My Round: The complete guide to impressing your guests at a drinks party - and without spending a fortune

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When my wife threw a birthday drinks-and-snacks bash not long ago, I had another chance to grapple with two great questions of party-giving etiquette. First: is one allowed to wear a T-shirt even though some guests will be dressed to the nines? Second: what liquids does one need to buy, and how much of them, and at what cost?

When my wife threw a birthday drinks-and-snacks bash not long ago, I had another chance to grapple with two great questions of party-giving etiquette. First: is one allowed to wear a T-shirt even though some guests will be dressed to the nines? Second: what liquids does one need to buy, and how much of them, and at what cost?

The character of the wine, I am convinced, hardly matters. As long as you're pouring something that tastes better than oven cleaner, you're unlikely to raise any eyebrows. Make careful choices around the £4 mark, preferably with a helping hand from whatever special offers lurk on the shelves of your favourite supplier.

Supermarkets, however, don't count. Their cut-price offers are usually for big brands, and serving them to your friends is like saying, "You are a decent, generic, all-purpose friend, so I will serve you a wine that can be described in the same way." So I ignored all the Jacobs Creek and Lindemans and got on the horn to my local Majestic, where there are – only until tomorrow, sadly – 15 per cent discounts on a raft of good wines from the south of France. The ones I wanted were the well-made Château Guiot 2000, Costières de Nimes (£4.24 from £4.99 when you buy six or more wines in the offer) and Domaine Caillaubert Chardonnay/Sauvignon 2000 (£4.24 from £4.99).

Alas, I'd left it too late. This was just 24 hours from kick-off, and Majestic's delivery book was full for the following day. (Party-giver's rule number one: don't leave it to the last minute.) I turned instead to Oddbins, for Mosaïque Syrah 2000 and Danie de Wet Chardonnay 2000, at £3.99 and £3.79 respectively. The Mosaïque is a sloppy wet kiss of a Languedoc Syrah, sweetly slurpable and touched with spice, while the South African Chardonnay is one of the best cheapo specimens of the ubiquigrape currently available. Both proved their worth on the big night.

A drinks party does not live on wine alone: in the modern age you need water aplenty. Some people drank H2O throughout the evening, and unscrewing all those bottles made me think that an old rule of party-giving – half a bottle of vino per person – may now be outmoded. In its place, rule number two: do not stint on water. Or on beer, either. Our guests drank plenty of the Nastro Azzurra lager we laid on. And rule number three: even if you're buying £4 wine, make sure it's something you will want to drink in the weeks following the party. You will probably have leftovers if you follow the 37.5cl per person rule.

That just leaves spirits to be decided upon. Now, it's a well-known fact that more and more drinkers eschew any alcoholic beverage with an ABV over 13.5 per cent, especially if they're driving. So a bottle of fire-water will have few takers. But at the last party I'd been to there were three bottles (two Scotch and one vodka) that got a bit of use. This was a special party: a celebration of the life of Mr Hugh Scott of Branford, Connecticut. Hugh had survived a few dozen raids as a bomber pilot in the Second World War. Thirty-five years ago, he nearly drowned while rescuing the family dog from stormy, icy water in Long Island Sound. Last month, at the age of 85, he admitted defeat at the hands of a stroke.

Not many people were drinking spirits at Hugh's party, but as the levels dropped slowly I thought, "I bet the consumers of those few inches of Chivas Regal really appreciate them." So when our bash rolled round, I put out some Bushmill's 10-Year-Old Single Malt (briefly on offer for £16.50 at Victoria Wine and other stores in the First Quench group). I suspected there might be someone who really wanted it.

I was right. Ms Katherine Callo had spent her day supervising a party for 16 six-year-olds. When her eye lit on the Bushmill, she smiled broadly. She drank a pair of them, with water. I felt like a good host, and I have Hugh to thank for the suggestion. Here's looking at you, kid.

Comments