Friday, December 28, 2012

The Skinny: A Snazzy New Year's Cocktail Party

Don't be boring for New Year's Eve! Throw a humdinger of a party with these tips from Esquire's Handbook For Hosts (1949), and you'll be talked about (in a good way) for weeks to come.

The complete guide to perfect parties!

 I. The Invitations
Can be professionally printed, handwritten, or over the phone, but MUST include the date, time, place, and mention that drinks will be served (alcohol is the Pied Piper of parties). Ideally, your guests should receive the invite 2 weeks prior to the party, so that they have time to cruelly reject all other requests for their time. It is usually good to ask them to R.S.V.P. several days before the event, but we all know that people are lazy, inconsiderate, and far too self-involved to actually do this. Think about how many people you invited, and then cross your fingers that 70% of them show up. If extras come, and you run out of food (or worse, alcohol), then inform them that they should have followed the etiquette of the R.S.V.P. if they actually wanted you to buy enough for them. This is best done loudly, and in front of a crowd. Audiences help people learn from their mistakes.

 II.  How Much Alcohol Will Make My Party Swing?
In 1949, three drinks per person. The actual amount should be based on two things: 1. your wallet; and 2. how many drunks you want to have to remove from your house when it's over. To calculate how many bottles to buy, rely on this handy tip from Esquire: a fifth of liquor (in a 25.6oz bottle) contains 17 jiggers of liquid. If you make cocktails that use one jigger each, then you can get 17 drinks out of each bottle. If using brandy or Scotch to make highballs, the same number can be used. Easy, right?

Now for some more easy math: vermouths are to be used in half-jiggers, which gives you 34 cocktails per bottle if it is 25.6oz, or 40 drinks for the traditional tall bottle of vermouth. Champagne yields 6-9 glasses per bottle. (I suppose this depends on the fizziness, as well as how full you pour each glass, and how much you spill on your shoes while doing so.)

At your cocktail party, Esquire recommends that you offer the following variety of beverages to your guests:
          1 standard cocktail (Martini, Manhattan, etc.)
          1 other cocktail (any type)
          Whiskey and soda
          An aperitif (this is where the Sherry comes in)
          A non-alcoholic drink
You also need to stock up on maraschino cherries, olives, limes, lemons, oranges, bitters, sugar, chilled sparkling water, copious amounts of ice, and the correct glassware for the drinks you will be serving. Red solo cups are not allowed at this soiree!

III. Food For The Masses
For a cocktail party, the canape is king. Esquire's guidebook specifies that guests should not be burdened with plates, nor should they be served bites that have been wilting on their trays. Food items should be replenished once per half hour, if possible, so choose items that are easy to make. Here are some ideas:
        Bacon-wrapped olives (Or bacon-wrapped anything, for that matter....)
        Pigs in clover (Guess what? It's a bacon-wrapped oyster.)
        Pate with toast points or crackers
        Stuffed clams
        Canape Marguery (A mixture of hard boiled egg, anchovies, green pepper, tomato, and tuna fish, spread on toast, and topped with Russian dressing and 2-3 drops of Worcestershire sauce. Ummmm. Tasty?)

Olives in bacon!

IV. Entertainment
Of course, live music is great (and there must be dancing!), but in the absence of a band, throw on some vintage vinyl and play party games. It is best to choose games that are 1. fun when you are almost drunk; 2. safe for people who are almost drunk; and 3. unlikely to result in the destruction of property. Esquire recommends lively conversation, card games, riddles, and fortune telling. Fun!

V. A Well-Oiled Machine
How to keep the party rolling smoothly? Plan. Purchase your food and alcohol (and aspirin) the day before. Begin cooking earlier in the afternoon. Shower and dress yourself before the guests arrive. Have a parking arrangement that makes sense. Designate a door greeter, a coat-checker, a kitchen director, and a bartender. Mingle, but stay sober. (A good host is never drunk!) Make the rounds and show you care. Get rid of everybody by 12:30am. (Be sure to check bedrooms, bathrooms, closets, and back seats!) Hire a cleaning crew. Have a drink and reflect on your success. Go to bed and sleep very late. Wait at least 2 months to repeat the process.

Now, party on!
Smoke a Webster cigar while you're at it. Or not.

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