Since the primary focus is on planning and hosting a dinner party, your drink offerings should complement the activities you have planned. Traditionally cocktails and/or glasses of wine are served with appetizers. A wine that you think pairs nicely with the food is served with the meal, and coffee and dessert usually follow, although the French often add a nice touch by inserting a cheese course between the dinner and dessert.
The host is now faced with a dilemma – how to get your guests to change locations. Rather than trying to wrangle them away from the dinner table, in your best Carson the Butler voice announce that you will be serving drinks in the living room.
The drinks, of course, will be sipping liquors, but from the time your guests arrived they knew where the evening was headed. They saw your bar setup on the sideboard, credenza, or at the end of the kitchen counter which included dazzling bottles of liquor along with lineups of snifters, “rocks” glasses, etc. Once they spotted this, they knew there would be treats towards the end of the evening.
Now that your guests are seated away from the table in comfortable chairs, it is at this point you want the fewest distractions possible. I lower the lights and I turn the music off. This creates a mellow mood and convivial atmosphere which should encourage interesting conversation. You are now prepared to have that “Boston Legal” moment whether there are just the two of you or you are entertaining a roomful of friends.
Briefly describe to your guests what is available by first noting the type of drink and then the brand, and then start taking drink orders. At this point I would like to note that drinkers of sipping liquors can get a bit fussy, so there are several terms and descriptors you should know. For example: “Neat” is no ice or mix and served at room temperature. “Up” implies there is some work in the final product and it is usually chilled. “Straight up” means the drink will either be shaken or stirred in ice, and then strained. And “on the rocks” means ice.
They might request their drink with water. If so, ask what ratio they prefer (liquor:water). It can be equal parts of liquor to water, but most of the time the ratio is 5:1; however, there are some who simply like to add a teaspoonful of water to 2 oz. of whisky.
When you are out on the town, remember the Clare Boothe Luce quote: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” Scotch. Glenfiddich. Neat. This drink order will get you more “cred” than any that is lengthy and detailed unless you are ordering a martini. Then you can get fussy.