Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mitchell Crosby and Tips for Entertaining

Mitchell Crosby is one of those people for whom entertaining is second nature. And not just any ol' entertaining. I'm talking about entertaining with Style. I suppose that you would expect this from a man who is one of Charleston's preeminent event planners (JMC Charleston), but there is a reason that Mitchell went into the event planning business. Perhaps it's because he's a native Charlestonian- you know, they especially love the social life- but I think it's also a result of his graciousness and his desire to make people feel special. (That's Mitchell at top. You can just tell that he knows how to mix a great martini.)

I've been thinking of writing a few posts in which people share with us their thoughts on entertaining. But what I wanted to make clear was that I wasn't talking about a seated dinner for 16. Personally, I enjoy entertaining like that but I'm also a glutton for punishment. I wanted to do something more along the lines of having people over for drinks. I think that this is the way most people entertain nowadays. It's really quite easy, and there's no excuse not to have people over for some fun. And perhaps if we're armed with some sage tips from the pros, we might actually get over our fears and have people into our homes- and actually enjoy it too!

So, on to Mitchell's thoughts on drinks, food, and the good life:

Do you have a bar cart or drinks tray in your home? Do you let people mix their own drinks, or do you do the honors? Also, do you ever serve a festive cocktail to your guests? Or, do you stick to the basics?

All of my friends know where the bar is in my home. As I think of it as a destination, it must be well stocked for the event at hand. I usually let my guests know if I will make more than “the first one” or if that one will they be on their own! This usually depends on whether or not there are “out of the inner circle” friends there. In that case, I make the drinks.

The stocked bar always has:

•lots of linen napkins as I feel a fresh napkin is as important as a fresh glass
•wonderfully heavy double old fashioned glasses and extra large wine glasses
•lots of ice in a handsome padded bucket with tongs
•nice size wedged fruit (who can squeeze a slice?), tasty stuffed olives
•good vodka, bourbon, blended whiskey, scotch, gin, dry vermouth
•red wine only if I know someone drinks it during cocktails

If one is going to serve a “theme drink” or set the tone for a set style of drink, I usually announce that in the invitation – verbal or written. “Come for Mimosas and Drivers”, “Come for Martinis and Manhattans”, “Come for Prosecco in the Garden”. That sets the expectation and clears the air for anyone who may wish to ask for something else in advance.

Case in point – at a Summer White Party I hosted for a friend’s 50th, I chose to have a full bar and “White Cosmos”, made with White Cranberry Juice. A guest looked me right in the eye and said “I suppose I will be the designated driver tonight as I ONLY drink champagne”. Begrudgingly, I pulled two bottles of Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame out of the chiller and placed them with the bartender and informed him to keep them under the bar and serve them in a wine glass to her as not to start a stampede. She drank them both!

What about food? Is there one hors d'oeuvre that you like to serve? Or, do you just put out a bowl of nuts or crackers?

When sitting for cocktails in the living room where we can all reach the coffee table, or standing in the kitchen while cooking, I like educating people about cheese and accoutrements. I take the label from the monger and use a glue stick to place it on a place card and attach it to a bamboo pick so as to identify said cheese. I ask the monger for their recommendations for jams (quince, pear, fig are the expected) and then dried fruits and nuts. I place the cheeses together with what is suggested so that guests will have an opinion about what they are trying. This is nice with certain wine pairings and just fine with cocktails as well.

When in the garden, I tend to offer passed items due to the bugs in the South. Deviled Eggs, Pimento Cheese in Celery Sticks or on Ginger Snaps!

Sunday Brunch cocktails always call for something poured over Cream Cheese – I love to try at the Farmers Market different condiments like Peach Chutney, Green Tomato Relish and such. Also, fresh Charleston Blue Crab and a Louie Sauce over Cream Cheese is divine!

Any other tips?

•NEVER RUN OUT OF WHAT YOU ARE SERVING. These items do not go bad, so why not stock your bar and be ready for the next event?

•Always have good sparkling water on the bar and have it well chilled. If it is hot, I will often offer guests a glass of sparkling just to quench their thirst. If you offer a vodka tonic to someone who has just worked, showered and may be a bit dehydrated, they will get drunk quickly and pay for it the next day.

