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Birthday celebrations, cocktails, and more

Entertaining 101

Whether a first time hostess or experienced party thrower, you can put together a great gathering by implementing these key elements. Let’s get started...

Invitations

Every party needs an invitation, this will help set the tone and give guests all of the details they need and like to have. Invitations for a small casual gathering can be done over the phone because normally there is not a lot of detail required and if the guest list is small it will not be too time consuming.

If you have a large group of people to invite then consider an email invitation, these can be created free of charge and can reach many guests almost immediately. For a more organized formal event consider written invitations. You can purchase the traditional fill in the black invitations if you do not feel that the occasion warrants a chic custom designed invite. Special occasions like milestone birthdays and weddings would be great opportunities to show off your creativity and create something special. Send invitations early but not too early 2-3 weeks should be sufficient unless it is a busy time of the year like December.

Consider these ideas guidelines only – feel free to use whichever method of invite suits you best provided the invitation clearly tells the guests what to expect.

The invitation will make a first impression for your guests but it must also include some key information:

  • The reason for the party and what to expect to eat and drink
  • The date and time
  •  The location
  • An RSVP line
  • Any other information specific to your event: If it is a surprise please include this important bit of information. If it is a wedding or baby shower then include the registry details. Unless the dress is very specific – costume party or black tie affair then don’t dictate a dress code. Allow your guests to come in what will make them most comfortable.

Beverages

One of the first things most guests do when they arrive at an event is to approach the bar. In a lot of cases it is the act of holding a glass that puts your guests at ease regardless of what they are drinking.

There are many options to consider when planning your bar. Will you offer a full bar, wine and beer only or something fun like a drink menu or feature cocktail?

Full Bar - A bar that is completely stocked with every liqour and mix under the sun so an endless number of drink selections can be prepared.

Drink Menu - Create a drink menu for your party complete with ingredients and measurements so your guests can try something outside their usual routine. The menu may include 2 or 3 drink choices. This will also save money because you can limit your bar supplies to wine, beer and the ingredients needed in your drink menu.

Signature Cocktail - A great way to add something special to your party. A signature drink can be something trendy or perhaps something that is a personal favourite of yours. Select something that can be made in larger batches and stored in pitchers, this will save time and allow your guests the option of serving themselves.

Bar Essentials

Certain essentials should be available at your bar whenever you entertain:

  • Flat and sparkling water
  • Regular and diet sodas
  • Wine - at least one red and one white choice
  • Beer
  • Garnish - lemon and limes. If you are preparing a full bar consider having these ingredients on hand:green olives, cocktail onions, coarse salt, celery, and maraschino cherries.

Quantities

  • 750mL bottle of wine will serve 4-6 pours (depending on the size of the pour)
  • 750mL bottle of spirits will serve 16 drinks
  • Ice – We recommend 2 lbs per person to allow for chilling and cubed ice for drinks.
  • Glassware – We recommend 2 to 3 glasses per person (combination of glasses) for a 2 hour event.
  • Paper napkins -we recommend 2 to 3 per person for the bar and 9 to 10 per person if cocktail food is being served.

Chilling

Normally a bottle will require at least 2 hours to chill completely if placed in the refrigerator. Large ice/chilling tubs can be rented to reserve fridge space for food and other party needs. We recommend placing bottles and cans in the chilling tub and then pouring the cubes ice over top. This will allow you to chill more items at one time.

If you are looking for a quick solution for a last minute gathering, consider an ice/water bath. Fill your wine bucket or large bowl with ½ ice and ½ cold water. Submerge your bottle in the water bath and you will find your bottle completely chilled after 25 minutes.

Chilling no-no’s

Never put wine in the freezer, it will often alter the flavour and in the end it will not chill faster than the ice/water bath solution. Do not put chilled beer and other carbonated drinks back into room temperature storage. The fluctuations in temperature will cause your drinks to go flat.

Food

Food plays a major role in any party whether you are having a cocktail party or sit down dinner. Planning in advance will always make your event that much easier. Consider these pointers from the celebration experts:

  • Strive for variety in your menu including seafood, vegetarian and meat selections, finger foods, canapés, hot and cold dishes. With a large variety you are more likely to find things that will satisfy your guests and any potential dietary needs they may have.
  • Shop early. Stock up on dry goods as far in advance as possible, this will reduce the last minute running around
  • Get a head start in the kitchen. The day or evening before is a great time to start your party preparations. Wash lettuce, make sauces or dressing, bake your dessert. Anything that can be made ahead will help eliminate stress on the day of the event. Use a checklist or timeline so you don’t forget anything.
  • Use readily found ingredients. Put items on your menu that are in season so they will taste better and be easy to find.
  • Although sweets are not typically cocktail food, it is nice to offer one or two sweet selections towards the end of the party. This will satisfy the sweet tooth in your crowd as well as lets your guests know that the party is almost ever.
  • When estimating food quantities, plan on serving 6 bites per person per hour when no dinner is served.
  • For hors d’oeuvres that are not in pieces, such as cheese or dips, consider 1 ounce equivalent to one bite.
  • It is always better to over-estimate than under-estimate the amount of food to serve.

Tables & Seating

Room Décor

  • Furniture
  • Lighting
  • Music
  • Flowers

A Good Host

Every good host or hostess is responsible for those drinking at their party. Be aware of guests who've had too much to drink and be prepared to cut them off and arrange for designated drivers or other safe transportation home. Have a few non-alcoholic cocktails available for your non-drinking guests, or those that don't want to drink all night.

With the help of these party basics you've planned this party with ease. The drinks are chilled, the food is ready, lights are dimmed, music is cued and the guests arrive in less than an hour. You're not quite out of the woods yet: As a host or hostess, you have the important job of making your guests feel at home. This includes greeting them at the door, making introductions, and directing people to get a drink so then can begin enjoying your hospitality. They're here because you invited them so enjoy their company!