go-to cocktail soundtrack is aptly titled Music to Drink Martinis To. Fords Gin founder Simon Ford created this vinyl record with Handsome Boy Modeling School. It’s a seven-track ode to the Martini with a booklet of Martini tips, tricks and recipes from globally acclaimed bartenders. “That is my drinking music style,” says Dave. 

Fords Gin Record, Fords Gin bottle, Cocktail Book

Fords Gin Music to Drink Martinis To 

Choose Your Party Path

Dave’s tip for the home bartender: choose a path. Dave says, “If you choose a cocktail family, you can theme it out.” For example, you can use Martini variations. Start with low or no ABV style drinks, and go from there. You’ll have a fantastic evening of cocktail exploration and you can pay attention to your guests. “That’s what we try to do at Death & Co.,” Dave says, “Have it be easy for your guests and for you. That’s when you’ll have those moments of true connectivity.”

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