This NYE, Throw a Hangover-Free House Party

Keep it low-key and still super-fun with these expert hosting tips.

December 27, 2021
Photo by MJ Kroeger. Food stylist: Kate Buckens. Prop stylist: Alya Hameedi.

Hosting feels a bit like playing grown-up these days. The ordinary tasks involved in having people over—texting out an invite, deciding on a menu, making a playlist— remain, but nothing beats the relaxed, inviting atmosphere of a house party. Remember house parties? The kind with moody, low lighting and conversation that lingered into the night. We love them, with one caveat.

The one aspect of a house party that can remain firmly in the past is the hangover. “It used to be expected that if you have fun, you’re going to feel horrible afterwards. It was part of the deal, but fortunately it doesn’t have to be anymore,” says Helena Price Hambrecht, co-founder and CEO of Haus. “You don’t want the parties to end, but as you get older, you don’t really have time for the hangover part.”

When planning a hangover-free party, look to European aperitif culture. The ritual of having a drink that is lower in alcohol by volume (ABV) and a small snack to start the night is standard practice, and one that both rouses the appetite and acts to shift the focus of the evening: moving away from the drinking itself and emphasizing the connection with friends and loved ones over a drink. That said, clinking together low-ABV glasses doesn’t have to be reserved for solely before sunset—drinking low-proof can translate through the entirety of a party.

“The beauty of low-ABV is you don’t have to drink less. You can have as much as you want; you just have more control over the outcome,” says Price Hambrecht. “Instead of a couple glasses of wine, you might have three or four low-ABV cocktails, and that’s a night. That’s a big night, but you end up feeling okay.”

It’s especially easy to pour low-ABV drinks that taste complex. Classic and modern aperitif bottles (think vermouth, sherry, and Suze) are often infused with fruits, botanicals, and bittering agents like cinchona bark or gentian root. This means they taste as multifaceted as a cocktail when poured solo over ice or mixed simply with tonic or soda water.

Once you choose your bottles, Price Hambrecht recommends not playing bartender all night. “Because these drinks are so easy to make, you could line up your bottles of aperitifs and your soda water and your ice on the counter, leave some cute instructions on how to serve, and people can guide themselves throughout the night,” she says. “It allows you to let guests pick their own path, and you can enjoy hosting.”

Since no aperitif—or party—is complete without food, set some snacks on that table as well. Having something that is salty and crunchy or bright and tangy and ready for nibbling as soon as guests arrive both gets the party started and means no one has to start their first drink on an empty stomach.

Another thing to pay attention to when seeking a hangover-free morning, Price Hambrecht says, is the bottle’s ingredients. “It’s much like food. If you avoid synthetic ingredients or food coloring or even additives, you’re going to feel better,” she says. Since alcohol ingredient lists aren’t required to be shared, you often won’t find them directly on the bottle. In that case, check the website or simply email the company directly.

Whatever bottles you choose and however you choose to serve them, consider an underlying purpose of your party: a chance to connect. “You want to make room for more of that authentic connecting,” says Price Hambrecht. “It allows you to spend more time with each other without forgetting details toward the end of the night, and it allows the party to stretch longer if you want it to.”

Because even grown-ups want to stay up past their bedtime occasionally.

3 Low-ABV Cocktails From Helena

The Midnight Special

  • 3 ounces Haus New Fashioned or spiced rum
  • 2 ounces dry sparkling wine
  • 1 ounce tonic water
  • 1 splash your favorite amaro (optional)
  • Orange peel, for garnish

In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, add all the ingredients and stir to combine. Garnish with an orange peel.

Chinola Soda

  • 2 ounces Chinola passion fruit liqueur
  • 4 ounces soda water

In an old-fashioned glass filled with ice, add the Chinola and top with soda water. Stir to combine and serve.

Shrub Spritz

  • White wine (such as Pinot grigio)
  • Sparkling water
  • 1 splash of your favorite shrub (my favorite is Blood Orange Raspberry from Little Apple Treats)

Add wine to an ice-filled glass. Top with sparkling water. Add a healthy splash of your favorite shrub. Swirl and serve.

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Rebekah Peppler is an American writer and food stylist living in Paris. Her clients include the New York Times, Real Simple, Food Network, and multiple cookbooks. Her next book, Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way (Clarkson Potter) will be released in October 2018. She is also the author of Honey, a Short Stack Edition. You can find more on rebekahpeppler.com and instagram.com/rebekahpeppler.