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Hosting a Big Party – Part 2: Lessons Learned

May 30, 2014

So how did everything turn out? Overall, it was great! I couldn’t have asked for a more fun night with the framily and I think everyone enjoyed themselves. That being said, I did make a few mistakes and learned a few valuable lessons.

This is part 2 of 2. Catch up on Part 1: Plans.

Most importantly, I should have prepared more things the day before. This is probably obvious when planning anything, and to be fair there were extenuating circumstances involving out-of-town guests, but I either should have chosen a different date or dialed back the plans. Instead, I underestimated our capacity to do everything the day-of which led to an extremely hectic and tiring day. In fact, if it weren’t for generously offering to help, my wife and I simply would not have been ready on time.

A lot of the problems stemmed from my lack of decisiveness on the menu. Since everything followed from that, if I had finalized it a few days earlier, we could have had all the alcohol and other ingredients pre-purchased. Instead we were scrambling at the stores for bottles and garnishes when we could have been cleaning or cooking.

Speaking of garnishes, Sebastian was on duty preparing endless citrus swizzles, wedges, peels, and juices. It’s much more work than you may guess, but I’ll let him get into the nitty gritty of forming the perfect curl when he writes all about proper garnishing. In the end, we actually made far too many as the majority of guests stopped using them by about 10pm. My compost was well-garnished the next morning.

Lemon Twists and Peels

Lemon Twists and Peels

The snacks consisted of various candies and chocolates (special emphasis on the Hershey’s Cookies & Cream Drops), chips and salsa/sour cream, olives, cheeses, cold cuts (prosciutto, spicy salami, cured sausage), crackers, my amazing wife’s homemade cookies, and her homemade guacamole. Preparing, cooking, and presenting everything was a crazy amount of work and was also barely ready in time. In her own words:

“Preparing for Brandon and Alvaro’s party was interesting, to say the least, but I couldn’t have been happier with how the food turned out (Especially considering there were zero leftovers at the end of the party. A sure sign that the food was a hit!). I absolutely knew I had to make guacamole, one of Brandon’s favourite foods. I used a whopping five avocados, the most I’ve ever made. Sure enough, it wasn’t enough because the guac’ was the first to disappear. In addition to the typical party foods (various chips, candy, chocolate), I wanted to up the game a bit (it’s always a contest, isn’t it?). After careful consideration, I decided to have a meat and cheese platter with crackers as well as loose olives. We had four different types of meat and four different types of cheeses. At the last minute, I decided to bake some cookies. Luckily I had some frozen cookie dough (dough made from scratch, of course) so I baked those real quick. We had chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles. All in all, it was a lot of slicing, chopping, and smashing. But it was definitely worth it. :)”


Some of the delicious snacks we made… mmm that guacamole.


What about the drink menu? I was quite nervous about it, truth be told. I’ve found that my tastes tend to skew more to the bitter side of the spectrum, as compared to the average, so I didn’t fully trust my decisions. Surprisingly, there were no complaints!

The Cucumber Vodka Lemonade recipe proved a bit tricky as the measurements aren’t precise, but it was uniformly well-received. This was an especially good choice as this party happened to land on the first truly hot weekend of the season.

The Negroni didn’t end up being made in advance as we ran out of time, but that wasn’t a big problem because the ingredients are in equal portions and you only need to stir, as Marco Provenzano explained. However, my wife had decided to make a batch of sangria, which wasn’t on the menu, but was in a pitcher. There was a bit of confusion for those unfamiliar with the two drinks, since the menu still referred to there being a pitcher of Negroni; some thought the sangria they were enjoying was a Negroni.

We used up a lot of citrus and cucumber!

We used up a lot of citrus and cucumber!

The other three drinks ended up monopolizing most of the bar time, but everyone seemed to genuinely love them. Having two options with cucumber turned out to be a good decision; they’ve become a really popular ingredient in cocktails recently, as Bruno Meliambro talked about here. After spending some time making the first few few rounds, all the mixing and shaking became a bit infectious and other people started volunteering to take turns and learn. That kept the drinks flowing and got everyone engaged in the craft.

Finally, those loveable, versatile mason jars were a great decision. It helped the drinks feel and look special, without having to use the nicer, purpose-built glassware. Combined with the garnishes and colourful straws, they made for a perfect vessel of delicious cocktails.

Fun for the whole framily!

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  • Reply Seb May 30, 2014 at 10:46 am

    This makes me quite sad:

    “In the end, we actually made far too many as the majority of guests stopped using them by about 10pm. My compost was well-garnished the next morning.”

    Still, great post, budday!

    But now I’m hungry for guac and thirsty for negroni.

    • Reply Brandon Wright May 30, 2014 at 11:07 am

      I know, it was quite a waste and I felt bad. It probably didn’t help that the garnishes ended up being hidden behind all the different bottles that made their way onto the counter. If I had put them up on the breakfast bar, people may have just grabbed their own.

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