I love throwing a cocktail party. Yes, even in a city where people never stop running, and time is a scarce commodity. To me, a great house party harks back to a time when technology didn’t run our every minute and we always made time for cocktails, good food, and conversation in the company of family and friends.
Just one-year shy of graduating to official New Yorker status (it's the 10-year rule!), I’ve thrown my fair share of apartment parties. (To anyone who is nervous about throwing a party in a small apartment, I can testify that the lack of space can create the most intimate of evenings!) From tartan-clad Christmas parties and pastel-drenched Easter brunches, to a whimsical President’s Day affair—complete with appetizer-size bites of America’s most iconic foods—I’ve tried my hand at it all.
I’ve learned a lot about entertaining along the way. I've also learned that I don't do shortcuts. Instead, my mantra is to be strategic, because careful planning always pays off in the end. So, here’s my checklist for planning a memorable party. Because the best parties seem like they are effortlessly thrown together...but aren't.
This might sound silly but plan your party outfit in the morning. It’s one more thing to think about, but, honestly, the last thing you'll have time to worry about when pulling all the final pieces together. And don’t forget to account for time for get ready!
My final tip is actually for when the last of the guests is gone, the dishwasher is loaded up, and the empty bottles taken to the recycling bin. This step involves you reflecting on your party. As an enthusiastic entertainer, I keep a book with notes from every single party I throw: menus, guest lists, timelines, even anecdotes. It's really helped me learn from my mistakes. If a party notebook sounds ridiculous, at least make mental notes. What cheeses did you serve; did some go down faster than others? Did you run out of appetizers? Did certain vegetables on your crudité platter wither in an hour? The more you reflect, the easier it will be to throw together your next party. And the party after that.