Monday, March 20, 2023

ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Party tips

by GEORGE BALLING/The Dinner Party
| May 19, 2021 1:00 AM

While our shop, The Dinner Party, and our weekly column is focused much on wine, they both really do encompass so much more. For those of you who are in the shop regularly, you already know it is about entertaining well, through a thoughtfully set table and all the right accents to make your guests (your own community, if you will) feel welcome and appreciated.

Part of creating that feeling for those closest to us is having food and beverages selected and available in an easy to enjoy way. Parties change throughout the year and we are now entering a season when gatherings become more casual and entertaining moves outdoors. We just had a party this past weekend taking full advantage of the glorious and early North Idaho weather. For us it was a midsize gathering, 12 of us total. It started me thinking about the tips we could share for beverage service when you have many guests gathered outside.

We had our yard set up with multiple seating areas. It is a good idea to have beverage “stations” set up in a similar way. Beverages will draw your guests to where they are so it is a good idea to have them setup close to the seating areas you hope to have your guests gravitate to. While at some point your guests will end up in one large group, at least initially they will split into smaller groups and having your refreshments close by allows them to continue in their conversations.

It may seem obvious, but have your full assortment of beer, wine and cocktails at each location. Given the array of packaging for each of these categories makes that easier than ever. Sparkling wine and Champagne all are readily available in many sizes, from single serve 187ml bottles to half bottles and full 750ml packages. Similarly, there is wine in cans that are a half bottle in size, and many full 750ml bottles of all wine, including white, that come with twist tops, so no need to have a corkscrew at each location. For those who would like a taste of beer but hesitate to commit to a full can or more, we are seeing more beer packaged in little cans. The choices for “ready to drink” cocktails are one of the fastest growing categories in beverages. The cans contain spirits like vodka or gin and then a mixer and are a convenient way to have hard alcohol available for all your guests without setting up a full bar. Without making a huge financial commitment for multiple beverage stations just sprinkle a few of the smaller format containers of each around your venue. As a host, it is always easy to add a few more cans or bottles as needed.

One of the tricks to keeping your beverages well chilled and easy to access is to add some water to the ice in each beverage container. We have all witnessed, or even struggled with getting a bottle of wine back into an ice bucket that is full of cubes. You will be able to buy less ice and make it easier for you and your guests to get bottles or cans in and out of an ice bucket by adding a pitcher of water to the ice. The contact between ice and beverage is better, allowing them to chill more evenly too.

Be sure and have an assortment of wine and beer styles on hand. The larger your gathering, the more likely tastes are to diverge among your guests. One person’s ipa is another person’s lager, and for every sparkling wine enthusiast there is another who prefers simple California Chardonnay or Pinot Gris. While we have already covered the different sized packaging available for most every beverage, they are also around in most price points. Part of having a large party for graduations, or other spring and summer events, is being able to stick to your budget. The good news is there are great, crowd pleasing wines across the budget spectrum, allowing all of us to provide our guests with ample choices they will enjoy drinking.

Be creative too about your choice of beverage “bins.” There is no need to break the bank by going out and purchasing several beverage holders that might be used once or twice a year. We have attended parties where our hosts have been most creative in temporarily repurposing many household items to hold ice and bottles. Wheelbarrows, metal buckets, plant containers, and large stew pots or “Dutch ovens” can all be deployed to hold beverages and keep them cold.

The goal is to make our guests comfortable and provide them with drink options that are fun and easy to access. Stop by the shop to see all the possibilities for your beverage choices.

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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of the dinner party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The dinner party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018. George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop. You can also follow us on Facebook at!/dinnerpartyshop.

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