Jan 25th 2019

Six Ways to Upgrade Your Mocktails

Let me be clear. There is nothing ‘mock’ in a TLC mocktail. A cocktail with or without alcohol can still be part of an incredible party experience.  Dry January throws the spotlight on alcohol-free living, but I’m very often asked to plan dry parties and weddings throughout the course of the year.  And it’s fair to say, I’ve mastered the art of memorable non-alcoholic cocktails along the way. One things# has become clear… alcohol or not, a cocktail should be part of the theatre of your party. A creative element to whet the taste-buds, and excite the senses. So, here’s how to take your dry drinks reception to the next level with my five step mocktail masterclass; six ways to upgrade your mocktails:

It’s All About Presentation

Ensuring mocktails taste good is vital, but the secret to truly up-styling mocktails is in the presentation.  And we’ve come a long way from the obligatory glace cherry and paper umbrella!

Present glasses on vintage bird cages. Add a little ‘flair’ into proceedings with a professional mixologist. Dry ice is another sure-fire way to deliver with drama. 

To take it to the next level, consider how and what you serve a drink in. Clue – not just a glass. Tin cans. Miniature bath tubs. Vintage thermos flasks. Yes, I have used them all.

Is there a way to tie it in with theme/ambience of your party?  Can you make the bar itself more spectacular – integrating into the theatre of your event?  Having once served ‘Fairground’ mocktails in plastic bags complete with faux fish, from a rotating ‘carousel’ bar with suspended vintage horses, I’m proof that if there’s a will (and a creative mind in the driving seat), there’s a way.

Make Creative Counterfeits

If your idea of an alcohol-free gin and tonic is to just serve tonic, it’s time to up your game. Classic cocktails are a delicate balance of flavour that can taste off kilter if simply served up sans alcohol. Regain the balance with inventive combinations of ingredients that imitate the taste of alcohol (with none of the downsides).  Chamomile, cardamom, mint, cloves and rosemary mimic the botanical flavours of gin in BBC Good Food’s Gin Free G&T.  Or brew up a spicy ‘mock rum’ syrup using pineapple, cinnamon and black peppercorns – a brilliant base for a virgin Pina Colada.

Turn up the Heat

Use a heady blend of spices to add warmth and depth of flavour to your mocktails.  Most people love the combination of cinnamon and cloves in mulled wine or spiced apple cider – both of which can easily be made alcohol free. Irish coffee lovers needn’t miss the warming sensation you get from a hit of whiskey.  Why not try sweet garam masala to spice up a latte or aromatic nutmeg and orange as a sin-free swap.  And spices aren’t just for winter drinks, the simple addition of ginger and chilli syrup would put the punch in this Summer Fruit Punch from All Recipes.

Experiment with Savoury

We’re all familiar with adding herbs to savoury dishes but they’re currently having a real moment in the world of mixology.  Traditionally ‘savoury’ herbs like rosemary and sage offset sweet flavours, infusing drinks with enticing aromas.  

And the flavour revolution doesn’t stop there.  Bell peppers, quails’ eggs, and of course olives, are all popular cocktail ingredients – well not everyone has a sweet tooth!

Try this refreshing Rosemary Citrus Spritzer from The Kitchen.  Rosemary adds enticing fragrance to the citrus notes, with a touch of honey for sweetness.  Just heaven served on the terrace in summertime.

Get Fancy with Edible Florals

Presentation is essential when up-styling your mocktails. In my view, the most elegant mocktails come dressed for the occasion. 

Edible flowers are decoratively divine.  They each have their own delicate flavour so it’s worth experimenting to find the right floral finish. Calendula, for instance, has a slightly citrus flavour. Nasturtium is sweet and peppery, where pansies are slightly salty taste.

A really simple way to introduce botanicals is by freezing them into ice cubes. Alternatively, this Raspberry and Rose Mocktail from Interflora uses rose water and rose petals for a sophisticated update to a traditional raspberry cooler.

Make Time for Tea

We’re a nation of tea lovers.  So why not host a tea party with a grown-up twist serving refreshing tea-based mocktails.  The classic flavour of a mojito can be reproduced with mint, tea, lime and soda.  Or combine tropical mango, ginger and lime with green tea in this invigorating Tropical Ginger Green Tea Mocktail from the tea experts at Twinings.

Continue reading  
 Jan 21st 2019

five luxurious UK coastal venues

As winter draws in coastal venues can often be overlooked when planning a big event. But at TLC we’d urge you to take a look. The British coastline changes dramatically with the seasons and on a cool, crisp day there is nothing more bracing or romantic than a walk by the sea. Whether you are looking for a space to host a large wedding, a corporate retreat or a small family gathering, the British coastline has a luxury venue for you. Here are some of our favourites – five luxurious UK coastal venues for your next event – to start you off:

Cary Arms & Spa

Nestled in the sheltered haven of Babbacombe Bay on the South Devon coast, the boutique Cary Arms & Spa has uninterrupted sea views all year round. And whatever the weather you can enjoy looking across the water from the comfort of a warming hydrotherapy pool, enclosed in a glass-faceted spa. As well as a luxury getaway, it is also a stunning location for an intimate celebration and is available for exclusive use as a wedding venue for up to 40 day and 80 evening guests.

Contemporary beach huts at Cary Arms & Spa

Blakeney Hotel

This Norfolk privately owned, family-run hotel is set in an area of outstanding natural beauty, with magnificent views across the estuary and salt marshes to Blakeney Point. The hotel benefits from luxury spa facilities and a swimming pool, with views over the sun terrace and south facing gardens. If you are looking to book for an event, the hotel has 60 bedrooms and conference and banqueting facilities for up to 100 people. If you are looking for something more intimate the hotel also caters for intimate dinner parties and small conference functions.

