Let’s Have a Party
Do it your own way for a relaxed and happy party. There are some general guide-lines, however, and the first is to plan well in advance. That means listing in detail all the things (gadgets and supplies) and also listing all the people you’ll want at your party.
Give your guests at least two weeks’ notice for a ‘we’re just throwing a party occasion, a month or so for specific things like weddings, christenings, anniversaries and the like.
HOW MANY PEOPLE?
It’s a busy world and you can usually reckon that, for special occasions in particular, about five per cent won’t be able to come — or will tell you at the last moment that they’re sorry. But join the optimists and have the drink and food available for the maximum number. Everyone anyway is more hungry than you think — and there’s always someone to help the host finish off the bottle.
You can generally order your drinks on the sale-or-return basis from most off-licences, paying for all bottles you open and returning the unopened ones. Though the sale-or-return doesn’t normally apply at cut-price liquor stores, only at traditional merchants, the cut-price stores may still show you a saving because unopened bottles — of wine, spirits or whatever — won’t deteriorate quickly. So you can keep them in a place with an even temperature, somewhere dark and dry, like the larder or under the stairs, for later use. Remember to store table wines on their sides so that their corks stay moist, and don’t shrink and let in air. Fortified wines, spirits and beers stand upright.
How much drink do you need for a party?
It depends on personal habits and tastes so the better you know your guests’ capacities, the more accurately you can judge. Quantities will also vary with the occasion. At hot-weather parties out of doors, people are likely to drink twice as much as they would — say — at a rather more formal dinner party. For this kind of party, where you don’t know the capacities of your guests, it’s safe to reckon three bottles of table wine for every four people if you’re serving only one wine. If you are serving two table wines — a white with the fish, for example, and a red with the main course — allow half a bottle of each wine per head. But in any case, make sure you have some more of the same wine or wines ready, in case they’re needed. That means your white wine cool and your reds at the temperature of a warm room (chambri). For before and after a meal reckon 12 to 15 drinks from a bottle of Sherry or Port, 8 or 10 from a fine dessert wine like Trockenbeerenauslese or a Sauternes, 6 glasses from a bottle of Champagne, about sixteen glasses from a bottle of made-up aperitif such as Dubonnet, the aniseeds, the bitters or the vermouths. And don’t forget that bottles have to be opened — so have a good and reliable corkscrew or two handy and any other opening gadgets that may be needed.
At a buffet party some people tend to drink more freely, others quietly sit on one drink. So it usually averages out much the same.
A tip, if you’re serving wine at your buffet, is to arrange the menu so that one wine suits all the food. If there is a second wine it should harmonize pretty generally too, though it could perhaps be slightly sweeter for those who prefer it that way.
DETAILS THAT COUNT
If the drink is beer, it comes cheaper from most sellers bought in cases of cans than if bought in smaller quantities. Such cans can be handy if fridge space is limited. They stack compactly and you can replenish with new cans as you take cooled ones out. Another way with beer is to buy the 4-pint or 7-pint party size cans. Pouring is quick and easy and the beer stays lively to the end if you fit one of those tap-and-compressor gadgets of the clip-on sort made by Sparklets. Small things like these make preplanning vital, since you want to be really at home at your own party. Make lists, not only of the obvious things, like the drinks, but of all the equipment and the small garnishes and accompani-ments.
A check-list with every item needing attention ticked off is a sure base for the serenity of the party-giver. Citrus fruits (for rind as well as juice), spices like cinnamon, cloves or nutmegs may be included in the drinks you are going to offer. If nutmeg is likely to be one, it’s worth getting one of those grinders, like pepper mills, which give a sprinkle of grated nutmeg at the turn of a little wheel or knob. And there are the olives, nuts, cocktail onions, crisps and small biscuits that everyone enjoys nibbling with the drink that welcomes them, whatever the occasion.
If there’s going to be a big demand for cold drinks and you haven’t a hotel-size fridge or ice-maker, you’ll need to order ice, either from the fishmonger or an ice supplier. Order that, too, well in advance. At the time when you want it, a lot of other people will be wanting ice too. If necessary — but only if necessary — put any extra ice into the bath (plugged) for reserve storage, or keep it out of doors in a cool spot.
That ‘order early’ principle applies to glasses, too. Glasses for most occasions, including weddings with Champagne, and for that ancient Brandy after a most important dinner, can well be standard-ized on the ordinary ‘tulip’ glass. Most of us think of this as ‘a wine glass’; it has a short stem and generally holds 5 or 6 ounces of liquid (fluid ounces or simply ounces). The stem allows cool drinks to stay cool while they are drunk but the drinks that flower in warmth can be gently warmed merely by cupping the hand around the bowl of the glass. But the main point is that the tulip glass in-curves at the rim so that the bouquet, the magic aroma of fine wines and old spirits is concentrated and the sparkle of Champagne, which the makers have spent years of study and hard work to put there, remains to the end of the glass.
So, borrow tulip glasses from your wine merchant when your party is likely to be bigger than your own stock of glasses will meet. Most wine merchants lend them at no charge, except for breakages. But if your party falls at a festive time like Christmas or New Year, do give the poor fellow at least three or four weeks’ notice. And if you’re borrowing, borrow at least half as many more than the number of your guests. Party people tend to leave partly-finished drinks around; and to run short of glasses to serve the drink in is just as tiresome as running short of the drink to put in them.