The holiday season is here! The shopping for just the right gift. The endless crowds blocking your path. Writing Christmas cards. Getting your travel plans ready to go. Yes, the holidays are here, and from Thanksgiving to January 2nd, people all over the city are going to be in a more festive holiday spirit. And with that festive spirit comes parties. Lots and lots of parties. Now, either you are going to be planning the parties, or attending the parties. If you are attending, bringing a nice bottle of wine or liquor, maybe a covered dish, is all that is expected of you. But if you are hosting, there are quite a few other things you need to consider. While food may be tops on your mind, let’s not forget what people do while they are eating; sipping cocktails or glasses of wine and telling stories. And why not have some great stories about the party you threw this year, and looking forward to your next one.
How do you prepare for a party from a beverage point of view? Have no worries, this is our gift to you. There are plenty of things to consider:
1. Set up some expectations for the party. Is it BYOB? Will you be providing beer and wine? If people come in knowing a little bit about what to expect, they can be prepared to enjoy what you have to offer, or add a few items of their own.
2. How many guests? This is the biggest thing you need to consider. This will help set up all of the other items you need to get ready rather nicely. Knowing a head count, even an approximate one, will help you buy the proper quantities of liquor, beer, wine, and mixers you are going to need for the party. When you go out any buy supplies, you always want to buy for a few more guests than you think you will have. You never know when someone is going to bring a friend, maybe three.
3. What type of guests? If this is a family affair, you need to make sure you have a wide range of beverages, and not all of them should be alcoholic. Having soda, juices, and water is a good idea for any party, but you should make sure you increase the amount you buy when the kids are over. You may even consider making a few special mocktails for them, so they are not limited to just sodas. That may also involve buying a few special syrups, which are easiest to find in any place they sell coffee or coffee supplies. Da Vinci has an excellent collection of syrups.
4. What do they like to drink? There are plenty of charts out there that will tell you how much liquor to buy when you are throwing a party. And they all give an excellent idea of how much is a good amount. What many do not tell you is that you also need cater it to the people that are coming over. If my family comes down to visit me from Cleveland, I make sure I have a bottle of Jim Beam and a bottle of Buckeye Vodka handy. I also make sure there is a six pack of quality beer in the house. Having a great deal of any particular type of beverage that no one likes, or that is not part of another cocktail, is a bad idea. You are not going to need nearly as much gin and tequila as you will need rum, vodka and wines.
5. Plan your bar. There are plenty of ways you could get your bar ready. You could go for the basics, and only provide beer and wine for your guests, and invite them to bring any special liquor that they may want to enjoy. You could create a theme, and have drinks that all relate to that specific theme. Christmas cocktails? Chocolate, peppermint, and gingerbread cocktails, a bowl of eggnog…you have all the ingredients for a good time. You can also be very ambitious, and shoot for a full bar (see the link to the chart above). No matter what sort of bar you have planned, don’t forget the proper mixers and garnishes, and make sure you have plenty of them. The one thing you do not want to run out of is the main attraction. Even if you are expecting people to bring their own, you want a good selection of juices and sodas for them to mix their drinks with, as well as plenty of ice to keep it all cool.
6. Have a cocktail ready to go. Making something simple and pre-mixed to offer guests as they come in is a great idea to get something in their hand and make them feel welcomed. You can do a punch, so people can serve themselves while you are still welcoming guests. You can also have a simple bar set up that people can help themselves at; single liquor and a mixer or liquors on the rocks. If you plan on bar tending for the night (or have someone to bar tend for you), you can have a simple drink menu available for people to choose from.
7. Keep an eye on your guests. People will hit the bar pretty hard when they first get there. Most guests will have a couple drinks in the first hour or so, then one drink per hour after that during the party. You are going to want to spend the first couple hours making sure that the bar stays well stocked with beer, wine, liquor, mixers, and ice. Towards the end of the night, you are going to want to make sure that your guests are not drunk. Talk with them before they go, to make sure their words are not slurring and they have the ability to focus. Hand them something to see how they reach for it. Is it a strong, direct grab or is it wavering, like the person is trying to find it? If they start getting loud or out of control during the party, make sure you somehow cut them off. It is not comfortable, and it is best that you enlist the help of other guests to make sure their drinking is reduced. And if they are drunk, make sure they are not driving home, or you can get them a ride. Having guest bedrooms is ideal, but you can also call a taxi service.
There are plenty of other things to consider, but from a cocktail standpoint, these are the important ones. Parties are events that make memories, and you want the memories from your party to be warm ones. May all of your parties be complete successes! Cheers!
Editors Note: This story was originally run on Dec 2, 2011, but we felt it deserved a rerun!