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Michelle Wlosinski used to ask everyone on the guest list what they wanted to drink at her parties.

It was an arrangement that satisfied everyone but the hosts. "Then you have to get their brand of alcohol," said Wlosinski. "It became ridiculous -- we're not a restaurant."

These days, with years' more party-throwing experience, Wlosinski takes the minimalist route to planning adult drink happiness. She mixes together a couple pitchers of drinks, lines up glasses and platters of appetizers, and lets her guests serve themselves.

Limiting the drink choices vastly simplifies the work of throwing a party, according to Wlosinski and other adherents to this approach. Plus, premixing the drinks guarantees they're made to your specifications without having to ignore your friends to go make more.

With New Year's Eve on the way, The News asked some noted mixologists to the masses to explain their approach and share favorite recipes.

"I'm not Betty Crocker, but we like to entertain a lot," said Wlosinski, vice president for piano dealer Denton Cottier and Daniels, who will whip up pitchers of Cosmopolitans, Lemon Drops or her brother's perfected Mai Tai. "Everything that we do when we make a party is designed to take a very limited amount of time but still be very tasty and make it special."

Deciding on a pitcher of mixed drinks helps hosts get more satisfaction from a party, said Buffalo optometrist Diane Cress.

"A pitcher of cocktails is convenient because as the evening wears on your desire to stop and make a cocktail correctly wanes," said Cress. "Making a drink is different than pouring a glass of wine -- it really has to be done properly. So it's advantageous to have them chilling in the refrigerator; you just have to strain them and serve."

It's not just for New Year's, Cress said. With husband David, she hosts a Monday movie during the winter, with a drink and potluck dinner; two weeks ago everyone settled in for "It's a Wonderful Life," and rum-powered eggnog.

For New Year's, she might make Crown Royal Manhattans or Sidecars, mixing in the ice cubes. "They get a little more diluted as the evening wears on, and I don't see that as a disadvantage," said Cress. "It helps keep you from getting a little bit too inebriated."

Since serving hard liquor can make guests intoxicated faster, she's careful when pouring. "I know who I'm serving," she said of her guests. "I can't tell you I've served more than two drinks to too many people."

Don't serve pitcher drinks without also providing "substantial, alcohol-absorbing food," said Buffalo marketing consultant Judi Griggs. (Food doesn't neutralize alcohol but slows its absorption into the bloodstream.)

"We have never had a party where we don't have food," she said -- especially edibles meant to be eaten with one hand. "You can put out the turkey or the ham, but people tend to graze," said Griggs. "It's the death of a party when people sit."

So Griggs' favored appetizers include stuffed mushrooms, dips with bread and vegetables, and bruschetta. "Everything that involves bread and cheese, at some level, works," she said.

Griggs suggests Storm Slush and Christmas Cocktails, which can be garnished with frozen cranberries. "They work like little ice cubes, and they look so cool," she said. "It looks so much fancier than it is."

Buffalo photographer Nancy J. Parisi throws a Red Party every February, near Valentine's Day. Friends pour pomegranate martinis, while she likes to make a racket in the kitchen with blenders full of Atomic Rickeys, a drink she invented that's flavored with Atomic Fireball candies.

Beer and wine and rum-and-Coke are ordinary drinks for ordinary nights. If you want to make a gathering feel extraordinary, Parisi said, hosts have to do something special.

"We have to have standout cocktails, something that is really sort of the exclamation point on a party, that says, 'This is something special and different.'"

>Cosmopolitan

4 parts vodka

2 parts triple sec

2 parts cranberry juice

1 part fresh lime juice

Mix well and chill.

***

>Mai Tai

1 ounce gold rum

1 ounce dark rum

1 1/2 ounce lime juice

1/2 ounce orange Curacao

1/4 ounce simple syrup

1/4 ounce orgeat (almond syrup)

2 cups crushed ice

Mix well and chill.

(Michelle Wlosinski's brother perfected this recipe. She said you can substitute 1/2 ounce Torani sugar-free almond syrup for simple syrup and orgeat.)

***

>Sidecar

2 ounces Cointreau or triple sec

4 ounces Brandy or Cognac

Juice of one lemon

Mix with ice, then strain into glasses coated with a sugared rim.

Makes 4 drinks.

-- Diane Cress

***

>Crown Royal Manhattan

1 part sweet vermouth, preferably Martini and Rossi

2 parts Crown Royal Whiskey

1 jar maraschino cherries

Mix whiskey and vermouth with cracked ice, then strain into a martini glass. Add 2 maraschino cherries and about one teaspoon cherry juice to each glass.

("When I make a Manhattan I like to use Crown Royal Whiskey, although any whiskey will do. I just think it adds a little more zing to the cocktail.")

-- Diane Cress

***

>Christmas Cocktails

1 48-ounce container white cranberry juice

10 shots vanilla vodka

5 shots triple sec

Maraschino cherries

Dash maraschino cherry juice

Mix together. Pour into glasses with ice and a maraschino cherry.

("You'll need a one-gallon pitcher to mix this one.")

-- Judi Griggs

***

>Storm Slush

6 ounces frozen cranberry juice concentrate

12 ounces frozen lemonade concentrate

1 cup sugar

1 750 ml bottle vodka (any kind)

1 quart water

Mix water and sugar in large container until sugar dissolves. Add frozen juices and stir mixture. Add vodka and stir again. Pour mixture into gallon pitcher half full of crushed ice. Serve immediately.

-- Judi Griggs

***

>Atomic Rickey

6 shots gin

6 ounces frozen limeade concentrate

2 cups plain or lime seltzer

5 Atomic Fireball hard candies

Put gin, limeade and seltzer in sturdy, ice-crushing blender, and combine, about 10 seconds. (Use ice cubes instead of seltzer for frozen version.)

Toss in five Atomic Fire Ball candies. Enjoy the clattering sound of the candies and watch the cocktail turn a nice deep shade of pink. Unless already frozen, serve over ice.

-- Nancy J. Parisi

***

>Lemon drop martini

6 parts lemon-flavored vodka

1 part dry vermouth

Mix well and chill. Serve in glass rimmed with granulated sugar and a lemon twist.

Source: "The Martini Book" by Sally Ann Berk.

***

>Cranberry Champagne Punch

6 cups cranberry juice cocktail

a cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 cups freshly squeezed orange juice

2 bottles champagne

Orange segments for garnish

Combine all ingredients except champagne and orange segments and chill well.

Pour into punch bowl. Add champagne. Garnish glasses with orange segments.

Serves 20.

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com