Hello & Happy New Year!!!
In my recent New Year’s Resolution post my first goal for 2015 was to take a more active role in hosting, and in doing so, become a better cook. For newcomers to our little section of the interwebs, Lisa recently posted five entertaining tips. What follows is a composite of other tips we’ve gathered from our hosting experiences and those garnered from others:
Know the Occasion
Are you hosting a halloween costume party or a Fourth of July celebration? Is it a summer BBQ, Thanksgiving feast, or a New Year’s Eve bash? Are you serving brunch, a five-, seven-, or nine-course meal, or just hors d’ oeuvres? Are your guests drinking Mint Juleps, beer, mead, hard cider, Champagne, prosecco, or Eggnog?
These are crucial elements to pay attention to when party planning because they determine the food, the setting, and the reason. All of which determine the drinks. You wouldn’t serve eggnog or a French 75 at your Fourth of July BBQ, nor would you serve Bloody Mary’s at your dinner party. New Year’s, a graduation, a big promotion, or a wedding all call for Champagne, but a smaller celebration pairs better with a more modest prosecco (what’s the difference? Coming soon).
- The French 75 packs a wallop. If you serve it, they will come… but won’t leave until tomorrow morning.
Know your Focus
Are the drinks, or food, your focus? If food is your focus, choose drinks that pair well. You’re better off skipping the hard alcohol—axe the Navy Strength spirits or 100-proof vodkas or ryes. Opt instead for aperitifs like a Negroni or a collins. These lighter drinks stimulate the palate and prime the stomach for the coming meal. Conversely, if drinks are the stars one good approach is to focus on highballs, a family of mixed drinks composed of an alcoholic base and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer, rather than lowballs. Unless you want to spend your whole night mixing at the bar giving away all of your expensive booze to guests who’ll spend the remainder of the night passed out on your floor… Your choice.
The Boston Sour—perfect if you want to spend your entire party dry shaking.
Consider your Guests
A good host thinks of their guests first and foremost. For every cocktail lover there are equal numbers of people who are either: scared of, don’t like, or don’t drink hard alcohol. Give them options!
“Virgin” drinks. Last year Lisa’s graduating class created a series of twelve parties called the 12 Days of Match. Being Providence, at our hipster themed party we hosted we used two punch dispensers to serve flavored waters to guests that either a) didn’t want to drink alcohol or b) had enough for a night. Everybody loved it! Try citrus, mint, or cucumber infused water for a surefire hit!
Another option is to serve your guests craft sodas, kombucha, or even mocktails. Stay tuned for more on these topics in the coming weeks, as I’m about to brew our first batch of ginger beer—a key ingredient in Lisa’s favorite lowball, the Dark N’ Stormy.
Low ABV drinks. Beer, wine, and hard cider all pack less punch and allow your guests to self-serve—freeing you up to actually enjoy your party. Consider also serving Champagne, prosecco, or beer-inspired cocktails, like a Campari Shandy.
Food. Never serve alcohol without food.
Common Sense. Use it. Know when to cut off your own guests and know how to do so politely. As soon as you notice trouble brewing your responsibility as host is to steer your guest towards the nearest seat, hand them a NA beverage, and engage them in conversation. The host that continues serving alcohol to such guests is a clown in man shoes.
Be Prepared & K.I.S.S.
Never throw a party without thoughtful prior preparation. Prior preparation prevents poor performance. Keep the drink menu limited and make sure you have enough supplies for the night. Lisa previously suggested limiting your cocktail menu to 5 or less, because that keeps it focused on drinks you know, reduce costs, and controls the environment. But other things we would add include:
- Run the dishwasher before the party—this ensures you have enough clean glassware, flatware, and plates. Not to mention, an empty dishwasher for easier post-party cleanup.
- Ice. Be sure you have enough before the party starts; and remember it takes time to freeze. Your best bet is to make it in batches leading up to the party.
- Plan for disaster. One dish will invariably not work. Have a backup plan to feed your hungry guests.
- Consider batch made and easy-to-assemble drinks—unless you’re keen on standing by the bar all night. Punch is your best friend, use her wisely.
Do not put the food near the libations. Keep things separated spatially to encourage traffic flow around chokepoints in your apartment or home. Our kitchen is tiny, whenever we host, we put all food and drinks out in the main room to encourage guests to mingle and move about.
Last, Be a Great Host
You’re the host—always remember that. Enjoy yourself and your guests company, but do so responsibly. Your primary concern is that everyone gets home safely. They’ll thank you for it the next day.