It’s happened to all of us: the doorbell rings and the neighbor is there, angling to come in for a cup of coffee. Or the in-laws call to say they just happen to be in the area and are stopping by for a “quick visit.” Cue the panic. But with a little bit of advance planning, there’s no reason to worry.
As Dorothy Draper famously wrote in her 1941 title, Entertaining is Fun! How to Be a Popular Hostess, “The first requisite for such a party is good liquor. The second is plenty of it.” While you may not want to offer a cocktail to the friend dropping off the kids from school at 4pm, the gist holds true: focus on the essentials. If you can offer a simple drink and a snack in a relatively tidy home, you’re golden.
So what should you keep in stock? A savvy host always has a few staples in case of an entertaining emergency:
Renowned event producer David Stark recommends stocking a few good quality bottles, as well as having multiples if you want to open a second (or third). His checklist? Three bottles of each: red, white, and prosecco; as well as flat and sparkling water. For Beth Kirby of Local Milk, she opts for one more unique bottle. “Our go to is usually a natural orange wine. Either guests aren't familiar with it, and it becomes a great conversation piece and new experience, or they are familiar with it and are happily surprised by it. I've yet to meet anyone who didn't at least find it interesting!”
There’s no need to go over the top, but having a few basic bottles of liquor will serve you well in the entertaining department. We’ve explored how to build the perfect bar cart before, but as a refresh, it’s good to have at least the following on hand: gin, vodka, bourbon, tequila, and rum.
Sometimes all you want to do is sit down with a steaming mug of tea or coffee. Always keep some fresh coffee beans as well as a few different options of good-quality tea. You can’t go wrong with a good black tea, matcha, and a decaf option like mint. And be sure to have an array of sweeteners to offer suggests Stark, “even if you don’t use artificial sweeteners, there’s always a guest that wants Equal or some such product.”
No need to build a full cheese board; just having one (or maybe two) good cheeses in the fridge will serve you well in a pinch. Consider stocking something like a good sharp cheddar that will be a tasty snack, but will also likely get used whether or not you have any guests pop by. Stark recommends having a few chunks of parmesan ready to go. For Kirby, “I'm pretty religious about always having a baguette on hand and a hunk of some cheese or another, the stinkier, the better. I'm a washed rind cheese fan, and Epoisses is my all time favorite, but be sure to double bag it because it will stink up your whole house!
A couple of containers of olives or pickles keep for quite a long time in the fridge, take two seconds to transfer into a pretty dish, and are a great complement to the cheese you’ll be serving. Opt for good quality kalamata olives or the like and Stark recommends cornichons.
Buy whatever you’d find yourself snacking on solo: walnuts, mixed nuts, salted almonds. If you want to up the ante, Marcona almonds are always a crowd pleaser.
Stark recommends always having a “few boxes of artisanal crackers." Perhaps you have a basic wheat cracker, one with a fresh herb baked in like rosemary, or a simple salted thin that can complement just about anything. These should be tasty on their own or with the cheese you’ll be offering.
Both Kirby and Stark recommend having a bit of chocolate for “when that sweet tooth strikes.” Stark likes dark chocolate or chocolate-covered almonds and Kirby opts for really great quality chocolate.
What do you always have on hand to entertain in a snap? Tell us in the comments!