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A GENTLEMAN ENTERTAINSA GUIDE TO MAKING MEMORABLE OCCASIONS HAPPEN
By JOHN BRIDGES BRYAN CURTIS
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2012 John Bridges and Bryan Curtis
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA GENTLEMAN AT THE BAR
When entertaining his friends or his coworkers, a gentleman does not spend more than he can comfortably afford. If he does so, he makes entertaining an extraordinary experience, when it should be a regular part of his life.
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If he can avoid it, a gentleman does not extend spur-of-the-moment invitations. Instead, he gives his guests plenty of time to plan their schedules and adjust them, if necessary, in order to take advantage of his hospitality.
If a gentleman has announced that his party begins at 7:00 p.m., he is ready to greet his guests at 6:45. If any guest should arrive earlier than that hour, a gentleman feels perfectly free to suggest that the guest help out by slicing the limes.
If a gentleman must make the choice between using plastic and not entertaining, he uses plastic. Using plastic is far preferable to never entertaining at all. Someday, the china will come. If it never comes, at least there will have been parties.
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A gentleman never lets a guest stand alone in a corner. If he has planned the mix of his guests correctly, he can always spark up a conversation. He would never invite anyone into his home and allow that person to depart feeling that he or she has been ignored.
A gentleman allows his friends to enjoy themselves. However, he knows when to say, "Jim, wouldn't you like some soda now?" If Jim insists on having more vodka, a gentleman knows when to take his car keys, when to call a cab, and how to make sure Jim gets in it.
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When a gentleman is ready for the evening to end, he closes the bar. If there is no bar, he simply announces, "This has been a lot of fun, hasn't it? Wish I didn't have to get up at 7:00 a.m. tomorrow."
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A gentleman knows how to introduce a friend to strangers and vice-versa.
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A gentleman does not give surprise parties unless he is absolutely certain the honoree likes to be surprised.
A gentleman feels no necessity to write thank-you notes for gifts presented to him at his own party. If he should happen to receive thank-you notes for his hospitality, he considers himself extraordinarily blessed.
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A gentleman makes sure that he has plenty of kitchen towels, or paper towels, available at any moment. Spills may, and invariably will, occur.
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A gentleman always remembers that some of his guests may be nondrinkers, either for the evening or for life. He makes sure to put out some fruit juice, as well as some lime to go along with it.
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A gentleman knows how to say, "Thank you. I hope you can come back again," when the evening is done. If guests linger too long, he knows how to say, "Now let me see, where did we put your coat?"
If a gentleman does not want his guests to smoke, he does not put out ashtrays.
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If a gentleman has guests whom he knows to be smokers, he makes sure there is a place, perhaps on a balcony, perhaps in a garden, where they can smoke. In any case, he provides a receptacle in which they can extinguish their cigarette butts.
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If a gentleman is serving twist-top beers or sodas, he provides an obvious place for disposal of the caps.
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A gentleman knows how to make a martini, a Manhattan, and a Rob Roy.
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When a gentleman is planning a cocktail party or a reception, he does not fret about whether there will be enough chairs. In fact, he hopes that a number of his guests will be forced to stand in order to encourage mingling.
When expecting guests in his home, a gentleman always leaves a candle—one that cannot easily be tipped over—burning in the bathroom.
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After his friends have gone home for the evening, a gentleman makes sure to blow out all the candles.
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A gentleman checks his smoke alarm on a regular basis, both for his own safety and for the safety of friends he may invite into his home.
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A gentleman always has an extra umbrella for his guests to use.
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When a gentleman's invited guests arrive at his door, he never greets them in bare feet.
A gentleman does not host BYOB parties. He may suggest that guests bring a bottle of wine or a six-pack of beer—any beverage that may be consumed in its entirety during the evening—but he knows that he only creates confusion, and asks for trouble, by asking his guests to keep track of which liquor bottle belongs to whom. He also knows that at a BYOB party he will have almost no control over how much alcohol his guests consume.
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A gentleman owns a stock of white cotton cocktail napkins, although he may use paper ones from time to time—even with the most demanding of his friends.
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If a gentleman invites his demanding friends into his home, he does not worry about living up to their overly meticulous standards.
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A gentleman has as few demanding friends as possible.
HAVING A FEW FRIENDS OVER FOR DRINKS
The Casual Cocktail Party
There are plenty of good reasons to get a group of friends together for drinks. The excuse can be a real occasion—a friend or coworker is relocating, a new friend has moved into town, it's the day before a holiday and nobody has to get up for work the next morning, or it's somebody's birthday—but a gentleman's best excuse for entertaining his friends is that he wants to enjoy their company. Maybe he hasn't seen them in a while, at least not in a casual setting, or maybe he just needs to repay a few invitations. In any case, nothing works better than an easygoing Friday afternoon gathering for a half-dozen—or even a dozen—people of amiable temperament.
