How to Throw a Great Party in Six Steps

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By Jaime Gillin / Published by Dwell
We captured the highlights of a recent party at Laura Gabbert and Andrew Avery's Los Angeles house for our September 2012 story "American Pastoral." As evidenced in the magazine and our extended photo slideshow online, this family really knows how to entertain. Here, six tips from Gabbert and Avery on throwing a fun and inviting party—plus, a recipe for a garden-fresh Gimlet.
How to Throw a Great Party in Six Steps - Photo 1 of 4 - Invite kids, grandparents, and other guests outside of your age bracket to keep the conversation lively and unexpected.

Invite kids, grandparents, and other guests outside of your age bracket to keep the conversation lively and unexpected.

How to Throw a Great Party in Six Steps - Photo 2 of 4 - No dress code, no fancy place settings, and keep shoes optional. Stay casual and your guests will feel at ease.

No dress code, no fancy place settings, and keep shoes optional. Stay casual and your guests will feel at ease.

1. Involve friends. Gabbert and Avery tap their network of ambitious home-chef friends to help with pre-party prep. "It makes the party more fun and participatory," says Gabbert. "We do a lot of orchestrated potlucks."

2. Go intergenerational.

3. Be informal.

4. Curate an eclectic playlist. An iPod loaded with a wide variety of songs keeps ears intrigued and toes tapping. "We play a little of everything," says Gabbert. Some of her favorite artists include:

Celia Cruz
The Shins
Tord Gustavsen Trio
Blundetto
Kronos Quartet
Bon Iver
The Flaming Lips
Bill Evans
Blind Pilot
Nina Simone

5. Create good lighting. Avery suggests using fire indoors and electricity outdoors. Light candles or the fireplace, and string bistro lights or electric lanterns in the garden for sparkle.

How to Throw a Great Party in Six Steps - Photo 3 of 4 - Making the Gabbert Giblet, a modern, garden-fresh interpretation of a favorite family recipe.

Making the Gabbert Giblet, a modern, garden-fresh interpretation of a favorite family recipe.

6. Serve a signature drink. Whether it’s a favorite wine or a memorable cocktail, a house drink makes for a powerful party ritual. Here’s a Southern California variation on the Bootleg, a drink that was a Gabbert family standard when they lived in Minnesota.

How to Throw a Great Party in Six Steps - Photo 4 of 4 -

In the open-plan kitchen, bowls and platters by Heath Ceramics and bamboo trays and tongs from Design House Stockholm decorate the farm-to-table buffet on the steel-topped kitchen island.

Gabbert Gimlet (makes 6)
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup fresh mint, plus extra
for garnish
½ cup freshly squeezed
lime juice
½ to 1 cup superfine sugar
Ice
6 shots vodka or gin (Gabbert uses Reyka Vodka or Broker’s Gin)
Club soda (Gabbert uses Gerolsteiner sparkling mineral water)

Puree parsley, mint, lime juice, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Fill six cocktail classes with ice and shots of vodka or gin. Divide pureed mixture between the six glasses.

Top each glass with a splash of club soda for a bit of saltiness. Stir and garnish with whole mint leaves.