You know, you don’t need to throw a huge bash when you’re in the mood to socialize. You can have a little party instead. Here are ten tried-and-true ideas that Mr. Booze rolls out on a fairly regular basis. Most are easy to clean up the next morning. Most are thrifty ways to have some fun. Most are enjoyable ways to use your home bars and liquor cabinets reasonably and without having to worry about folks drinking too much and acting irresponsibly. Still, be the host, watch your guests and make certain your friends are enjoying themselves. Remember, by hosting these smaller parties in your home, you can offer a sofa to anyone you feel might have had too much to drink. Suggest that people walk on over. By keeping things on the small side and batching your drinks ahead of time, you’ll be able to truly enjoy your own party too. No big productions, just some cool little excuses to have the gang over.
1. The Retro-Throwback Cocktail Party Without Really Going There –
Think 60’s. Or try and recall the cocktail parties your parents threw back in their day and shoot for that feel. You don’t have to announce your party as a retro-party, just ask that the fellows wear sports-jackets, suggest the theme, and you’ll set the tone. Have plenty of old-school hors d’oeuvres & canapés sprinkled on coffee-tables and TV trays ‘cause people like to nibble, and the bacon, cheesy, shrimp, Swedish meatbally treats will make the partaker feel a little more liberated for an evening. Batch two or three classic cocktails — the Sidecar, Whiskey Sour and Daiquiri, for example — then just make Manhattans & Martinis to order, so you’re not killing yourself making drinks all evening. Pay attention to your tunes ahead of time and set your player with plenty of the old sounds. Don’t go too large; 20 – 30 people are more than enough.
2. The One Batched Drink, and Let’s Talk About It Party –
Pick a drink from our recipe page. Make sure it’s a cocktail that you feel most will like, like The Stone Fence, or Mai-Tai, or anything with juice that is strong. Batch enough for everyone to have two or three. Make plenty of snacks for folks to eat. Do a little research on the net for the drink’s complete history, variation, anecdotes concerning the drink, etc…. When your guests arrive, present them with the cocktail and then present an informal talk about the drink. Make a few to demonstrate its build. This is so much fun and easy to pull off. Folks will leave your home knowing how to make a new cocktail, you’ll have promoted the art of home bartending, and you’ll just have to make one drink for the evening.
3. A Tasting –
I do this the weekend before every St. Patrick’s Day with Irish whiskey, but you can do it with any popular, semi-affordable spirit that you’re a fan of. Over the course of a year or a few months, collect 4, 5, or even more different varieties of one type of liquor you want to know more about or already know a lot about. Invite over a small amount of friends, 10-15 works for me, and set your bar or table with the collected bottles. With Irish, I set up a beautiful display complete with my St. Patrick representation, some panache in terms of unobtrusive decoration, small glasses and water. Do your research ahead of time and have note cards written with the history, distillation process, cost factor, differences, etc…on each bottle. Your friends won’t even mind if you read directly off the cards; they’ll just appreciate the time spent. Pour small drams or tastes of the spirit and discuss. This will feel like a book club, only more fun. Have food, and once finished with the presentation, folks can have a glass of their favorite and eat.
4. Poker -
I love playing poker and find the whole evening built around the game a splendid excuse to drink cocktails, eat a little something, and build friendships. Make the investment in poker chips. Buy enough so that everyone can have $30, $40, or $50 in $10 stacks. Don’t play with cash, it’ll become cumbersome and clutter up your table. Pre-prep the game by counting chips out ahead of time, batching a few different cocktails, setting up an outdoor smokers’ section, putting out snacks and setting up the hi-fi with music and setting the volume to correct levels. You can’t have the boys from Led Zepplin tellin’ you how long it’s been since “They Rock and Rolled” so loudly that you loose your game concentration. Don’t blast the tunes. Play cards. Take a break every once in a while for banter and social catch-up. Call an end-time or you’ll play ‘til 4 a.m. and hate yourself the next day. Poker can be the glue in a neighborhood.
