No matter which progressive dinner party course you've been charged with coordinating, it should begin something like this: Greet guests as if they are the only people on earth you wish to see at that exact moment in time -- and then offer them a drink.
We're not talking complicated mixologist maneuvers here, just immediate access to the libation of their choice. A few moderately priced bottles of wine and a pitcher of signature drinks should do the trick. Just give your custom cocktail a theme-appropriate nickname, and use fresh-squeezed ingredients to give it vibrant color and flavor.
Sangria is simple to make for a crowd. Just combine a bottle of red wine with 1 cup Grand Marnier, 2 cups orange juice, 1 cup fresh lime juice and 4 tablespoons sugar. Then add about 1 cup each of various sliced fruits: lemons, oranges and whatever else is in season. Swirl in a couple cinnamon sticks, chill, pour over ice and voila -- a house cocktail. Plus, it can (and should) be made ahead of time so the flavors can meld -- just strain out the steeped fruit if it's not as pretty the next day, and/or add a few fresh slices for garnish.
Or whip up a pitcher of skinny margaritas. Bartender Darrell Autrey of Georgia-based Bowties & Shirtsleeves Consulting says that for every four guests, you can combine 1 cup silver tequila, 3/4 cup fresh lime juice and 6 tablespoons agave nectar (which is 40 percent sweeter than sugar) in a large pitcher with ice. To serve, drop thin slices of jalapeno into each glass or garnish with a split pepper.
For a non-alcoholic drink that still packs a visual punch, stir up some ginger-pineapple sparkling punch. Though great on its own, it's delightfully easy to rev up with a splash of gin. If you're serving the dessert course, offer a couple of chilled dessert wines, as well as coffee (Irish cream optional).
Keep white wine bottles and cocktail pitchers nestled in a tub of ice so guests can refill at will; a strategically convenient placement will lend a comfy air of abundance to your party. Plus, when guests can pour their own drinks you can get out from behind the bar and do what you were meant to: Play host -- or hostess -- during what's sure to be one of the year's most memorable parties.
- BuildingYouth. "Progressive Dinner Parties." (July 12, 2011) BernardsAssets.org. http://www.bernardsassets.org/Document/ProgressiveDinnerPartyDocument.pdf
- Ellis, Kori. "Entertaining Tips and Sweet Sangria." May 30, 2008. (July 12, 2011) SheKnows.com. http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/804131/expert-tips-for-making-cocktails-for-a-crowd
- Epicurious. "Ginger Pineapple Sparkling Punch." December 2004. (July 12, 2011) http://www.epicurious.com/articlesguides/entertaining/partiesevents/cocktailpartydrinks/recipes/food/views/Ginger-Pineapple-Sparkling-Punch-231223
- Gentleman's Quarterly. "GQ Hosts: Everything You Need to Know to Entertain at Home with Style and Ease." March 2010. (July 13, 2011) http://www.gq.com/how-to/eat-and-drink/201003/gq-hosts-how-to-entertain-at-home-dinner-party#slide=1
- Hoffman, Constance. "Social Etiquette and Good Manners: Hostess Gifts for Progressive Dinner Party." Sept. 23, 2010. AllExperts.com. http://en.allexperts.com/q/Social-Etiquette-Good-2570/2010/9/Hostess-gifts-Progressive-Dinner.htm
- Jordan, Chris. "How to Host a Progressive Dinner Party." July 14, 2009. (July 12, 2011) DIYlife.com. http://www.diylife.com/2009/07/14/how-to-host-a-progressive-dinner-party/
- Ketteler, Judi. "Fast After-Party Cleanup Tips." (July 12, 2011) DisneyFamily.com. http://family.go.com/household/article-255195-fast-after-party-cleanup-tips-t/
- Knowlton, Andrew. "How to Deal with Dinner Guests' Food Allergies." May 24, 2010. (July 12, 2011) BonAppetit.com. http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/bafoodist/2010/05/dear-ba-foodisti-love-hosting.html
- Savitt, Brandi. "Throw a Progressive Dinner Party." June 25, 2010. (July 12, 2011) FabAndFru.com. http://fabandfru.com/2010/06/throw-a-progressive-dinner-party/
- Stewart, Martha. "Hostess Gift Ideas: Tiny Treasures." (July 12, 2011) http://www.marthastewart.com/photogallery/hostess-gift-ideas#slide_22