It's house party time!

We're entertaining more at home these days so Katie Byrne has some tips for how to get the party started

Katie Byrne

It's party season again. But most of us can't afford to be too lavish and this year, the home is the centre of the action.

House parties always create a better atmosphere and now they cost less money than ever to put on. Where once hosts hired in caterers, they are now dusting down their cookery books. Likewise, a few well-chosen bottles of wine go down just as well as a full bar. Add to this all manner of off-licence deals and impressive supermarket party food offerings and there really is no place like home if you're entertaining in the run-up to Christmas.

The invites

The rule of thumb is to invite about 20pc more people than you expect to attend, but according to celebrity party organiser Joanne Byrne: "Invites are a perennial worry because Irish people don't understand the concept of RSVPing."

Byrne recommends using Facebook to send invites. Make sure the last guests standing at last year's party are first on your invite list this year, and try to invite a good ratio of single to attached people.

The warm welcome

Treat guests to award-winning mixologist Paul Lambert's Hot Spiced Buttered Rum on arrival (see

For each drink, combine 50ml of aged rum (Bacardi Gold or Bacardi 8) along with 100/120ml of boiling water and one spoonful of sugar in a hot whiskey glass. Stir before using the hot spoon to add a spoonful of the spice butter on top.

The wines

Avail of the latest off-licence deals to find great-tasting wines at recession-busting prices -- with thanks for the recommendations to wine expert David Whelehan (Twitter@Whelehanswines).

> For an exciting Champagne, try Charles Heidsieck Brut NV, €37.99 @ Dunnes Stores, SuperValu and Centra.

> For great value fizz, try Marks & Spencer Prestige Brut Cava, €11.79.

> For a juicy red, try Protocolo 2008, on promotion at O'Brien's, €7.99.

> For a captivating white, try Alamos Chardonnay 2009 (Argentina) €8 from Dunnes Stores.

The cocktail

Usher in the festive season with the Gingerbread Daiquiri, created by Paul Lambert.

The dish

'Nosh in a Box' is the latest party trend pioneered by chef Naomi Byrne of Naomi's Kitchen. Homemade hot dishes are served in recyclable, New York-style paper takeaway dishes.

The second sitting

Be prepared to serve up another hot dish should your guests still be there in the early hours. Chef Naomi Byrne suggests gourmet mini burgers, "gorgeous to look at but not at all pretentious". Byrne binds her homemade burgers with Roquefort cheese and serves them with homemade buns, onion relish and mini gherkins all held together with a cocktail stick.

The dessert

Marks & Spencer has pulled out all the stops this year with a great selection of party desserts. The mini dessert sandwiches and brownie lollipops taste as good as they look.

The playlist

Pre-programme your iPod with songs early in the evening.

DJ Mo Kelly's (right) top Five party tunes

Maximum Balloon, Tiger. "Loving the whole album at the minute."

Rolling Stones, Gimmie Shelter. "Classic Stones tune."

Debra Dolce, Goodies: ZC Dolce Mix. "Dancy and clubby, but gets people shaking their 'goodies'!"

Hot 8 Brass Band, Sexual Healing. "The cutest, happiest cover I have ever heard."

Q-Tip, Breathe and Stop. "Classic hip-hop."


What would a house party be without a few ridiculous games? Yes, you'll make a fool out of yourself but that's half the fun. Try some of these on for size:

The Accent Game: Foolish but hilarious. All you need is a map and some well-oiled guests. Each player is asked to master the accent from various countries around the world with the simple words: "I'm from {insert country here}." The other players vote on its authenticity, or lack thereof.

Blindfolded Pairs: One member of a couple is blindfolded while the rest of the non-blindfolded party wait in a line to be identified. The blindfolded person has to identify his/her partner, but they can only touch one body part on each person. Works a treat if the mother-in-law is also in attendance.

Name That Tune: Divide the party into two teams. Each team is played the first five or 10 seconds of a song from which they have to name the title and artist. A game that becomes highly competitive very quickly.

Quotable Quotes: Before dinner, place a different phrase under each of your dinner guests' plates. The phrases should be convincing but slightly bizarre. Think: "The weather in Moscow is terrible at this time of year" or "I love music but I really love to dance". The objective is for each guest to use the phrase as naturally as they can in conversation while others figure out who has just used the assigned phrase. Whoever uses their phrase last is the loser.

The little touches

Add star anise to ice cube trays and add wild hibiscus flowers in syrup (from good off licences and online) to your fizz. Place scented candles in bathrooms and line mantelpieces and banisters with fairylights.

The transport

How about a karaoke taxi? Cab driver David Dennis has Fairytale of New York, Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and All I Want For Christmas ready in his in-car karaoke unit; €70 for a one-hour session, meter rates otherwise. Book a couple of days in advance. Call 086 221 3425.

Party checklist

> After alcohol, plenty of seating is the most important aspect of a successful party.

> Contact the neighbours in advance to let them know about your party.

> Remember to introduce people.

> Keep Club Soda for red wine stains. In the event of a spillage, moisten a clean cloth with it and gently blot the stain out.

> Try to provide a sheltered outdoor smoking area with plenty of ashtrays. If you don’t have an outdoor heater, consider investing in an outdoor fire basket which can be bought relatively cheaply online.

> Resist making it a costume party. Most won’t want to invest in another costume so soon after Hallowe’en.

> Move pets to a safe place.

> Have extra loo paper and put extra wash towels in the bathrooms. Keep stocks replenished throughout the evening.

> Never clean up around guests. It makes them feel uneasy, unless of course you are making an effort to get them to leave.

> Fill the kitchen sink with hot, soapy water as the first guests arrive. It will make glass cleaning easier.

> Appoint a bedroom as a cloakroom.

> Have at least three corkscrews on hand — they tend to get mislaid.