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12 Top Entertaining Questions, Answered

With some easy planning, you can host a party and keep your cool.

By Kate Chynoweth
Flowers on a table outdoorsMinh + Wass

The Drinks

How much alcohol, and what kind, should I have on hand? 
Rather than stocking a full bar for your next cocktail party, have a short list of red and white wines, sparkling water, and one specialty cocktail―preferably something simple, like margaritas or sangria, suggests Chef Rossi, owner of the Raging Skillet catering company, in New York City. Mix up a large batch of the house drink and keep it in a big container in the freezer, refilling serving pitchers as needed. Prop up a sign to let guests know what they're pouring, and plan on serving approximately three to four drinks per person for a two- to three-hour party. Stock some beer, too, if you'd like.

When serving wine with dinner, figure on two to three glasses per person, says Roberta Frechette, chef at the President's House at Wellesley College, in Wellesley, Massachusetts, where visiting dignitaries are entertained. One bottle holds at least four glasses; you'll need two to three bottles for every four people. Fine-tune the formula based on what you know about your guests.

When do I need to splurge for a bartender? And is there any way for me to forbid him from wearing a bow tie and a black vest? 
Hire a bartender if you're having 40 or more guests, says Debbie Barnes, a former caterer and the director of sales at Party Rental Ltd., in Teterboro, New Jersey. "You want everybody to have a drink as soon as possible," says Barnes. "It's something to hold on to that makes people feel comfortable." Having a professional behind the bar expedites service, eliminates messy amateur drinkmixing, and frees you up for more important things. The cost of bartending services varies by region: You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 to $25 an hour, plus tip. While the bow tie and black vest are traditional, if you're having a more casual event, you can politely but firmly insist that the bartender not dress like a penguin.

Read More About:Etiquette

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Quick Tip

Blue ice cube tray

A few days before a party, start making ice and storing it in baggies in the freezer.