It’s your party, and you can drink if you want to.
To the seasoned guest, party prep means slipping on your new heels and grabbing a glass of Pinot before hopping in a cab. You had time to go to Dry Bar first? Good for you.
To the host, party prep usually means a lot of pressure. And not just shoving unfolded clothes under your bed (guilty) pressure, or feeling like you have to invite your neighbors just so they don’t file a noise complaint (guilty, again) pressure. We are talking about that feeling when you realize the happy-holiday spirit of your friends (at least for the next few hours) rests entirely on your shoulders.
But forget decking your halls with food and fashionable friends. All that really matters is that your guests leave with a buzz, bellow laugh the night away, and hey—maybe even find a buddy. (Insert coy wink here).
Wanting the do’s and don’ts of how to be a great party host we got advice from some of the best party hosts around, everyone from top DJ and nightlife guru Paul Sevigny to former The Hills star turned entertaining entrepreneur Lo Bosworth. With the holiday party season upon us, we suggest taking notes.
Paul Sevigny, DJ and Owner of Paul’s Baby Grand
Insider Tip: “Always serve guests a cocktail when they enter the party,” says New York’s most notable banker-turned-nightlife mogul, Paul Sevigny. We recommend serving a nice warm mulled wine, or taking another tip from Sevigny’s party planning arsenal…
Vanity Fair-Approved: “I make the perfect hot toddy,” boasts Sevigny. He even claims that Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter once tried to steal his Hot Toddy recipe!
Party Foul: So pretty much everything goes for Sevigny. When asked about a party planner’s biggest faux pas he shared: “Never serve gefilte fish with dill.” Okay, Paul, we’ll hold the dill.
Lo Bosworth, C0-Founder of Revelry House
Insider Tip: Bosworth suggests having an extra bottle of tequila and vodka close by when you’re hosting a party, in case you find yourself running low. “But keep it hidden unless you need to bring it out,” she says. “I find that if all the liquor is set out at once, it somehow disappears in an instant.” (We have those friends too, Lo). “So it’s important to have a secret stash at the ready.”
Party Foul: “Don’t play hard to get,” says the charmingly inclusive entrepreneur. “The holidays are about love and laughter, so have an open door policy that allows guests to bring their friends and dates.”
Get A Little Help From Your Friends: “Borrow the vases and serving platters you’ll need from friends…instead of purchasing brand-new everything,” Bosworth suggests. “This cost-saving tip allows you to serve higher shelf liquor, the most important element to any event. Last year I hosted my first Passover dinner. It was a whopper—about 28 friends showed up, all starving. My co-host Cassandra supplied the dishes, platters, vases, and wine glasses, while I did all the cooking (everything from 13 lbs of brisket to homemade creme fraiche). We couldn’t have done it without each other and I’m always open to receiving help from high places.”
Cassie Hitchner, Founder of On the Spot Wines
Insider Tip: Said without the slightest bias, Hitchner’s biggest tip is to always, always overbuy wine. “The best parties are when everyone’s glass is always full,” says the vino expert. And she knows from experience. “Remember that massive blizzard that hit NYC in December 2009? Well, I happened to be hosting a holiday party that very night that two feet of snow was dumped on the city. I was so glad I had enough wine to keep my trapped guests happy and warm!”
Party Foul: “Don’t forget flowers,” Hitchner cautions. “Fresh flowers are the easiest way to add a festive touch to your holiday party.”
Chill Out, It’s a Party: “I always try to have a no fuss attitude when it comes to party planning,” Hitchner says. “Two days before I call my favorite NYC florist, VeeZey Floral Design, to order fresh flowers for my apartment. One day before I buy all my liquor and food (many local wine shops and grocery stores will deliver everything to your doorstep). And a day after the party, I deal with the mess (I never clean the night of the party)! The more relaxed you are about the party, the more relaxed your guests will be.”
Ben Hindman, CEO and Co-Founder of Splash
Insider Tip: “Bundle up a bunch of Xmas lights and put them in a ball underneath the dinner table,” Hindman suggests. “This creates an illumination and essence that is natural, yet classy. Get some fat candles—scented can be nice—and wrap them in gift wrapping paper—always a simple but nice effect.”
Spice It Up: “Have a specialty cocktail,” Hindman says. “I recommend Patron XO Cafe, some cream, and a bit of cinnamon to top it off. Serve chilled in a mug for perfection, and hand these to your guests as they walk in.”
It’s Cold Outside, Break the Ice: “If you’re hosting guests that don’t know each other, a fun trick is to have people write their names on cups as they walk in,” Hindman says. “This replaces the corny name tag, and is especially effective on a mug, which can double as a parting gift.”
Jon Levy, Founder of The Influencers Dinner
Insider Tip: The hyper-exclusive (and no-longer-secretive) Influencers Dinner series has become one of Manhattan’s most coveted invitations, but Levy’s inspiration stems from an authentic interest in bringing together genuinely awesome and unique individuals. So it only makes sense that Levy’s party planning suggestions involve starting your own traditions. “Far too many people just rely on the classic holiday experiences, but that’s mundane and predictable,” Levy says. “If you want to add a twist to your holiday experience, create your own traditions. At my home we are covering our walls with paper and we have boxes and boxes of crayons.” (That’s correct, Levy’s Thanksgiving guests will all get to draw on the walls!) “Do some karaoke or shut off the TV and don’t watch the game! The key element is to re-imagine the routine.”
Party Foul: “Don’t worry about how it starts,” says Levy, who has literally hosted thousands of people in his apartment. “It doesn’t matter what goes wrong at the beginning—if the food is missing, or there’s nothing to drink, or you stain your tablecloth.” (We’ve all been there. Red wine? I’ll have another). “None of that makes any difference. Once you get some food and some drink into people, they forget how it started.”
Add Extra Holiday Cheer: “I infuse my own alcohol,” says Levy of one of his many party tricks. “Many of the recipes have a bit of notoriety among my social circle.”
Zach Mack, Co-Owner of Alphabet City Beer Company
Insider Tip: As the owner of an East Village bar acclaimed for its cozy, neighborhood charm (but so acclaimed that everyone in every other neighborhood now knows about it), Mack’s top tip for a great party is curation. “Create an interesting mix of people who you know will get along and engage one another,” he shared. “People tend to let loose at holiday parties, and there’s a very good chance that your guests have already attended several get-togethers that same week. Any party where people make friends is one they remember.”
Party Foul: Mack suggests steering clear of Friday and Saturday nights. “This is the one time of year when it’s acceptable for entire companies to get their employees celebrating on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. By the time the weekend rolls around, most people…are looking to take a night off…I recommend shooting for a Thursday, which is an unofficial ‘flexible school night.’ You’ll be more likely to have friends still in town, too!”
Battle of the Bands: If you can’t hire DJ Frankenmack, Mack’s DJ duo, to spin your party, then opt for Spotify over Pandora, Mack suggests. “Pandora…is repetitive and will likely remind people of the time they spend sitting at a desk. Spotify is chock full of playlists that others have already painstakingly curated. There’s even holiday music on there that doesn’t make you want to stab your own eyes out!”
Know Your Crowd: “One company I worked for hired out a mixologist to create crazy cocktails that were delicious, but over-the-top,” Mack shared. “They booked a space that felt like a nearly-empty lounge bar with unthematic music. About two hours in, most of the employees ended up running across the street to the store, buying some great wine, beer, and liquor, and ordering a bunch of pizzas to a nearby apartment.”
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