My birthday was last week (I turned 26!). Ryan and I hosted a small party to celebrate. I had such a blast with friends. I am so thankful for everyone who joined in on the festivities despite the cold and busy schedules. You guys truly made me feel so special! I also baked my first cake (I can’t believe its my first either!). It was a triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache decorated with white chocolate curls from Baking Chez Moi by Dorie Greenspan.
I love entertaining, but it can be difficult to do so on a small budget, a tiny apartment, and a busy schedule. Ryan and I have hosted several cocktail-style parties over the past several years, each with approximately 20-30 guests. Not all of them went exactly as planned, but they were all a ton of fun! Here are some words of wisdom to make your next gathering less stressful.
1. Label your food items.
We always have guests with several dietary preferences or allergies ranging from vegetarian to vegan to peanut-free to pork-free. Thus, it is always a good idea to label your food items both with the name of what you are serving, but also if the item is vegetarian, gluten free, nut free, etc. Here are the abbreviations I typically use: V=Vegetarian; Veg=Vegan; NF=Nut-free; GF= Gluten-Free. That way your guests do not have to guess what they are eating. They also do not have to guess if it is okay for them to eat it without having to hunt you down in the crowd to ask if it is within their dietary preferences/allegeries.
2. Stick to 5 or less cocktail offerings.
Ryan and I love making cocktails, but for a large crowd it is easier to offer just a few. Write down the menu somewhere near your bar for easy viewing. Try to offer different types of liquors and spirits. We usually like to offer at least one cocktail with vodka, gin, rum, whiskey, and tequila to please everyone’s tastes. Hint: A Moscow mule (made with vodka, lime, and ginger beer) is a crowd favorite. As the host, you should definitely make cocktails that you can make off the top of your head without having to fumble through a book or look it up on your phone. Also, try to stick with simple yet satisfying cocktails that you won’t have difficulty remembering how to make after having a drink or two yourself =P. If memorizing cocktail recipes isn’t your thing, a great alternative would be to serve punch, which can easily serve a crowd but without any shaking or stirring involved.
3. Focus on finger foods.
Hors d’oeuvres (think chicken wings, stuffed mushrooms, crostini, stuffed dates, meatballs) are the most difficult types of food to make because they typically require a good amount of individual attention. However, the extra prep time is worth it. If possible, serve items that can be eaten at room temperature and don’t need to be eaten straight out of the oven. When entertaining a large crowd, you do not want to have to worry about utensils and plates. Just put out some napkins and toothpicks! Clean-up will be a breeze too.
4. Always finish prepping a half an hour early.
Aim to have everything done at least a half an hour before guests are supposed to arrive. This way you can primp yourself up (aka dust the flour off your shirt), be prepared for early guests, have a drink before your guests arrive (just one though!), and relax.
5. Have fun!
If you are having fun, your guests will too! In the end, nobody will care too much about what you serve or what glass you served their beer in. What they will remember is good conversation, laughter, and smiles.
Do you have any tips on entertaining? If so, let me know!