Doug Frost, a Kansas City Master Sommelier and Master of Wine -- one of only three people in the world to have these titles -- offers these tips for choosing drinks for parties:
- Don't worry so much about matching the perfect wine to the perfect food. "I think people should worry more about matching the wine to the person. In other words, instead of selecting some wine because a wine magazine told you it was good, find out what sort of wine your guests like to drink and serve them that."
- Don't be too cheap. "In truth, most people don't like or at least aren't that wowed by the sort of wines that garner high scores in the wine press. Some bottles of good-quality bubbly start the party out nicely. Cheap bubbly (something less than $6 per bottle), however, is not a good way to start. Making sparkling wine is a fairly expensive process; that's why real champagne will usually set you back $30 or more. Be prepared to spend at least $10 to get some real flavor."
- Stay sweet. "No matter how many people I'm having over, or how rarefied their palates, I always serve German Rieslings. ... I like to spend at least $8 for a bottle. An easy way to spot a good one is to look for a black eagle symbol on the shoulder label. That means the producer belongs to a group called the VDP, and their members all make great wines."
- Make service easy. "I just open up the bottles and leave them on the table so people can serve themselves. So whether they're standing in the kitchen or sitting in the living room, they know where to go when they want more."
- Water is key. "When people are drinking alcohol, they're losing water. In cold weather, they're losing water. In a dry, heated room, they're losing water. If they don't want to have the mother of all hangovers, they need to re-hydrate -- frequently."
- Be thoughtful. "If you're the perfect host, you've set up a few places for partygoers to sleep. It's a nice way to keep your friends safe. But if you can't do that, arrange for rides if people are going to be drinking. That way, you can see them next week and maybe have a drink again."