Christmas means entertaining. Seasoned hostess TRISH DESEINE has all the ingredients for a FESTIVE COCKTAIL PARTY
It’s party season once more. Apologies if you are dreading the merrymaking but at this time of year, I am in my element. The Christmas run-up is my favourite part of the season – far surpassing the Big Day itself – and as soon as the calendar shows December 1, for me the next three and a half weeks are like one long Christmas Eve.
Like it or not, there’s a very good chance that at some stage over the next month, you will need to fling open the doors of your house along with those of your drinks cupboard and – especially if you are allergic to full-blown dinner parties – might be thinking that a cocktail party is a good way of returning a maximum number of invitations with a minimal amount of cooking. But let’s face it, to set that dinner party counter back to zero, you are going to need to offer more than a shop-bought mulled wine mix sloshed into cheap Shiraz (which always smells like a combination of pub carpet and the worst scented candles) cherry tomatoes and Pringles.
In my party-giving heyday, I thought nothing of inviting and lavishly feeding 30 or more guests (for my 35th “La Vie en Rose” birthday bash I cooked an entirely pink menu for 65, all required to wear pink, the poor devils). These days, even if
my west Cork social life is more subdued, at Christmas I’ll still be wanting to spoil friends and family as much as possible.
Throwing a successful party needs not just a cook’s skills but also those of barman, interior designer and theatre director rolled into one. Here are my top tips to make sure your fabulous soirée is the talk of the town – or at least the village.
1. If you have more than ten or twelve guests, do not attempt to make them individual cocktails all evening. Like the French, start with a luxurious splash, something like a very fashionable Aperol Spritz or, more potent, a Negroni or my “Demie” with an Irish craft gin and champagne. Then offer (good) wine throughout the night, perhaps ending up with more bubbles and a nice cognac or whiskey as things wind down. If you absolutely want to offer cocktails non-stop, set up a large, open DIY space with all the kit and keep it topped up with clean glasses, mixers and ice.
2. Keep the lights low – except over the food – but go easy on the candles and always keep them out of the way and high enough to avoid disasters. I speak from
3. Don’t let guests wander too much: confine the party to a couple of rooms – and of course, unavoidably, the kitchen – as you need a bit of a crush to warm up the atmosphere. Rule of thumb is one guest per square metre!
4. Serve the poshest, prettiest, fiddliest nibbles at the start, alongside two or three dips with flatbreads and crudités for when appetites start to build after the first drink takes effect. Then bring out something more substantial. A simple soup with a fancy garnish in small, easy to handle cups and/ or a side of home cured salmon with good bread, butter and horseradish cream are crowdpleasers and easy to make and serve.
5. Always finish (them) off with one good cheese, a boozy trifle, a chocolate cake and lashings of cream.
Trish Deseine @TrishDeseine
This article appeared in a previous issue, for more features like this, don’t miss our January issue, out Thursday, January 5.
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