Z BAR, the globally inspired cocktail lounge atop The Peninsula overlooking Michigan Avenue, offers customized batch cocktails for groups in an upscale, but relaxed atmosphere. The individual responsible for dreaming up and preparing these communal beverages is Vlad Novikov, who’s official title is director of cocktails and culture. Novikov’s travels frequently inform his mixology.
“One example is the Paralia—which combines the ancient Greek spirit mastiha with lemon verbena, peach and tsipouro, another Greek liquor—inspired by my love for Greece,” he says.
When it comes to making cocktails for groups, Novikov recommends keeping these three things in mind:
Novikov warns that no matter how balanced or widely appealing a group cocktail is, chances are someone won’t like it. He advises keeping a variety of alternatives on hand, including a light-bodied lager, a sparkling wine and a seasonal nonsparkling wine.
Factors like time of day, location and group composition should be taken into consideration when deciding how many cocktails to order. “People will probably consume less on a weekday than a weekend, or a Saturday brunch compared to a Saturday night,” Novikov says. Generally, he recommends planning on about two servings per guest.
Novikov says it’s best to stick to mild, popular flavors when creating a drink for multiple people. In his experience, fresh fruit juices go over well, while spirit-forward options like martinis and manhattans do not.
Novikov’s go-to drink for groups is a punch called The Disco Fever (available at Z Bar). For this beverage, a mixture of Absolut Elyx, Champagne, lemon and mandarin and passion fruit juices is topped with edible flowers and served in a disco ball.