That's because the cocktails were mocktails, made without liquor. There was plenty of the real thing, though, in the book "Latin Twist: Traditional & Modern Cocktails" (Hippocrene Books, $22.50), which Melissa's was presenting that day along with co-authors Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack (left) and Vianney Rodriguez.
Just when you think rock star mixologists have concocted every cocktail imaginable, these two women have come up with something different--drinks served throughout Latin America and Spain.
The book goes beyond margaritas to drinks you may never have heard of, such as Venzuela's El Ritual, a shot glass of dark rum accompanied by lime wedges dipped in brown sugar on one side and coffee powder on the other.
And Canelazo, a spiced hot drink spiked with aguardiente or rum that wards off the chill in the Andean mountains of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.
And Nicaragua's signature cocktail El Macuá, a blend of white rum, guava juice, lemon juice and sugar.
The drinks they chose for Melissa's were a passion fruit caipirinha and ponche a la Romana, which is a pineapple and champagne drink from Chile (in the photo at the top), a pineapple daiquiri and a hot Christmas punch from Mexico.
No problem with refills. It was one time you could drink as much as you wanted without repercussions.
Both authors emphasized freshness and quality. This means you don't buy margarita mix. You make it yourself from the recipe in the book. On the other hand, you don't have to outfit your home bar like a pro. Instead of a muddler, you can use the bottom of a wooden spoon, Rodriguez said. A Mason jar can stand in for a cocktail shaker.
All of them came from "Muy Bueno: Three Generations of Authentic Mexican Flavor" (Hippocrene Books, 2012), co-authored by Marquez-Sharpnack and featuring recipes from her family, "recipes that had never been written," she said. Melissa's chefs stepped in to prepare them.
If the cocktail party is going to stretch into a meal, add a light mango, cucumber and jicama salad (above).
And heartier dishes such as chipotle-flavored chicken tinga (above) and shredded beef brisket for make-your-own tacos, a corn cup like those you get on the streets in Mexico and, for dessert, a tres leches pumpkin flan.
Rodriguez lives in Texas and Marquez-Sharpnack in Colorado. They met after admiring each other's work on the Internet and agreed to collaborate on the drink book. Check them out at www. muybuenocookbook.com (Marquez-Sharpnack) and www.sweetlifebake.com (Rodriguez).
PASSION FRUIT CAIPIRINHA
From "Latin Twist" by Vianney Rodriguez and Yvette Marquez-Sharpnack
2 limes, cut into wedges
4 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 passion fruits, halved
1 cup pineapple juice
5 ounces cachaça
Divide lime wedges and sugar between 2 glasses and muddle.
Scoop the passion fruit pulp with seeds into the glasses. Add pineapple juice and cachaça, stir and top with ice.
Makes 2 drinks.