Something happens to me when the seasons change. Maybe it’s something in the weather, but I get a sudden stroke of inspiration and I need to throw a party. I cherish my time with friends and family and I love making my home warm and welcome to everyone, but if I’m going to be completely honest, I often just need a bunch of people to eat my food, drink my cocktails and in general, use as guinea pigs for my party ideas. Somehow I don’t think they mind 😉
So this past weekend I threw a Fall-themed party. On the menu: Lentil soup with chicken sausage and chili fusili, crusty bread with lemon thyme butter, smore’s with homemade marshmallows and assorted flavored chocolate bars, and bourbon apple cider cocktails. I envisioned us all huddled together on the roof deck warming our hands around our bowls and dunking crusty bits of bread into the soup, sipping cinnamon-laced apple cider libations and licking marshmallow fluff off of our fingers after toasting them over our (my landlords) firepit.
That all happened, mind you. Well, more or less.
My sisters called me when they got to my door, but my phone never rang, so after 20 minutes of standing out in the cold they left for a bar across the street. When their call finally came through, they gave me a hard time and said they would be over after they finished their beers. Fair enough.
It was too windy to eat outside so we settled for my couch and a football game.
The soup was everything I dreamed of and the chef had the brilliant idea to put out balsamic and truffle oil cut with olive oil on the table with the thyme butter. A mason jar of maldon sea salt completed the spread.
Because it was so windy outside, the fire pit wouldn’t light. We did get to huddle together though. We huddled around my stove to toast our marshmallows over the gas burner.
Moral of the story: Throwing a party is tougher than it looks. You try to plan your ideal scenario and more often than not, it doesn’t go the way you hoped it would. That doesn’t mean the party is a failure. It really just means you have to be willing to go with the flow and laugh at the things that go wrong.
That said, I’ve learned a lot through trial and error and I’ve figured out a few secrets to throwing a great party.
- I always like to make a signature cocktail. It’s a great conversation starter and your guests will feel like you went to a lot of work for them. Also have beer and wine available for variety.
- Pair your drink options with the food you will be serving. Because it would be weird to offer margaritas with Italian food. When in doubt, red or white sangria goes with most everything and can be made ahead in large batches.
- If your guests ask if they can bring anything never say no! They will feel obliged to bring something anyway and will now have to guess what you might want or need.
- Take care of the main course and dessert and let your guests handle the appetizers. This goes with the tip above. Have a friend who makes killer guacamole? Ask them to bring it and have someone else supply the chips.
- Have one interactive element to your party. This time I had smore’s for dessert where everyone chose their flavor of chocolate and assembled their own treats. At a recent brunch party we had a DIY mimosa bar with different juices and garnishes like blueberries and peaches. It adds a wow factor and something fun for your guests. Get creative!
My Fall-themed party was a lot of fun regardless of a few things not going according to plan. One thing that went over better than expected, however was this cocktail!
Bourbon apple cider! If you haven’t guessed already my favorite season is Autumn and this drink is perfect this time of year, what with the cinnamon and the apples. You know you have a winning cocktail when you’ve just finished passing them around and the first person you gave one to asks you for another because they’re already done. Oops!
This bourbon apple cider cocktail was such a hit, I’m sharing the recipe with all of you. A delicious cocktail recipe is reason enough to throw a party, right?
Reason enough for me!
Bourbon Apple Cider Cocktail
1 part bourbon
2 parts apple cider
2 parts ginger ale
3-4 drops angostura bitters
3-4 drops lemon juice
1 apple slice for garnishing
1 pinch of cinnamon for garnishing
Optional: pomegranate arils or cranberries
Combine the bourbon and apple cider and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. When ready to serve, add ginger ale and pour over ice. Add bitters and lemon juice and garnish with an apple slice. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Notes to take your cocktail to the next level:
- Buy your apple cider at the local farmers market if you can. The fresher, the better.
- Use a good ginger ale with pronounced ginger flavor. Try not to use a generic soda brand.
- Don’t stress if you don’t have bitters. They enhance the cocktail, but they won’t be missed.
- Grating fresh cinnamon over the cocktail will impress your guests and give it an extra special touch.
- Sprinkling pomegranate arils in your cocktail gives it a festive flair. Take it one step further by making pomegranate or cranberry ice cubes and adding one to each drink.
Pomegranate or Cranberry Ice Cubes
Boil water in a tea kettle or sauce pot. Let water cool. Add 6-8 pomegranate arils or 2-3 cranberries to each cup of an ice cube tray. Fill with water and freeze. Use one cube to top each cocktail.
*Boiling the water removes impurities and creates clear cubes better to see the garnishes through.
Do you throw parties for reasons other than holidays or birthdays?
Would you like me to post my lentil soup recipe next week? It was pretty phenomenal if I do say so myself 😉
Have a great Thursday everybody!