Ackergill Tower Hotel

Number three on our list of five luxurious UK coastal venues is great if you are looking for a grand sea view. It doesn’t come much better than this. This five-star castle hotel is the UK’s most northerly Grade A listed building and has a history stretching back as far as the mid-14th century. As you can imagine much has happened in that time and the venue has plenty of stories to tell. It was lovingly restored and re-opened as a luxury hotel in 2012, with 35 bedrooms and six secluded self-catering luxury cottages across its 3,000-acre private estate. The venue is also available for exclusive hire, including the formal grounds, for weddings and other large celebrations.

Seaham hall

Its striking cliff-top location on the County Durham coast gives visions of a wild and windswept North Sea setting. Seaham Hall offers both this invigorating romantic experience and a relaxing oasis of calm. Hidden among 37 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens, this Georgian country house is a luxury, soul-nurturing experience to rival any spa facilities in the world. It’s spacious rooms and private gardens make it an exclusive party or wedding venue. Exclusive hire of the venue includes full use of the spa for all residential guests.

Seaham Hall

Château Rhianfa

Nicknamed the fairy-tale hotel because of its French-style turrets, this Welsh castle on the coast of Anglesey is a charming choice for the romantic at heart. At its very roots is a love story, built in 1849 by Sir John Hay Williams, Baronet of Bodelwyddan as a gift for his wife Lady Sarah, who was enamored by the 16th century architecture in the Loire region of France from which this grade ll-listed château took its architectural inspiration. The hotel is available for exclusive hire and is a magical wedding venue at any time of year, particularly winter when the open fire roars and you can look outside the banquet hall across the waters of the Menai Strait.

So whether you have been tasked with planning the company away-day, teambuilding or incentive weekend, or organising a special celebration event for friends and family, the UK coastline has much to offer. Our five luxurious UK coastal venues are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to spectacular and coastal.

If these top five luxurious UK coastal venues have inspired you, take a look at more of our venue ideas, check out these Stately residences!

Continue reading  
 Nov 19th 2018

festive party table trends 2018

Festive party table trends 2018

By now, your Christmas party planning should be well under-way.  Importantly, now is the time to choose the style and design of your party tables.  A key aspect of creating the right atmosphere, the ‘tablescape’ can be a real focal point to the event.  Here are TLC’s top festive party table trends 2018 to help with your design:

Farmhouse chic

When it’s cold outside, the idea of cosying-up by an open fire is always appealing. This year we are seeing all those solid, natural elements of a welcoming modern farmhouse coming through in table décor for the festive season. The reassuring and rustic feel of chunky logs is created with plates set on large wooden chargers, made from circular slices of wood. Magnolia table-linen works well with this popular natural shade theme. Metallics are still popular. Although we will see a more muted tone to the silver and gold decorations, creating an overall more sophisticated. A calming and relaxed ambiance.

Rainbow adventures

In many ways the rainbow trend flies in the face of what we’re seeing with the understated farmhouse chic. This new trend is all about the colour . You can expect to see lots of experimenting with this area. So, while you might see a hint of this in rainbow coloured glassware, you could also see a full explosion of colour, with brightly-lit bulbs, multi-coloured trees, garlands and baubles. Décor arranged to take you through the full-colour spectrum – just like a rainbow.

Festive party table trends 2018

Copper, green and blue

This trend is another colourful combination, that can produce a wonderful vintage effect. The crisp blue contrasts well with the warmth of the copper, while green adds a bright touch of the outdoor spruce. You’ll see these complementary colours matched beautifully in table-runners, candle-holders and centre-pieces.

Understated elegance

A blanket of white always makes for a stunning winter wonderland setting, and this is no different when it comes to party table décor. As well as a seasonal flavour, a focus on white gives a clean, crisp feel that works well for those wanting to create a calm, minimalist look. Aesthetically, this is created using crisp table-linens, white porcelain crockery, and clear glass decorations, vases and candle-holders. For contrast and interest look to combine with a small number of brushed metal statement pieces as table centres, or chunky candles seated in a natural surround of pine cones, sprigs, and cinnamon sticks.


Personalised treats

Everyone likes to feel special at a party, and there is nothing better to create this feel that to provide guests with something uniquely theirs. There are plenty of ways you can do this from festive name-plates to personalised cinnamon sticks, gingerbread men, and take-home baubles for the tree.

Festive party table trends 2018

Hot chocolate stations

What could be better at the end of the night than to leave a party with a steaming hot chocolate. But rather than simply serve-up a hot drink, why not make the serving space a separate table that stands-out as a memorable take-away in its own right. There are opportunities here for giving guests eco-friendly personalised mugs, as well decorating you bar with themed trays, signs and towels to match the themed festive colours of your choosing.

Oversized everything

This year expect to see your favourite Christmas decorations taking on a super-sized form. Yes, this means there will be baubles almost the size of footballs. These larger ornaments make striking table settings when grouped together with chunky candles. Extravagantly wrapped parcels with huge bows also make statement decorations, and you can double-up the usefulness by making them presents guests can take home at the end of the night.

I hope our selection of festive party table trends 2018 have been a useful guide?  Remember, sometimes less can also be more.  If budgets are more limited, take inspiration from these designs but interpret them with simplicity.  Create one main focus for the décor, and surround this by inexpensive, tasteful room dressing.

Happy planning!

Continue reading