How To Throw A Killer Holiday Party

There’s nothing like a good house party, especially around the holiday time.  It's cold outside, everyone's feeling festive, and the, ah, holiday cheer, flows freely. A party should always characterize the host and once you open up your doors, everything from the booze to the music is a reflection of you. Sure a good old-fashioned kegger has its place, but the days of buying a gallon of the cheapest vodka, a carton of cigarettes, a veggie party platter from Costco and seeing how many people you can squeeze into your studio apartment should probably be behind you (maybe?). Ideally it’s important to create a comfortable atmosphere that breeds whatever mood you’re going for. Now, we get that pulling off an epic party requires a decent amount of work and planning, but like anything in life, you often get what you put into it.

The Invited and The Invites
A guest list is the first, and often most stressful part about party planning. In a perfect world, you want to invite everyone, from the cute, new intern to the cheery barista who starts your day off right. However, it’s important to consider the size of your space to figure out a comfortable number of guests. You don’t want your guests to feel as if they are sardines jammed into a packed club or, god-forbid, a Japanese subway. A party should breed conversation, but it’s hard to do that when you’ve got a sharp elbow planted in your kidney. Once you figured out the right amount of bodies to have in your space it’s now time to think about whom to invite. The entire purpose of your party is to create a meaningful and light-hearted environment. Be sure to invite people who will complement each other. You’re probably going to have to pick between broken up couples and don’t EVER invite more than one person you’re dating. Once you have your list together, it’s time to start sending out invitations. There are plenty of sites to send out free party invitations online (Paperless Post, Facebook, or Evite) and to keep things as smooth as possible you should probably send out invites two to three weeks out. This will give you time to start preparing while also giving your guest time to work this event into their schedules.

Build The Bar
First and foremost (obviously), let's get that booze situation sorted. We’ll probably keep repeating it but ultimately the booze selection comes down to what type of party you want to throw, and the offerings should reflect the vibe you’re after. Unless you’re hosting a small gathering or you’re feeling super generous you shouldn’t feel obligated to provide a massive range and quantity of booze for every single guest. Unless you’re explicitly going for a BOB situation (more on that later) you can pick one or two options to provide for your guests and leave the rest to them. For example, maybe choose one type of booze of cocktail, say fixings for old-fashioneds or manhattans and a few mixers and leave it at that. Or offer to host just beer and wine or maybe a mix, say one type of alcohol and beer. Feel free to flex your mixologies skills too. Pick one cool cocktail you’re a fan of, Moscow Mules, Negronis, Fireball (Just kidding. Not really.) and play bartender for the guests. If you’re looking to host a casual rager, don’t sweat it too much, vodka, mixers, and some beers will do nicely. Just make sure you’re clear on your invite what will and won’t be provided if your boy’s hookup only drinks sparkling rose from Oregon, let her bring it herself, just make sure they know it’s not going to be covered by you.

The Nitty Gritty: A barebones shopping list for a party should include the following (adjust based on number of people): Booze of choice, 2 bottles of tonic and soda, 1 bottle each of Coke, and Sprite, a bunch of limes, and twice as much ice as you think you’ll need.

Feed The Hungry
Menu planning can be dicey territory. In the end, though, we subscribe to one rule, so say it with us, “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Unless you’re specifically hosting a dinner party where you’re looking to show off your cooking skills (which can be a fun event), we highly recommend choosing a few simple and easily executable options for food options. Again, what’s the vibe you’re after? People going to a barbecue or going to expect burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, etc. If you’re hosting a housewarming or cocktail party then you can keep the food simple -- a meat and cheese plate, some chips and dip, maybe some fresh veggies -- and spend that money on some decent liquor instead as guests will be expecting more of a cocktail party atmosphere. If you’re planning on cooking a multi-course meal, it is best to stick to a plan that you’ve spent some time perfecting, the last thing you want to do is be tied up in the kitchen putting out fires (literal and figurative) and be away from your guests enjoying the party. Also, and maybe this goes without saying, don’t blackout before the steak goes on the grill or the chicken goes in the oven.

To BOB or not to BOB?
A reasonable question indeed. There are many schools of thought that say that if you’re the “host” you should “host” everything. As we said before, use your best judgement and be clear with your guest as to what will be provided. If it’s a small gathering with a reasonable amount of people we definitely think you should man up and provide a selection of things, especially for close friends. If you’re comfortable you can always have guests bring simple food items if you’re providing booze, just keep your expectations reasonable. There’s always going to a be few jokers who show up with an opened bag of tortilla chips or two-week-old bag of baby carrots. Take note, but don’t judge.

Prep The Playlist
As a general rule, consider the mood and guestlist, then consider the music. It’s probably not going to be the time or place to show everyone how much you know about that Brooklyn band’s deep cuts or blast DJ Robot Sex Noizes dopest floor filler. Consider a beginning and craft the flow that starts slower and builds as the energy grows and the crowd gets larger. As a general rule, 90's hip hop always kills it, some jazzy house is great in the early hours, chicks love Madonna, and everyone loves old-school Michael Jackson. Alternatively, don’t think about it at all if you want, let technology do all the work for you. Tap into the vast selection of party-ready playlists from Spotify, Apple Music, or Pandora. Drop the needle and let the computers do the work, that way you can focus on making a proper cocktail for that new female neighbor of yours. Feel free to lord over the playlist control like a ruthless dictator, nobody likes it when randoms keep switching up the flow.  Set it and forget it, no requests taken.

Cleaning and Setting Up
Having guests in your personal space is a great way to allow people to get a better understanding of who you are, so hide whatever is in the medicine cabinet because you know someone’s gonna look (look, we all get jock itch from time to time, it’s fine). On a serious note, you don’t want to have your friends and/or coworkers walk into a living space that looks like freshman’s dorm room and smells like an NFL locker room. If you’re going to plan a party, devote a lot of that time to cleaning up. That doesn’t mean running a Swiffer across the floor and calling it a day. We mean breaking out the vacuum, Windex-ing those windows and yes, scrubbing the toilet (that's what roommates are for). The worst thing to walk into a party (besides seeing that the booze is gone) is seeing dishes in a sink and being forced to use a toilet that resembles the Sarlacc Pit from Return of the Jedi. The goal is to keep your guests as comfortable as possible while making you look like the polished gentleman that would make any mom proud. If you are having a larger party, it’s in your best interest to lock any doors that you don’t want people going into. Hide your good towels and keep your bathroom stocked with basic items, which will save some poor soul the embarrassment of having to stick their hand out the bathroom door with a sad and desperate, “can you spare a square?”

Be The Host with the Most
When it comes to throwing a kickass party it’s important to play the role of the good host. Be welcoming and be invested in everyone having a great time. Cocktail cups should always be full, while ice and snacks should always be replenished. Being a good host is a lot like being the captain of a ship or the quarterback of a team. It can seem overwhelming at times, nothing ever goes as planned and there will be some fires to put out, but once you get in a good groove everything should fall into place. Finally, have a great time. It seems simple but if you’re relaxed and having a great time it will rub off on your guests and they will have an excellent time as well. Oh shit, the bottle of Fireball is making the rounds...

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