Why Ina Garten Suggests Starting Parties With A 'Getting To Know You' Cocktail

Even hospitality experts get nervous before events. "Never let 'em see you sweat," hostessing queen Ina Garten told Bon Appétit of her approach to entertaining. "I try to greet my friends with a drink in my hand, a warm smile on my face, and great music in the background because that's what gets a dinner party off to a fun start." 

But it isn't just having a drink in her hand that Garten views as the trick for a successful evening. In her book Go-To Dinners, Garten reveals that offering drinks as soon as guests arrive can help create a jovial atmosphere. "There's something about offering a guest a special drink that says, 'We're having a party!' and 'I'm happy to see you'," she says. Whether you've created special cocktails for the occasion or have a bottle of white wine chilled in anticipation of your guests' arrival, making sure drinks are flowing as soon as the doorbell rings can set your dinner party off to a solid beginning. 

Keep drinks front and center as guests warm up to the evening

Serving cocktails, wine, beer, or mocktails to guests as they arrive at your dinner party can help your friends settle into the space and get to know one another before dinner is served. Offering a drink is a simple gesture that can help guests feel at ease and relax while others arrive. Plus, socializing with an object in hand can help ease social anxieties and get strangers to open up in unfamiliar environments. 

Create themed drink recipes that complement your planned dinner menu or serve wine varieties that carry stories that help guests share memories or planned travel goals. Set out question cards on both side-of-the-room and central coffee tables for guests to browse to start interesting conversations of their own. The key, Ina Garten revealed to CBS News, is to prepare and plan drink menus in advance so that, as the host, you appear calm and collected, regardless of when and how guests arrive at the affair and how nervous you might be to host.