Easy Entertaining Tips

Pull together a party in no time with our top entertaining tips.


entertaining tips
  • A shaken-versus-stirred rule of thumb: Shake mixer-heavy drinks that can be hazy and frothy, and stir liquor-laden cocktails you wish to keep clear -- such as martinis (no matter what James Bond might say).
  • Make Brunello wine sauce on the cheap by substituting Rosso di Montalcino.
  • Keep white wines like Chardonnay in the fridge and remove 15 minutes before serving.
  • Use a Thermos as a cocktail shaker. It keeps the ice extra-cold and doubles as a strainer.
  • Slice and freeze fresh peaches to use as ice cubes in lemonade.
  • Freeze cocktails overnight for a party -- the liquor makes the drink slushy.
  • Stir leftover chocolates into steamed milk to make instant hot cocoa.
  • Freeze tea and coffee into cubes so iced drinks won't get watered down.
  • Rim cocktail glasses with crushed hard candy insead of sugar.
  • Dunk champagne bottles in ice water instead of ice for a faster chill.
  • Place stoneware mugs in a 200°F oven for a few minutes before serving hot chocolate.
  • Keep a jar of simple syrup in the fridge to sweeten iced tea or lemonade.


  • After a spicy main course, serve scoops of lemon sorbet as a palate cleanser before dessert.
  • Ask potluck dinner guests to bring copies of their recipes with the dishes.
  • Upgrade bread and butter for a party by whipping chopped herbs into softened herbs.
  • Eat dessert on the porch and give dinner-party guests a change of scenery.
  • Skip dessert and bring out a tray of dried fruit, nuts and chocolate.
  • Line your cheese tray with butcher paper so you can write the name of each piece right next to it.
  • Dress up ice cream with ground espresso beans.
  • Scoop sorbet into hollowed-out oranges for dessert.


  • Mail old 4-by-6-inch photos as invitations to your next dinner party.


  • Liven up your next holiday dinner party -- just ask everyone to change seats before dessert.
  • Label glasses with a grease pencil at your next party -- the names will wipe off later.
  • Elevate your serving platter by using chopsticks as a trivet.
  • At your next dinner party, use paint-chip cards as colorful placeholders.
  • Add uncooked rice to your shaker to keep salt from clumping.
  • Toss a few pieces of chalk in the silverware drawer to keep utensils from tarnishing.


  • Dress up a wreath with strung cranberries and bunches of rosemary.
  • Add a little lemon-lime soda to your vase to keep flowers fresh.
  • Rub a little olive oil on candlesticks to keep wax from sticking.
  • Dim the lights -- a 45-watt bulb casts a flattering glow, and is still bright enough to encourage mingling.
  • Push a small pin through the tops of stems to keep tulips from drooping.
  • Place candles in the fridge for an hour before a party. They'll burn slowly and evenly.


  • Send guests home with a mix CD after your next party.
  • Pamper your guests with steaming washcloths -- just dampen and roll up the cloths, then microwave for 45 seconds.
  • When you're giving away holiday candy, present it in a large mug; the candy will disappear but the cup won't.


  • Place a bunch of fresh basil on your outdoor table to repel mosquitoes.
  • Keep a picnic tablecloth in place by tying small rocks onto the ends.