The Secret to Actually Enjoying Your Own Party

The Secret to Actually Enjoying Your Own Party photo

Yes, everybody makes basic cooking mistakes. Like, say, something as simple as overcooking mushrooms or toasting grains and spices. Below, reader Joe confesses to senior food editor Rick Martinez that he’s been making cocktails to order at his own parties. Here’s Martinez’s advice for making sure he can still get his guests sloshed (but never have the downsides again). Welcome to Effed it Up.

Dear Rick,

I really wanted to throw an adult summer party. The first step? Making sure I had a house cocktail committed to memory. But when my guests arrived, I felt like I was tending the bar the way I did in my college ways. In the worst way. It wasn’t fun. I had FOMO all night, and didn’t have any time to spend with the guests I invited. How do I do the whole fancy cocktail thing and host a party at the same time? Please help.



Oh Joe,

The first rule of throwing a party is to actually enjoy the party. We’ve all been in your shoes—gotten a little over-ambitious, wanted to show off a little too much and impress the guests with made-to-order cocktails. Here’s the thing: Guests will be more impressed if you have a made-ahead bar spread that frees you up to spend time with them. The secret is to make a signature big-batch, pre-mixed cocktail.

Let your guests be their own bartenders. Let them choose whether they want an ice cold beer, chilled rosé, or a composed cocktail. I usually set up a beverage “station”—a table near a cooler with 12 oz. cups for cocktails and 8 oz. cups for wine. Bottle openers, corkscrews, napkins, ice, lemon and lime wedges are easy to locate nearby. Pro tip: Leave a magic marker on the table, too, so that guests can label their cups. It might sound fussy, but trust me, your guests will appreciate knowing where their cup is at all times. You will too once you realize you’re not flying through a pack of 100 Solo cups in under an hour.

We swear by this Pineapple Hibiscus Cocktail in the summer. Photo: Linda Xiao

The cornerstone of any expert beverage station is a signature, big-batch cocktail. They can be as simple as a pitcher of lemonade with some vodka or something more complex like a rum punch. The idea is simple: Make a gallon or two, put it in pitchers, and let your guests pour it over ice.

At my last party, I hosted a barbecue where I served smoked brisket tacos. Obviously it was an occasion that required at least three margaritas per person. I also made a pineapple hibiscus cocktail to keep things exciting (and Mexican).

You (and your guests) want this margarita. Photo: Ted Cavanaugh

Here’s what I did:
For the big-batch margarita, pour a full 750 mL bottle of silver tequila (don’t get the cheap stuff or your head will be pounding the next morning), a 1¼ cup freshly squeezed lime juice, and 1¼ cup simple syrup into a large pitcher. Throw in some lime and orange slices and chill until party time. The pineapple and hibiscus cocktail is where you get to show some serious (but still doable) recipe skills. Scale up the recipe as needed.

When the big-batch cocktails are ready to go, let guests serve themselves. And that, Joe, will free you up to have a great time at your own party (and maybe even have a drink or three of your own).


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