If you are passionate about decorating, cooking, and chili oil, then you’ve probably scrolled through one of the Jessica Nguyen’s delicious recipes and stunning table landscapes on the gram before.
To celebrate the new and daring Tanqueray Blackcurrant Gin, we sat down with Jess (and her gorgeous puppy, Pabla) to discuss everything from her favorite local headlands to her French-inspired cocktail recipes.
It doesn’t matter if you’re locked up with your roommate or able to connect with your loved ones, here’s how you can channel Jess’s enviable style and host your own luxury cocktail party at home.
What inspires you in the French countryside?
The flowers, the products, the picnics. It’s the perfect atmosphere between cottagecore and European summer.
What is on the menu?
Just a bunch of snacks people can choose from when they’re feeling hungry. For my French countryside menu, I opted for good buttered bread, an assortment of cheeses, sausage, terrine, pickles as well as raw vegetables with dip. It’s also nice to have a few hot options to mix it up. Baked Camembert is always a great and easy party dish. You simply make a few incisions on the top of a camembert wheel, insert some herbs like garlic and thyme, pour a drizzle of olive oil on top and bake for 20 minutes until let them be golden and oozing. Dip your raw vegetables and bread in it: perfection.
Can you share any recipes or cooking tips with us?
For a cocktail, the food is the supporting role so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have to cook everything yourself. I like to take everything from my bakery, cheese maker and local grocery store and then it’s all about organizing everything so people can just help themselves. The other thing is, if you know what your guests’ favorite foods are, try picking up one thing you know they’ll like, which always guarantees they’ll love the spread.
Do you have local artisans you love to source your ingredients?
Of course i’m obsessed with Pepe Saya Butter, it’s my little pleasure, bread from Woodfrog or Baker Bleu, cheese from Maker & Monger, Pete ‘N’ Rosie’s Deli at Prahran market or Emerald Hill Provedore at South Melbourne market, fruits and vegetables from Paddlewheel Prahran and meats from Caves à Boccace.
And what’s on the drink menu?
I like to make cocktails that match the theme but also play in cocktails that my guests like to drink. Normally I like to have a variety of different dishes: an easy-pouring spritz or martini, a fun shaker, and maybe a creamy or sweet to enjoy later for dessert. For this specific holiday, I made a Tanqueray Blackcurrant French 75, a fun, bubbly cocktail that’s topped with champagne or prosecco, and I also made a Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale x Green Apple Martini, a fruity and slightly sweeter style martini. Best of all, the Tanqueray Blackcurrant Royale is a gorgeous purple liquid that creates the most perfect cocktails.
A quick glance at your gram and it’s clear you’ve got a fashion sense. Do you prefer to go chic or casual when hosting?
I see fashion as another form of self-expression. I like to go chic and fun with a side of comfort, so a fun dress paired with comfy slippers. These days, a cocktail party or any other party is a rare luxury, so if you have the chance why not dress up?
My favorite brands include Faithfull the Brand and Steele — their feminine and fun clothes are perfect for a French country theme. Alemais is also a great new Australian designer who has the most amazing prints. I also love a costume and Emily Nolan can make a fabulous one.
Your epic style also translates into your ‘grammable table settings’, can you share any tips for creating a stunning table scenery?
Embrace the color. From plates to glassware and flowers, find a couple of colors that speak to the theme, then wear it through all the elements. For example, I was inspired by the purple and green illustrations on the Tanqueray Blackcurrant Gin, so I decided to weave these colors in my table and even in my outfit.
Do you have local designers or florists that you like to source your decor or flowers from?
For flowers, I like to go to the local Prahran market and pick seasonal flowers. Flawless Flowers Prahran always has a wide variety of flowers. I also like to browse the operation stores for interesting containers and dishes. Some of my favorite pieces that I have found in local stores and markets.
How important is it to you to have a consistent theme when entertaining yourself?
This isn’t always crucial every time you are entertained, but if you base it around a theme, occasion, season, or mood, it helps you choose the drinks, the food, decor and playlist adapted. However, there are absolutely times when I don’t have a particular theme and it’s just a matter of organizing a few things together to throw an impromptu party for the most part – I love a theme!
What songs do you have in your playlist during your French-inspired cocktail party?
I actually have my own Spotify French food and restaurant playlist that I created that I love to play..
What do you like most about cocktails?
Cocktails are fun because they are less formal than a sit-down dinner, and you can tailor cocktails to your guests according to their tastes and personality. Your guests can also get interactive by making their own cocktails and have a little fun with it all.
Hosting can be a tricky task for some, do you have any tips to make it easy?
Preparation is the key. I like to do everything I can at least the night before the party so that in case of oversight or the unexpected, I have time to fix it. Then the very day of the party is as stress-free as it gets. Also, I like to delegate aspects to my guests to involve them or relieve me. For example, someone can bring the ice cream, someone can bring the ingredients for their favorite cocktail, and someone can bring the dessert, that way you don’t have to do everything yourself. And lastly, you always need more ice cream than you think!
Do you feel inspired? Shake up your eveningborn with a Tanqueray Blackcurrant Gin and transport yourself to the beautiful French countryside.
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