The Game Plan
1. If your space is limited, invite only as many friends as you can comfortably entertain. (If you can't invite everybody this time, there'll always be another Friday afternoon.) 2. When you extend your invitations by phone, by post, or by e-mail, make sure your guests understand that this is a casual gathering, not a sit-down supper. On the phone, for instance, it's easy to say, "I'm just having a few friends over for drinks." (That also lets your guests know they're not free to bring along an entourage.) On paper, you may want to be more specific. If you're planning to offer only beer and wine, let your guests know in your invitation what to expect. 3. Although you're only expecting your guests to hang around for a couple of hours, if you're giving them alcohol, you also have to give them food. This is especially true at the end of the workday when it's been hours since lunch and since some people may be stopping by on the way home from the gym. If you've scheduled your party for a later hour, after a ball game or after the theater, for example, a few light snacks will suffice. 4. When planning your hors d'oeuvre, have plenty of protein to help offset the alcohol, but offer some vegetables too. You may have guests who are vegetarians, and some of your guests may not want to spoil their appetites for dinner. Sweet treats, such as cookies and mini-tarts, may be appropriate for a late-evening party; they will probably go untouched before 7 p.m. 5. At this type of party, you'll probably want to let your guests serve themselves. A bartender is unnecessary, and you won't want to be hovering over them. Therefore, you'll want to make sure the bar, however simple, is easily accessible and there are plenty of glasses. Your most vital role is keeping watch over the ice bucket. You can never have too much ice. 6. Even if you don't think any of your friends are teetotalers, you still must offer nonalcoholic mixers, sodas, or juices for any nondrinkers in the group. You never know what has happened since the last time you saw them. Someone may have started a new medication. 7. If you're throwing a cocktail party at the end of a workday, make sure to leave the office in plenty of time so that you can have the bar set out and the music lined up before your guests arrive. 8. When you want your guests to start leaving, shut down the bar. (It may seem inhospitable, but it works.)
How to Make It Happen
1. Well ahead of time, think about what kind of food you want to serve. Make sure everything you offer is something you can pick up at the deli or something you can prepare ahead of time. (This is a small group; you want to be with your friends, not in the kitchen.) Remember, too, that this is a stand-up party. Plan to offer finger food that doesn't require plates. Shy away from dribbly sauces. 2. If you're planning to serve food that needs to be kept warm, you'll need a chafing dish. If you're serving food that needs to be kept cold, you'll need a bowl of ice. 3. Set up the bar well ahead of time. (See How to Set Up a Bar on pages 20–21.) 4. If you've got enough glassware and cloth napkins to serve everybody, use them. Otherwise, use plastic and paper only. None of your friends should feel they aren't "good enough to use the real stuff." 5. If you're worried about the possibility that your friends may destroy the family china, don't use it. 6. If space allows, set up the bar and the food table in different parts of the room so the guests will be encouraged to mix and mingle. It's also a fact of life in the party-planning world that people tend to migrate away from the source of the music, whether it's a live band or a CD player. Thus, if you don't want them clustering around the bar, set it up relatively close to the sound system. 7. If you don't have room for a separate bar in your living room, use the kitchen counter. At intimate gatherings, people tend to hang out in the kitchen anyway. 8. If you're serving the hors d'oeuvres from your dining room table, remember to remove the chairs so that your guests don't have to reach over them. 9. At this sort of party, nobody really expects flowers. What's more, they take up space on the buffet. If you want to put out a few cut flowers in a vase (in a place where it won't easily be tipped over) you'll be doing all that's expected—and more.
Words to the Wise
At any party where alcohol is served, and particularly when guests are serving themselves, the host is well advised to keep an eye out for a friend who may have had too many. It is the host's responsibility—both legally and in terms of good manners—to make sure the intoxicated guest does not get behind the wheel of any motorized vehicle. He finds some way for the overindulged guest to get home, either by arranging for a ride with a sober guest or by calling a cab.
A good host wants the memories of his party to be pleasant ones. While food and drink are important, he knows his hospitality and the spirit of the room are what people will recall in years to come.
A gentleman need not feel guilty if he chooses not to provide every imaginable type of liquor at his cocktail party. Should a guest be so bold as to ask why there is not coconut-flavored vodka on the bar, a gentleman may simply say, "We're just sticking with the standards tonight. How about a good, old-fashioned vodka and tonic?"
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A gentleman makes sure plenty of cocktail napkins and coasters are strategically placed, here and there, for handy use by his guests.
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If a gentleman has enough crystal for 20 guests, but has invited a bigger crowd, he borrows or rents enough crystal for everybody. Otherwise, he provides high-quality plastic for everyone. He knows that it is his responsibility to make sure all his guests feel equally welcome, in every possible way.
A gentleman knows a dash of salt sprinkled on a paper napkin will prevent his glass from sticking.
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Rather than offer a full bar for his guests, a gentleman may choose to limit his offerings to one popular, signature cocktail (produced in mass quantity), along with beer, wine, and nonalcoholic options.
How to Set Up a Bar
A good host offers a choice of Scotch, vodka, gin, white wine, beer, and, in the South, bourbon. He serves the wine in an ice bucket and keeps the beer cold, either in a cooler or in the refrigerator.
He makes sure to have plenty of ice, as well as a variety of mixers, not just for his drinking friends, but for the pleasure of his nondrinking friends as well. His bar is never complete without freshly sliced lemons and limes, a jigger, stirrers, plenty of glasses, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, and a stack of cocktail napkins.
Excerpted from A GENTLEMAN ENTERTAINS by JOHN BRIDGES BRYAN CURTIS Copyright © 2012 by John Bridges and Bryan Curtis. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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