Choosy Beggars Survival Guide: 3 Ways to Survive The House Party

Well everyone, autumn is officially here.  As sunny as the afternoons may be, the evening air has started to grow crisp; as little as you may think you need a jacket, the leaves on the grass are here to tell you otherwise.  The football season has started, the part of the baseball season that actually matters has started, kids are back in school, and young fresh-faced souls have once again been unleashed upon campus life.

Autumn is when everyone emerges from the sleepy laziness that underscores summertime.  They’re forced to catch up on all the work they let slide when they were sneaking out of the office early every day, to tidy and organize the yards that have spent the summer overgrowing themselves like mad, to pull themselves together and get on with the rest of the year.  It’s too early to start worrying about Christmas, too late to disappear for one last summer holiday, and just in time to re-insert yourself into the world.

In that spirit of industrial togetherness, one of the heralds of the autumn is the shift from the patio outing to the house party, the migration of social events from venues where one can soak up the sun to those where one can hide from the chill.  Always fraught with complexities — including figuring out who will be the first to volunteer their home as a venue, and the sustained politics of hosting — the house party always promises fun, but never comes without a price.

Yes, let’s face it:  If there’s one thing about house parties, it’s that they are absorbent.  It never seems to matter how much ice, how many bottles of cola, or how huge a bottle of liquor one brings to a large house party, everything seems to disappear at a terrifying rate.  Is it because of one particularly fast-fingered alcoholic?  Is it because you might not have brought enough?  Is it because you always seem to bring more or better stuff than anyone else?  Is it because you hate how this always happens god damn it this is the last time, you swear?

Well, we’re here to help.  The truth is, you CAN get through a house party without feeling like you’ve paid for everyone else’s drinks, and we can guide you on how.  Whether you’re sensitive to being seen as cheap or guard your beer like a mother bear guards her young, there’s a path through the pitfalls of the booze party.

1. Be the Bartender

Do you enjoy control, and have relatively little interest in interacting with anyone else at a given event?  Then the role of unofficial-official bartender is right for you!

For instance, you’ve made a comparatively major investment in some high-quality liquor — perhaps a premium vodka or even an aged Scotch — that you’ve brought to a large gathering.  Your choices are to leave it on the kitchen counter, immediate prey for the thirsty and sticky-fingered all around you, or to stand on guard for thee.  But rather than angrily hovering over your contribution to the party, radiating avarice and hostility towards anyone who just wants another plastic cup, why not simply take control of the entire liquor supply?

THE UPSIDE:  If you are a responsible, entertaining and generous party bartender, then other guests will actively surrender their booze to you.  By creating fun and tasty cocktails for others, you will be adding to everyone’s enjoyment of the event, and actually making people feel rewarded for sharing what they brought to the party.

THE DARK SIDE:  No matter how responsible, entertaining and generous a bartender you are, you always have the power to save the best stuff for yourself.  This is POWER OVERWHELMING, and you should use it sparingly.

THE DOWN SIDE:  You will spend your entire night mixing drinks, and fielding questions about why you’re mixing drinks in particular ways, or facing accusations that you are mixing them in the wrong proportions.  You may also be confronted by that most dreadful of things, the Rival Bartender, who will attempt to deflate you through a combination of constant companionship and unending criticism.

2.  Set Yourself Apart

Are you the kind of person who always makes sure that they buy a little bit extra at the liquor store?  And then heads over to the grocery store to purchase a wide variety of mixes, including diet options for those who might not prefer full-sugar drinks?  Only to find that, after half an hour at the party, someone has pretty much guzzled all the soft drinks and half the liquor you bought, so you’re left drinking Sprite Zero with some lite beer splashed into it?


This may very well be the best possible justification for the single-serving, pre-mixed cocktail that ever existed.  We can, in fact, imagine that this might be the genesis of such a product.  The pre-mixed, single-serving cocktail was likely designed specifically to avert any potential for sharing, as long as the full set of drinks could be held close at hand — or indeed, were so distinctive as to be impossible to mistake for anyone else’s beverage.

