A Spirited Gathering


The 1920s literary critic H.L. Menken once called the martini “the only American invention as perfect as the sonnet.” Poetry to some, the traditional combination of gin and vermouth garnished with an olive or a lemon twist is undeniably one of the world’s best-known cocktails. 

Lansdowne Resort, a 296-room resort and conference center in Leesburg, VA, 30 miles outside of Washington, DC, is putting a whole new spin on the libation by making it the theme of a teambuilding activity for groups. Spenser McKenna, manager and sommelier of On the Potomac, the resort’s in-house fine-dining restaurant, walks groups through the process of crafting the perfect martini—and enhances team dynamics in the process.

Here’s how it works: McKenna addresses the group, usually five to 10 people, as they huddle around the restaurant’s round bar. Participants learn about the history of the American martini as well as other cocktails, and they have the opportunity to ask questions, share likes and dislikes, and sample different mixtures.

“We love doing these events for our groups,” says McKenna. “We tailor them to the meeting planner’s goals and budgets and we have fun with them.” 

At a recent event, it wasn’t the conventional martini that won over the group, but the Moscow Mule—a cocktail popular during the 1950s vodka craze in the United States (recipe below)—with the Lansdowne Bellini, sparkling wine combined with peach puree, coming in a close second. 

McKenna’s mixology demonstrationwas the ideal activity for a meeting planned by Dolly Persaud, executive assistant with Crop Life International, a global federation representing the plant science industry. “This is not a close-knit group, and an activity like this helped them form relationships,” explains Persaud of her group of 10 attendees, who are scattered across the globe. “We were originally looking for something fun for the group to do outside of the resort, and then we learned about this and it worked out great. They really enjoyed themselves, and it helped everyone relax after the meeting.”

The cost is based on number of participants but averages about $50 per person, plus tax and gratuity.