5. Tiki Night –
Start by reading our Exotic Drinks Guide and build from there. I love a Tiki party, and you can throw one easily. A winter night is as great a reason to break out the rum as is a summer one. Just batch a couple of our picks, have your blender out, suggest the wearing of appropriate attire, and go crazy. Keep it cozy with a few guests, would be my best advice. Making layered and exotic drinks can be time consuming so you don’t want 30 arms w/ empty glasses in them aimed at you behind the bar. I’ll batch three pitchers of different Tiki classics, break out my Tiki mugs, put on the right sounds, and throw a party my guests will talk about the next three times I see ‘em.
6. Derby Party –
I don’t want to date this entry with this year’s Kentucky Derby date, but just know that the horses always run on the 1st Saturday in May. Crush your ice ahead of time and have a nice affordable bourbon on hand. By May, you’ll be pickin’ your own mint or will know someone who grows it, so you should be all set. I throw a pork loin in the slow cooker with some apple-cider vinegar, crushed tomatoes, hot crushed red pepper and brown sugar and serve it dripping on rolls. Mint Juleps and pulled pork sandwiches period. It’s a quick party; start it an hour before post time and end it 45 minutes after the race. Simple and delicious.
7. The Mad Scientist’ Experiment Party –
I LOVE this get-together idea and still use it as my “go to” when having a few couples over. Pick two or three cocktails from an old bar recipe book that neither you nor your guests have ever tried before. Pick the drinks out ahead of time so you’ll be sure to have the needed ingredients on hand at your bar. Put on your white lab coat and mix the drinks for the 1st time and build a social gathering around it. The joy of discovery or the bitter taste of an alcoholic bomb can be a titillating way to spend an evening. What do people think of the drink? How difficult was she to make? Do the teetotalers like it? Shared discovery nestled in the arms of booze — what a fun evening!
8. Cigars –
Pretty obvious but still fun, the cigar party is a great night spent in the back yard. Here’s a little secret, have others bring the smoke, while you provide the scotch, bourbon, brandy and cognac. Make sure your Sinatra collection is good to go. Have fat ashtrays set in key locations, and tell your kids you’ll smell in the morning. I stop after one but I’ve seen other cigar smokers enjoy two.
9. A Party Built Around A TV Show Or A Movie –
Kinda works, kinda doesn’t, but what the hell, I still do it. AMC’s Mad Men is an excellent pick. You can make Old Fashioned cocktails, Gimlets and Martinis and sort of watch the show. I find that the real fans (myself included, I’ll admit it) get a bit bugged when some tipsy jabber-jaw keeps flappin’ their gums at a key point in the drama. Having said that, though…it’s a party; if you are that dedicated to your show, you should stay at home. I’m able to watch my Don Draper and his nutty antics for one evening while others around me chat about their children or what’s on sale at Macy’s.
I sipped a Cosmo during the final Sex in the City show and chatted, what the hell.
If you go with a movie, you better make damn sure it’s not terribly dialog or drama driven. Sipping a Vesper Martini while Bond kills someone is one thing, watching the subtle nuances of Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal while poppin’ a mini-hotdog and sluggin’ down a Bourbon and Ginger is another. Bottomline, don’t care too too much about what’s on.
10. Spontaneous, but…. well, … planned –
You’ve had a rough week, and it’s Friday night. You know you wanna do something but you’re not sure exactly what. It’s from this weak desperation I find that the best get-togethers spring from. Especially on a warm evening, making a large pitcher of a delicious cocktail is all you need to do. Sit outside with a table, a few chairs and some music on, and … they will come. Let’s face it, and as I’ve always said, having a home bar is a great way to meet and bond with your neighbors. Pizzas will be ordered, children will play, old stale packs of Marlboro Lights will be unearthed, friends will walk over like zombies and later walk away like zombies. Make sure you have what you need even if that means stopping off for limes on the way home from work. Enjoy your yard, your driveway, your friends and family with a few drinks made by your own hand. A nice, nice way to spend an evening.