Just about anyone who has played host during the holidays has a story: A casual work acquaintance hits the whiskey a little too hard and professes his love for another (married) colleague. Your gal pal forgets her tolerance has diminished since college and winds up sleeping on your couch. Or Uncle Joe loses track of how many beers he’s consumed and tumbles face-first into the dessert table.
Hey, things happen.
But when they happen under your roof and in your care, it can make the holidays a little less holly jolly and the pie inedible. Still, there’s no reason to stifle your spirit — or your spirits. We asked a few experts around the Twin Cities to help us put together a guide for how to host a sipping soiree to remember that still allows everyone to safely get home.
The problem: A disorganized, sprawling full bar.
The pro says: “This is one thing that drives me bonkers,” said Geri Wolf, owner of Style Laboratory, an event design and planning company in Minneapolis. “You’re expected to make your own drinks, but your guests may not really know how to do that.”
The solution: Wolf suggests typing up a few cocktail recipes, inserting them in small frames and setting them on the bar to inspire guests. Another option is to forgo the full bar altogether and offer up a pre-mixed libation, as suggested by Jacqueline Hanson of Hanson Communications in Minneapolis. “One of the nice aspects of this is that you can do most of the work ahead of time,” she said.
The problem: Boozy cocktails that go down too easy.
The pro says: “Some people are bigger drinkers than others, and they can have two Old Fashioneds or three,” Jon Kreidler, the chief officer at Tattersall Distilling in Minneapolis, said. “But someone in the group might have one and think ‘Geez, this really hit me’ — but they still want to be involved.”
The solution: Provide a lower-proof concoction, such as the ones Tattersall cocktail room offers on a separate section of their menu — options that often contain less than a third of the booze that their other drinks have. Kreidler also suggests adding a bitter element — a vermouth or bitters or an aperitif — which tends to slow a drinker’s pace.
The problem: You can’t keep track of your guests’ consumption.
The pro says: “For even medium-sized events, it can be hard to be cognizant of whether people are overindulging,” said Wolf, of Style Laboratory.
The solution: Hire a bartender. If you’re hosting the event alone or simply want to be freed up to celebrate, letting someone else handle drink suggestions and monitor guests’ pace can be the way to go. Wolf suggests contacting the Minnesota School of Bartending, which could offer cheaper rates — in the realm of $20 to $50 an hour, often with a four-hour minimum — than professionals would.
The problem: Water is boring.
The pro says: “You don’t want to be a guest at a party and think, ‘OK, you really didn’t give any thought to me.’ Maybe I’m the designated driver or maybe I’m a recovering alcoholic or maybe I just don’t drink,” said Wolf.
The solution: Put together a mocktail (without alcohol) or snazz up water by pouring it into a large glass dispenser filled with ice and infusing it with sliced fruits and vegetables and cut herbs. Try lemon, rosemary and strawberries; cucumber, blackberries and basil; or pineapple and mint.
The problem: It’s late and everyone is still lingering.
The pro says: “For smaller gatherings or events that can veer into the wee hours, give a signal that the evening is wrapping up,” said Hanson.
The solution: She suggests offering a tray of shot glasses filled with orange juice or a combo of orange juice and club soda — common etiquette in some parts of Europe — to give guests a not-so-subtle hint. Or, for a decidedly more American turn, remove the other drinks and set out desserts with coffee, tea and juice.
Amelia Rayno 612-673-4115