•Keep the bar tidy. Keep a lovely towel there for spills, have a back up wine tool should yours break, and inspect the glasses ahead of time for lipstick and smudges. A great cocktail starts with a clean glass; not one that might have a bit of dust and a dog hair on it!

In closing, if you are serving dinner, I enjoy after dinner drinks very much. Port, Madeira, Cognacs….dinner is not dinner until you have ascended to withdrawing for the after dinner drinks! That sounds like a line from Doris Duke or Dorothy Parker, but I swear it is not!

Image at top courtesy of Charleston HOME Magazine at which Mitchell is a style/entertaining editor. If you're in Charleston, do try to visit The RSVP Shoppe, a stationery and table top shop owned by Mitchell and his partner.


  1. What a terrific summer post. Now I'm in the mood to try Savor's pimento cheese on ginger snaps.

  2. I'd love to attend Mitchell's parties! He sounds like he'd be a great host.

  3. C- I know! I'll admit I've never tried the pimento cheese/ginger snap combo, but I'm intrigued.

  4. A great post - terrific advice - and words of wisdom on the bar.

  5. I love this post, I am expecting a part soon, I will use the list to stock up the bar! What a good way to never run out of the "spirits"... nothing gets a party slowing down klike a dry bar! Ha HA !

  6. Great post Jennifer!!

    One of the best tips is to never run out of what you're serving. It's always better to have more and save it for the next party!

  7. Great tips - and I LOVE that lamp in the first picture! Talk about perfect for a bar.

  8. I love the ideas of Sunday Brunch cocktails always calling for something poured over Cream Cheese – like Peach Chutney or Green Tomato Relish.

  9. A timely post as I am having friends over this weekend. Thanks for the tips.

  10. Great profile. I wasn't able to make it to Charleston's Patriot's Point Gala this year, but I heard that he did a fantastic job with it and turned the flight deck into something magical!

  11. Great pointers. Jalapeno jelly or mango chutney over cream cheese is great, too. All easy.

  12. So, when are we coming over for drinks?

  13. Great post! Wonderful down-to-earth advice, thank you so much! I have blogged about champagne cocktails here.

  14. A great post. I picked up so many good ideas. I would add two small points- I always have chilled champagne even if it's Prosecco or a well-priced sparkling wine. It seems more celebratory to have champagne. I find most people will choose that over anything else. Second, I only keep small glass bottles of soft drinks and mixers on the bar-they are so cute and vintage looking. I have a gorgeous bar cart that I love. I wish I knew who said this, but I once read an article on bar carts and the interior designer said they didn't like them because they were always afraid the host/hostess would roll it away!

  15. The first thing I thought when I saw the picture was I bet this guy can mix a great drink and now add- serve up some pimento cheese. The South is treacherous for squitoes and flies- not pretty on deviled eggs. Terrific post. la

  16. Wonderful advice for entertaining anyone! And I love the little story about the champagne drinker.

  17. What a fun post.
    I would never invite the tacky champagne woman ever agin. the invitation & decline!!!!
    One of my closeset friends relocated to Charleston recently & she's off to the Market to search for the chutney & relish & to his shop too!!!

  18. Great post! I still have my eye on a vintage bar cart. I will be swinging by my favorite consignment shop later today, wish me luck:)
    I think Ina's trick is bringing the far corner to the front corner on the same side of the table and then folding that piece under.
    Also, my latest obsession is organic adriatic fig spread. you can find it by the olive station at Whole Foods.

  19. I better start preparing now for when Mitchell comes to my house later this summer! Looks like the red solo cups just aren't going to cut it.

  20. Hey There, I really enjoyed this post. I've been behind on my normal blog reading and while taking some time this morning to read all the good ones I've missed of late I came across this one. I too am a glutton for punishment when it comes to entertaining. Every summer we do a special dinner party for a set of our friends, Last summer I did a sit down 7 course dinner for 17 (odd # but it was a predesignated group of friends), with hired violin players, and it was the most sensational evening and I had the time of my life planning it! This years party guests will be flying in from around the globe!!!

    Great tips!!!