Entertaining According To Lally
Cheers, fellow cocktailians!
I love the holidays. I probably attend and throw as many parties between Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras as the rest of the year combined. Entertaining is one of my favorite hobbies. What a great way to show those close to you that you care. Over the years, I learned from some serious veteran hostesses: my mother and my aunts Adelaide, Dottie, and Ella Brennan who could [literally] make a living out of entertaining. I’ve hosted dozens of Christmas parties so I thought I’d share some of the best tips from my little black book of entertaining.
Don’t wait for the party to get started, transform your guests into party mode the minute they cross your threshold. Greet them with a jingle bell on ribbon like we do at Commander’s Palace and Café Adelaide during the holidays. It seems simple, but the smiles on your friends’ faces will tell you it worked. Or, if you’re worried that a house full of jingle bells will be too noisy, try Santa hats for the men and reindeer antler headbands for the ladies. Believe me, this works!
The guest list is very important. Know the people you’re inviting and know that they will get along with your other guests. Keep them in mind when deciding the cocktails, wine, dinner and playlist… which brings me to the next key to a great party, Music!
Music is a must. I love to start a party with great upbeat music (I love to start a party with New Orleans Jazz). As you move into dinner, play classical or background music that won’t overpower the conversation. Lastly – and most importantly – crank it up. Play music that will help you dance off that dinner. One easy way to measure success of a party: whether you had to move a coffee table to make a dance floor (if the answer is yes, your guests will be raving of the party’s success for weeks).
Your guests are there to see you, so don’t spend the night in the kitchen. Prepare as much of the food in advance as you can. Bake spiced pecans a day or two in advance, place them by the bar, on the coffee table, etc… I also love to serve homemade gumbo in demitasse cups as hors d’oeuvres – no spoons necessary! I once hosted a party that was so well prepared in advance, upon arrival, my guests thought we were going out to eat! [The trick: I prepared a salad (minus the dressing, of course) and dessert in advance and placed a roast and the side dishes in the oven before my friends arrived. There wasn’t a dish on the counter].
Finally, what else would you expect from a cocktail chick? Great cocktails are key to a successful party. Batch a cocktail the day of or night before you host a party. Some of my favorite cocktails to batch are Brandy Milk Punches (great for holiday brunches), Tequila Mockingbird 2’s, Sidecars and Holly Berries. We invented the Holly Berry Martini last year during the holidays. We think it’s so festive and appropriate for the season because it calls for cranberry juice.
Place the cocktails and wine at separate bars so that everyone won’t congregate in one place – spread the party out!
Ultimately, it all sums up to one principle: have fun! Whether your friends enjoy a formal dinner party or a casual cocktail gathering, cater to their tastes and it will pay off.
The Holly Berry Martini
1.5 oz Stoli Citron vodka
¾ oz Pomegranate liqueur (we use Pama)
¼ oz Sour mix
¼ oz Cranberry juice
¼ oz Creme de Cassis
Fresh cranberries, for garnish
Fill a martini glass with ice to chill and set aside. Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously. Discard ice from martini glass and strain cocktail into the chilled glass. Garnish with cranberries or a lemon twist when cranberries are not in season.
To batch, combine all ingredients in a pitcher and refrigerate until your guests arrive. Prepare chilled martini glasses, shake, strain and garnish as above.