THE UPSIDE:  Imagine if matters were so simple at your collective, social refrigerator at work.  How many times have you had your yogurt, milk or snack foods pilfered, only to hear the feeble excuse that someone thought it was their own?  Notwithstanding the fetid lies, what if you could strip this excuse from anyone ever, permanently?  Now imagine that your yogurt, milk or snack foods were so distinctively flavored — for example, blue cheese and blackberry — that there could be no mistaking it under any circumstances?  Such is the power of the exotic pre-mixed cocktail.

THE DARK SIDE:  Enter the Bacardi Breezer Strawberry Daquiri, or the Jack Daniels Jack ‘n’ Cola, or any of the other countless embarrassingly distinctive pre-mixes out there.  Absolutely none of these drinks are especially GOOD, per se, but just let that guy claim that he mistook your Woody’s Original bright pink vodka cocktail for his own — JUST LET HIM, because who else on earth would bring that to a party?

THE DOWN SIDE:  Sure, your mouth is going to taste like bubble-gum flavored vodka for three days or so, but it’s the principle of the thing.  Nobody’s going to steal your booze, because nobody could possibly justify it.  Even if that isn’t perfect, it’s still a win that you can savor.

3.  Be The Connoisseur

When you’re preparing to go to a party, you have a number of choices laid out in front of you.  Will you try to be the creative contributor, and buy a 12-pack of a craft brewer in the hopes that everyone will enjoy it?  Will you put some serious thought into the food that might be served, and carefully select a wine that will complement the palette?  Will you try to introduce something new to the crowd, and pick out a novelty that you hope everyone will enjoy?

Whatever the case, you’ve got about a fifty-fifty chance of coming off as a snob.  Savor it, because this is your chance to be a positive influence.

There’s a funny kind of backlash going on right now against people who are way into their food, or who share way too much about their liquor.  Who would have thought that not everyone at a Saturday night cocktail party will want to share in the collective post-Colonial guilt associated with rum?  Or want to know the fatality rates attributed to gin production?  It’s like nobody’s really interested in the background, as long as the liquor is strong enough!

Honestly, what have we come to.

THE UPSIDE:  If you genuinely care about these sorts of topics, then this will come naturally to you.  Being totally into the history of wine or liquor is just one more shade in the rainbow of nerd-dom, no matter what anyone tells you.  Explaining THAC0 from Dungeons & Dragons is nowhere near as complex as talking through why there’s such a thing as Navy Proof, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.  Plus, within about five minutes of getting into that kind of detail, we guarantee only the most sincerely interested will be nearby.

THE DARK SIDE:  There is a real danger that you will come to believe that if people don’t know what you know, then they won’t be able to appreciate their beverages properly.  This is UNTRUE, so don’t be a jerk about it.  If the best you manage is to help your fellow party-goers slow down and appreciate what they’re enjoying, then you’ve achieved the right balance.

THE DOWN SIDE:  People are going to drink the stuff you brought just as quickly, but they’ll just enjoy it more.  And really, if that’s the worst that happens, then you’re still doing all right — as long as you can make them feel a little shame for guzzling too quickly.

In the end, the only way to completely prevent liquor loss at a house party is not to attend one.  Whenever you mix a large group of people with food and drink, you will inevitably have those who consume more than they share, and those who give more than they take.  Rather than try to curb such a loss, it’s a whole lot more fun to decide what way you want to channel it — whether it’s down the path of creativity, diversity or expertise — and see where it takes you.

After all, the time for laziness is over!  It’s the autumn:  Get to work!

  • Jthan

    Just take a bottle of Campari and plenty of soda water. There may be one other person there that likes Campari soda, but usually there isn’t.

    • Mike

      Hah, the Poison Pill approach. “Good news everyone! I brought the Campari, Arrack and orange rind liqueurs! … Everyone…?”