The consummate entertainer

Gathering friends and family together to share a meal is one of life’s true pleasures. Often, though, the pressure of having everything just so diminishes that joy. If you’ve ever been to a party where the host has been flitting here and there in a frazzled state, you’ll know that being the host with the most is meaningless if you can’t stop and enjoy your guests. Nobody wants to feel as though they’re a burden on their host or sense any frenetic tension in the air. The point is, always, to have a good time. So, if you’re hosting this Easter, even if you’ve left the cooking to us (well played!), here are our tips for a harmonious, enjoyable event. And because sometimes a drink goes quite a way to relaxing everyone, we’ve included some easy jug recipes, too.

Step one: The guest list
When deciding who to invite for your event, it always pays to ensure your guests have something in common. But spice things up with a wild card guest or couple, who are interesting and unexpected. Sometimes you need a live wire to get ignite the energy and get people mingling. Just keep the numbers small to ensure you can circulate around to all your guests. Afterall, grace is about making time for everyone.

Step two: Be welcoming
When you go out to a nice restaurant for dinner, you look for the little details in the service that make the hospitality feel genuine. It’s the same at your own home. As host, it’s your job to create a feeling of welcome for your guests. It’s as simple as offering a drink on arrival, styling your home with fresh blooms, or hiring a heater or bringing out rugs when it’s chilly.

Step three: Get set
Guests don’t want to see their hosts folding napkins and polishing cutlery, it makes them feel uncomfortable. And, as host, you don’t want to be leaving your guests to their own devices while you buzz about setting the table. Make sure everything is in place before the first arrival. Use a mixture of textiles in unifying tones and scented candles or flowers to bring warmth to the table. Placecards are a nice touch if you have a crowd that don’t already know each other and might be nervous about choosing where to sit.

Step four: Music, please
Nothing exacerbates the awkwardness of stilted conversation like the absence of music. The right tunes help guests relax and fills in any natural silences. Just make sure to choose music that fits the mood of your party. Be prepared with a few different playlists that you can alternate throughout the night. A good trick is to have a wind-down one for when it’s time to wrap things up.

Step five: Help yourself
As host, it’s your job to set your guests up with their first drink, but they shouldn’t have to rely on you every time their glass is empty. Create a nicely styled watering station with ice buckets filled with drinks where people can top themselves up as needed. It’s a nice idea to include a few premixed cocktails in jugs as a delicious alternative to wine and beer, see our recipes below.

Step six: Command commonsense
Being a great host really is about minimising stress on yourself so you can be there for your guests. A little commonsense goes a long way in achieving this goal. For example, never try a new recipe for the party – recipe fails don’t make for a relaxed host. And make life easy on yourself by outsourcing dessert to a professional, be it a beautiful cake from your favourite bakery (or Katering at Home), or a tub of artisanal ice-cream.

And last but absolutely not least: Don’t be rude
You might think you’re just getting ahead of the clean up, but whatever you do, do not wash up while your guests are still enjoying themselves. Nothing makes people feel more like they’re being pushed out the door than a host who excuses themselves to wash dishes. If you find the stress of mounting dishes unbearable, and if you can afford it, hire the help of a young neighbour or family friend to clear tables and wash up for you.

Spiced pear and ginger cocktail
Makes: 2ltrs
180ml Grey Goose La Poirse vodka
60ml ginger liqueur
60ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
300ml fresh pear juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ice
600ml chilled soda water
600ml dry sparkling wine
1-2 sliced pears, 6-8 cinnamon sticks, mint sprigs, to serve
Honey and cinnamon syrup
85g honey
60ml water
2 sticks cinnamon

To make the honey and cinnamon syrup, place the honey, water and cinnamon in a small saucepan over low heat and stir to combine. Simmer for 10 minutes, remove from heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the cinnamon sticks and set aside.

To make the cocktail, combine the vodka, ginger liqueur, lemon juice, pear juice, and the honey and cinnamon syrup, and vanilla extract in a large jug. Stir to combine and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, fill a large jug with ice and the chilled cocktail mixture. Top with soda water and sparkling wine and stir gently. Garnish with pear slices, cinnamon sticks, and mint to serve.

Tip: You can make the cocktail the day before and store in the fridge. Simply give the mixture a good stir before adding the ice, soda water, sparkling wine and garnishes.

Plum and mint gin fizz
Makes: 1.2 litres
Ice
360ml gin
Soda water
Plum slices, lime slices, mint sprigs, to serve
Plum puree
1kg dark red plums, cut into chunks
75g caster sugar
10g ginger, peeled and sliced
1tbsp lemon juice

To make the plum puree, place the plum, sugar, ginger, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until plums release their juices. Remove lid and cook for a further 6-8 minutes or until the plums soften and start to fall apart. Allow to plum cool slightly. Transfer to a blender or food processor and blend until a smooth puree forms. Set aside to cool.

To make the cocktail, place 600g of the plum puree into a large jug, fill with ice and top with gin. Stir to combine and top with soda, thinly sliced plum, lime slices and mint to serve.

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