2 May 2024

The Perfect Drinks Party

No two social gatherings are ever the same, and even with an identical venue, refreshment and music, no party can ever be recreated. Atmosphere is an elusive commodity, and it falls on the shoulders of the host to create the right conditions for bonhomie to flourish. We take a look at six easy ways to ensure an at-home drinks party goes with a swing.

Six Easy Steps

1. Work the Guest List

Don’t focus on a single group or clique – introduce new blood. Invite friends from different social circles and ask them to bring friends or partners. Ensure that everyone at your party will be given the chance to meet someone new. It is these new connections that will make your party memorable, widening social circles and providing opportunities for new friendships to prosper.

2.         Let the Invitation do the Talking

Make the nature of the event crystal clear in the invitation. If you’re just ringing around or emailing, people will assume the event is informal. If you’re sending out printed invitations, pay special attention to the design and typography. It would be unforgivably pretentious, and very misleading, to issue a formal invitation to a party where guests will be bringing their own bottles, basic food is served straight from the oven, and dancing is to your own home-compiled CD.

Don’t leave anything to chance – if you have a specific dress code in mind, state it on the invitation (even if it’s just a general directive – e.g. ‘party frocks’ – rather than a specific dress code).

Make it clear if you’re serving food – Buffet, Canapés, Light Supper etc. You can also specify an end time if you don’t want the event to drag on.

3.         Get the Mood Right…

Dress up your rooms with striking flower arrangements and pay careful attention to the lighting. Use lamps and fairy lights, or light candles – but make sure they’re safely tucked away. Designate a room where guests can leave their coats – you don’t want your hallway to become overwhelmed with coats and it’s important to ensure that movement between rooms is unrestricted. If you’ve got helpers (eg your children and their friends) you could make one of them responsible for taking coats upstairs, or into another unused room, and leaving them on a spare bed or sofa.

Your party may turn into a wild bacchanalia, but certainly at the start music (if used) should be subtle and non-challenging, and don’t turn up the volume so that guests are fighting to make themselves heard.

If possible, create ‘quiet rooms’ away from the maelstrom, where guests can withdraw for gentle conversation and comfortable seating.

4.         Let the Drink Flow…

Make sure that your bar (or drinks table) is in an easily accessible location. You don’t want a frustrating bottleneck, with guests trying desperately to reach the elusive booze.

If you’ve using serving staff (or even your kids and their teenage friends) make sure you brief them clearly before the event and that they are instructed to never leave a glass empty…

Calculate (generously) how much alcohol per head and over-supply. A party that runs dry is an irredeemable social failure.

If possible, keep stocks of white wine, sparkling wine and champagne chilled in the fridge; if there’s no room use ice buckets generously packed with crushed ice (buy it in bags beforehand to ensure that you don’t run out).

Provide interesting non-alcoholic alternatives: elderflower cordial, ginger beer, fruit cup. Guests who are abstaining shouldn’t be condemned to a bread and water diet.

5.         …And Don’t Forget the Food

It’s irresponsible to ply people with alcohol without supplying food. At it’s most basic this can be crisps, nuts, olives, and hunks of bread and cheese/ham.

More sophisticated catering can range from exquisite canapés to cooked sausages, chicken wings and meatballs or a buffet supper of cold ham, chicken, salmon and salads.

Remember, however, that this is primarily a drinks party. The more ambitious your catering the more provision you will have to make. The transition from finger food to food that requires plates (buffets or hot food) is a big step. Guests will also require cutlery and space in which they can serve themselves and eat in comfort (preferably seated). If you’re entertaining a large number of people in your home this might be overwhelming. Think carefully and plan your catering realistically.

6.         Stay in Charge

You’re responsible for the party from beginning to end, and that means staying reasonably sober. You will need to have your wits about you, so that you can observe the comings and goings of your guests.

Watch out for wallflowers; if certain guests are finding it hard to mingle, it’s your job to swoop in, make introductions and indulge in social engineering. Don’t overdo your hosting duties: guests will be understandably annoyed if you keep interrupting them mid-conversation and moving them on to pastures new.

Keep your eye on supplies; monitor drink and food throughout the evening and ensure that both are flowing.  The last thing you want is disconsolate guests rifling through your drinks cabinet or poking their noses into your fridge.

Do some subtle housekeeping; clear away discarded glasses and half-eaten plates of food throughout the evening. You don’t want things to get too sordid, and unobtrusive clearing will make the morning after the night before so much more palatable.

Monitor noise levels; remember your neighbours and don’t let your guests take control of the volume knob. Be wary of departing guests: you don’t want them to be hanging around on your doorstep, talking loudly and keeping the whole neighbourhood awake. If there are any signs of noisy malingering, make the effort to move guests on. Stay up until the bitter end. Send stragglers home in taxis, arrange beds for non-movers. Turns the lights out and the music off. It’s over.


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Weybridge KT13 8AL
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