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:
Tord Gustavsen Trio
The Flaming Lips
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.
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.
Gabbert Gimlet (makes 6)
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley
½ cup fresh mint, plus extra
½ cup freshly squeezed
½ to 1 cup superfine sugar
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.