One key to a great party is a theme, says entertaining expert Ryan Jennings. Here are his 10 tips to hosting a successful soiree.
1. Start with colour. “Red, silver, gold, blue, black, white — choose one and plan invitations, decorations, cocktails, food, attire, even makeup, around it,” suggests Jennings.
2. Giving is a theme. “Invitations, decor and food can all be designed around gifting, presents, or wrapping. Ask guests to bring a donation for a charity instead of a hostess gift.”
3. Choose tunes. Jennings says a soundtrack sets the mood of your evening. “Start with ambient lounge music and progress into more upbeat and danceable tunes. And mix in a few holiday classics.”
4. Outsource supplies. “Glassware, dishes and linens are relatively inexpensive to rent, and they show up clean and go away dirty,” notes Jennings.
5. Pre-prep drinks. “Mix pitchers of cocktails, minus the ice and anything bubbly. Refrigerate until needed, then pour into ice-filled glasses and top with soda or champagne if called for.”
6. Make non-drinkers feel special, too. Jennings is the spokesperson for Bombay Sapphire and also co-author of Entertaining with Booze: Designer Drinks, Fabulous Food & Inspired Ideas for Your Next Party, but he insists on having a virgin cocktail at the ready, served in appropriate glassware.
7. Make space. “Move chairs, tables, anything that impedes party flow,” Jennings says. “Roll up rugs, stash the fragile, and clear space for chat circles and a possible dance floor.” As well, “Think dimmer switches and candlelight.”
8. Get a crew if necessary. “Dinner parties larger than 12 and cocktail parties in excess of 30 are too much for one person,” says Jennings. “You’ll need one or two people to help man the ovens, pass hors d’oeuvres and clear mess, as well as a savvy mixologist friend to stir up cocktails. You should be mingling with guests, not stuck in the kitchen.”
9. Stagger the food. “Dividing hors d’oeuvres and buffet items in half and bringing them out in stages ensures that latecomers get fed and the buffet looks fresh throughout the evening,” Jennings advises.
10. Host responsibly. “Stay sober so you can make appropriate decisions,” says Jennings. “Keep an eye on guest alcohol consumption, have plenty of food available and keep a list of taxi numbers by the phone.”
Ryan Jennings’ Killer ’Nog
• 12 eggs, separated
• 11/2 cups superfine sugar
• 4 cups milk
• 4 cups heavy cream (35%)
• 3 cups bourbon
• 1 cup brandy
• 1/2 cup dark rum
• Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Beat egg yolks in a large bowl until thick and pale yellow. Gradually whisk in sugar, then whisk in milk and cream. Add brandy, bourbon and rum, stirring constantly.
2. Whisk egg white in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold egg whites into nog mixture and refrigerate until ready to serve. Pour nog into ice-filled glasses and sprinkle with nutmeg.