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Weekend Entertaining

Planning for a Successful Cocktail Party

December 20, 1986|ROSE DOSTI | Times Staff Writer

We're knee-deep into party season, and you're giving your cocktail party of the year.


There are dozens of things you want to know about stocking the bar, the types and how much liquor to serve, the calories they'll cost.

First a word from Mark Lunn, sergeant in charge of public affairs for the Los Angeles County Police Department. According to Lunn, the party host has a responsibility to his drinking guests.

"Accidents and deaths are highest particularly between Christmas and New Year. This is the time when people who usually drink socially only will be part of the drinking-driving population," Lunn said.

Set rules before the guests start drinking, Lunn advised. "You can't bargain with a guest once he's drunk."

Sensible Advice

Here are some of Lunn's recommendations for hosts and guests:

--Let people know before they come to the party that they will not be allowed to drive home alone if under the influence.

--Guests should try to group for a party and designate a driver who will not drink to do the driving. Or chip in and hire a taxi or limousine for the evening. Hosts can offer the spare room to a guest who has had too much to drink.

--Provide alternative beverages such as fruit juice, fruit and milk-based beverages, soft drinks and spritzers.

--Always serve food with drink. Snacks slow down the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.

--Don't serve snacks that are too salty as they increase thirst.

--Don't rush to refill glasses and never pressure anyone to drink.

Be aware, cautions the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, that typical servings of beer, wine and spirits, contrary to widespread misconceptions, all contain equal amounts of alcohol. For instance, 1 ounces of 80-proof liquor (the amount usually served in a mixed drink), a 12-ounce can of beer and a 5-ounce glass of wine contain the same amount of absolute alcohol--about .5 ounces.

Counting Calories

Calorically, drinks are about the same--generally about 70 calories--with the sweeter drinks such as sweet wine, fruit liqueurs and mixed drinks higher in calories (up to 150) because of the sugar (natural or added) and other caloric substances added in. Distilled spirits, such as gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, brandy and Cognac, contain about 70 calories per ounce. Red wine has 64 calories per 3 ounces compared with 74 for white wine and sake.

The type of party, your guests and your budget will determine what and how much to serve. Budget or not, don't overlook the great buys to be found at discount liquor houses all around town. Magnums of wine often cost less than regular bottles, but unless you are serving a crowd, it may not be worth the extra cost.

If you're uncertain about the proper wine to serve, don't expect the corner liquor-store clerk to advise you. You're likely to get better help at well-established places specializing in wines. If you have put the selection of wines in the hands of a caterer, one expert suggests that you might reconsider, if cost is a concern. "The cost of wine alone can double the budget," said Clive David, a party planner based in Los Angeles and New York, because "caterers often add an enormous markup on wine. You'll come up ahead if you shop around first or handle the beverages yourself."

Variety Is Expensive

A full bar may cost more than a party at which only wine or beer is served, because the former entails stocking the bar with a variety of standard bar drinks, liqueurs and mixers, which can run up the tab even though you don't use all of them.

Calculating that a typical 1-ounce jigger of liquor makes one drink, a fifth (750 ml.) contains about 20 drinks. A liter of liquor pours about 27 cocktails and the 1 3/4-liter bottle holds almost 45 drinks.

Which means, if you are serving two to 10 persons you will need one bottle of vodka (or gin, Scotch, Bourbon and whiskey), two bottles of red or white wine and two bottles of club soda if you are using it.

The numbers change for 20 to 50 people because parties of this size have different, non-proportional, requirements. You'll need three bottles of vodka; two bottles of gin, Scotch, or rum; two cases of beer; one case of white wine (12 bottles) and six bottles of red wine. Statistically speaking, most people prefer white wine to red, hence the larger requirement.

Also statistically speaking, the more people, the higher the proportion of drinks. A blow-out bash ringing in the New Year at which 100 to 200 people are expected is not the same as a sedate, intimate cocktail party announcing the release of a new book. Chances are that most people will drink the more popular drinks--which, translated, means that for a party of 100 to 200 persons, you'll need 16 bottles of vodka, 12 of gin and Scotch, four of rum, three of tequila, eight of Bourbon and whiskey. You'll need eight cases of beer, four cases of white wine and two cases of red wine. You'll also need 12 bottles of club soda.

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