Number of guests: 12 to 25
Save the date: 4-8 weeks in advance
Invitations: 3-6 weeks in advance
A Drop in the Bucket
If there’s a jar on your bar, it should be stuffed with market-fresh garnishes, not dollar bills. We can’t say this more emphatically: Asking your guests to tip the bartender is a bunk move. Your best bet? Settle on a price ahead of time with the drink maker that includes gratuities. This way it’s clear up front you’ve got it covered, and you don’t need to stay sober to talk finances at last call.
Pour Your Heart Out
A DIY drink station will please thirsty hordes when the bartender is backed up. Steve Livigni (the Chestnut Club and Scoppa Italian Roots) offers this recommendation: “Buy a variety of spirits—gin, vodka, white whiskey, mescal, pisco, cachaca, agricole—and a few tonics. Put out garnishes and let folks go at it.”
Master of the Mix
Matthew Biancaniello is L.A.’s most buzzed about bartender. His company, EatYourDrink, pops up at restaurants around town, and for the right price ($2,500 and higher), he’ll come to you. His specialty: multicourse omakase-style cocktails that use organic spirits, Névé artisanal ice, and ingredients from his garden or foraged from the Santa Monica Mountains.
A sample of Biancaniello’s most extravagant menu:
Alcoholic oysters drizzled with meaty pechuga (a pricey mescal-like spirit) and topped with a lobe of sea urchin
Monkey 47 gin martini crowned with osetra caviar
Heated hand towel soaked in bergamot and mint
30-year-old Laphroaig scotch, neat
Eggnog infused with white truffles
A stunning layered drink that features an old-fashioned made with 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle floating atop a Sazerac made with 25-year-old Rittenhouse rye
A bottle of rhubarb-infused Saint Germain liqueur to take home—if you can make it there
House Calls: These Rent-a-Bartender Services do the Shaking for You
Magixology brings in drink slingers you may recognize from top local bars such as Harlowe and Honeycut to tailor cocktails for your party, while magicians who have appeared (and disappeared) at the Magic Castle perform tricks. Packages start at $15 a person.
The Spare Room at the Hollywood Roosevelt hotel offers a cocktail catering service that provides everything, from the Spare Room’s vintage barware and skilled bartenders to the small-batch booze and house-crafted seasonal syrups and garnishes. Packages are tailored to any theme and group size; basic service starts at $20 a head.
For Heat Seekers
La Guelaguetza’s Michemobile offers several varieties of michelada—the hot sauce-spiked, salt-rimmed beer drink—but the converted van also features a DJ booth, two turntables, and four beer taps. For $450 an hour (three hours minimum), they bring the party to your house.
For Club Kids
SBE’s Collins Cocktail Catering transforms your home into the SBE bar of your choice (hotties in heels not included), complete with signature drinks like the Bazaar’s liquid nitrogen caipirinhas. Or you can work with the bartenders to customize cocktails. Prices range from $15 to $25 a person.
Ask the mixologist at your preferred watering hole if he or she can make those fancy bevs for your fancy fete. With enough notice (and a fair fee), most pros are happy to ditch the regular gig for a night and party with their favorite barfly.
The bar makes the party, and these items make the bar. Joseph Brooke’s must-haves:
Even the most attentive mixologist values the precision of this gadget, which ensures consistency with every dash.
Cane Sugar Sodas
Brooke chooses naturally sweetened soft drinks, with the exception of standbys ginger ale and Coke.
Pisco, a spirit fermented from grapes, is the hooch du jour. Honor tradition with a pisco sour or try a chilcano (pisco, lime, and ginger ale).
Toothpicks are so passé. Skewering fruit on reusable metal spears adds a sophisticated flourish to drinks.
Ebaloy Citrus Squeezer
Cocktails made with fresh juice are always appreciated. With two spouts for pouring, the Ebaloy does double duty.
The 86 Co. Spirits
Ergonomic bottles—with scored lines for batch drinks—set this brand’s gin, rum, tequila, and vodka apart.
Highland Park Scotch
This complex whiskey has more notes than a Bach concerto. Sip slowly.
Italian Mixing Glass
The contraption can mix up to five drinks at a time. Negronis all around!
Rye whiskey? More like rye risky: At 100 proof this small-batch spirit is dangerous but delicious.
Brooke says guests love this cute fruit. A lidded (and trendy) mason jar discourages finger-foraging.
Like wine, terroir can affect tequila. The acidity in this “highland” brand (distilled at a high elevation) balances drinks.
Bartenders touch all sorts of nasty things (like cash). Lemon wedges stay germ-free with this tool.