The delicious swan song of booze transforms what could simply be a polite gathering into that magical beast known as a party. Alcohol is fuel for the grand dynamo of fun; it relieves your guests of the burden of good judgment, and suffuses them with the ecstatic light of inebriation. A party, when injected with enough liquor, can be less an event than a giddy crucible. If done right, such a party should lead to accusations, moments of brutal honesty, the shedding of clothes, broken furniture, ecstatic dancing, professions of undying love, and tests of strength and endurance (though not necessarily in that order).
Should the drunken stars align, the next morning will find a floor strewn with bodies, and limited memory of the night before. Which is as it should be—a party with enough booze can cleanse one's soul. You rise, hung over but emotionally unburdened. Granted, a party doesn't have to go that far. Still it's best, before your guests arrive, to prepare for a potential swerve toward the mad, inebriated abyss.
But how to get started? You've sent invitations, and prepared enough sustenance to ensure the burgeoning horde won't go from sober to sloppy in an hour flat. You've stowed your Precious Moments figurines or your limited-edition Millennium Falcon model, or whatever the hell else you don't want demolished or absconded with. You've arranged the furniture for maximum stumbling room and dimmed the lights to that special twilight, dive-bar glow. Now, have you got the booze, buckaroo?
The big question is, "How much should I get?" Here's the thing: Everybody's got an answer and none are right. You're the best judge. After all, you've been blitzed before with the savages you call friends, and know how much they can put away. To be safe, I'd suggest at least one fifth each of whiskey, gin, and vodka. These will appease just about any drinker, as long as you have enough mixers and ice. For the love of god, don't forget the ice! Always overestimate. The worst that could happen is you'll wake up the next day without enough booze left over for a cure. Round out your selection with a shooting gallery: tequila, Jäger, etc.
Buying cheap hooch is fine (we're in a recession, damnit!) but your pals will appreciate something a bit higher on the shelf. You'll score extra points with the civic minded by stocking local booze. Lucky for us we've got plenty in Portland: Just ask your neighborhood liquor-store clerk. Remember, if you've got a special bottle you'd rather not waste on a passing drunk, hide it somewhere a boozehound couldn't possibly sniff out. The danger is you may never be able to remember where you put the damn stuff. Guests should be civilized enough to bring their own wine or beer, but just in case, there's nothing wrong with icing down a 12-pack of PBR.
Now you're stocked up. The guests will arrive any moment. Hopefully you've decided to start the evening showcasing your mixology skills. Pick an easy cocktail, something with class. As your guests arrive, mix their first round. After that, it's time to abandon the bar and let them fend for themselves. The last thing you want is to be schlepping drinks while your pals have all the fun. However, you can skip this process by making a punch.
It's unfortunate that punch has been so long neglected. It's a shame, really—there are so many delicious, high-octane varieties. Punch builds community and allows the host to join the party. I know you probably don't have a punch bowl, but you know who does? Just about every damn thrift store or consignment shop east of the river. Seriously, every household should have one. It's a necessity.
Once everyone has quaffed the first round and complimented your skills with vermouth and a shaker, it's time for you to join the bacchanalia. Here's a fact: No one wants a fussy, sober host. Yes, they want an attentive host, but not a smothering blanket of hospitality. How do you walk that line? Drink up. Sure, your attentiveness may take a powder, but I guarantee your guests will be far more entertained by your shenanigans than if you'd been drinking responsibly.
The best part about getting smashed at your own party is you don't need to find a way home, plus you're only cut off when the floor leaps up to smack you on the head. Whatever happens, approach your party with confidence and bravado. This is your show. Own it. But let the magic happen. You've launched a sturdy vessel of drunkenness and there's no telling where it might land. Just repeat after me: "Should things get weird, I will take my hands of the rudder."
LANCE MAYHEW, head of the Oregon Bartenders Guild, was happy to provide Mercury readers with the following punch recipes to get their party started.
The Mayhew Sangria
4 bottles cheap red wine (Mayhew suggests Charles Shaw Shiraz at Trader Joe's) 6 oz. Grand Marnier 2 oz. VSOP-level brandy or cognac (Mayhew suggests Martell) 4 Valencia oranges, sliced thin (not navels) 2 Granny Smith apples, sliced thin 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half 9 cloves, studded onto 1 slice of apple 1 cup granulated sugar
Combine all ingredients in a large apothecary jar or punch bowl, stir to incorporate sugar into the mix, cover, refrigerate overnight before serving. Can be cut with sparkling water 50/50 for a lighter option.
"What's sangria but the best punch ever?" Mayhew asks. His own sangria recipe blends autumn flavors and packs a wallop of boozy goodness.
The Cunnningham's London Fog
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream 2 cups bourbon 2 cups cold coffee
Put all ingredients in a punchbowl, mix halfheartedly, and pour.
The claim is that the Cunningham's London Fog, a Christmas tradition for Mayhew's wife's family, has never produced a hangover—even after a full punchbowl of the stuff. Holly jolly, indeed.
1 bottle decent-quality vodka (Lovejoy is just fine)
1 gallon good-quality apple cider
8 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients with ice in a punch bowl, and dust each cup of punch with a light sprinkling of ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Garnish with cinnamon sticks.
Mayhew's Stonewall 1969 was created for a Basic Rights Oregon fundraiser and works as another fine autumn punch. Mix it up for your Proposition 8 protest party.
HAWTHORNE LIQUOR STORE
Cozy little shop with great staff and sizeable local booze selection.
4638 SE Hawthorne, 235-1573, Mon-Thurs 10 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-8 pm
CENTER PLAZA LIQUOR STORE
This hidden gem is one of the few booze pavilions to sell on the Lord's Day. Yet it still hasn't been struck down by lightning.
2075 SW 1st, 241-9354, Mon-Sat 11 am-7 pm, Sun 1-6 pm
PEARL SPECIALTY MARKET & SPIRITS
The selection might be pricy, but if you're looking for those rare alcoholic goodies, this is your place.
900 NW Lovejoy, 477-8604, Mon-Sat 10 am-10 pm, Sun noon-6 pm
HOLLYWOOD LIQUOR STORE
Looks like the new owners have eyes on being the best liquor store in Northeast Portland. Look for their ever-expanding local booze section.
3738 NE Sandy, 284-0987, Mon-Thurs 11 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 11 am-10 pm, Sun 11 am-6 pm