Thursday, December 31, 2009


You often need perseverance and a clear voice to get guests in to dinner, especially if you have a crowd. The host should announce with authority that dinner is ready and then take a couple of guests by the arm and lead them into the dining room. Don’t worry about interrupting someone’s conversation. After all, it is a dinner party. After you start the procession, drop back to the rear and round up the stragglers. Leave drink glasses behind as you go into dinner. If the party is informal, though, and you are drinking wine, it is fine to carry your wine glass with you to the table, although you will probably find fresh glasses there.

Be a Mix Master

Arrange your furniture so small groups will gather to chat instead of forming one large ring around the center of the room. Never have all the appetizers and hors d’oeuvres on one table or tray in the center. This arrangement discourages conversation. Lighting should be fairly bright at the beginning of the party. It looks festive, and guests like to see what’s going on. Dim the lights as the evening progresses. The host should be most visible and available at the start of a party when the guests are arriving. Put your guests at ease by taking their coats and offering them each a drink. Even if you have hired help, you should greet all your guests personally unless the party is so huge that doing so is physically impossible. Take each guest around the room and introduce him or her to everyone. Don’t ever leave a guest unless he or she is well into a conversation. Shoving a drink into a guest’s hand does not assure that he or she will immediately begin to have a good time. Guests need attention.


If you’re invited to dinner, arrive within five minutes of the time on the invitation, no later.
The cocktail hour should be just that—one hour—preferably less, just long enough for the guests to arrive, have a drink, and become accustomed to the group. Letting the alcohol flow on endlessly is rude, unsafe, and unhealthy, and too much to drink ruins your taste for the meal.
If you’re serving hard liquor, keep the choices simple. All you need are gin, vodka, bourbon, scotch, club soda or mineral water, soft drinks, fruit juice, and tonic. You can go the extra mile and provide garnishes, such as fruit, green olives, and pearl onions, but they are not necessary.
It’s fine to set up a self-service bar. Remember that people are consuming less alcohol and caffeine these days, so stock some nonalcoholic drinks and caffeine-free colas.