Hosting pre-drinks: your chic guide on what to drink, serve, and wear

23 January 2024
By Fashion Quarterly

If you're new to hosting or simply want to elevate your next event, we consult the experts on which rules to follow.

Image: Broste Copenhagen/Instagram.

The art of pre-drinks involves more than just pouring beverages, it’s about executing an atmosphere that seamlessly blends style, flavour, and ambiance. The best events feel effortlessly pulled together but the reality for most is that they do, in fact, require a lot of effort. If you’re new to hosting or simply want to elevate your next event, we consult the experts on which rules to follow. 

“Wine and food should enhance and complement each other, from a flavour and textural perspective,” suggests Gwen by Church Road global wine ambassador Jim Robertson. “My advice is to have fun and be adventuress rather than trying to make it an exact science.”

Below, we will explore the ideal wine selection to have on hand and their delectable platter accompaniments, a guide on staging the perfect tablescape, and how to look the part, that will all make you the epitome of host with the mostess. 

5 rules to follow for pre-event hosting

Rule 1. Keep wines light and bright

Summer events lend themselves to enjoying wonderful white and rosé wines, both of which suit being sipped and savoured alongside lighter cuisine and are refreshing enough to enjoy on those warm days and evenings outdoors.

Robertson suggests choosing a selection of elegant dry style wines for maximum indulgence particularly when your guests are faced with extremely warm outdoor temperatures. “The [Gwen by Church Road] 2022 Chardonnay is refined, mineral driven, rather than buttery and oaky making it a refreshing sip,” he says. The Pinot Gris, he adds, possesses pear and floral notes with fresh acidity, while the crowd-pleasing Rosé brims with  red berry fruit flavours, light florals and soft herbs — three wine options that are made for summer enjoyment.

Rule 2. Perfect your platters with complementary flavour pairings

When assembling pre-event platters or hors d’oeuvres, consider which profiles in the wine you’d like to raise. For example, the acidic and stone fruit profile of the 2022 Gwen by Church Road Chardonnay lifts the saltiness and umami flavours from oysters, crayfish and sashimi, while the 2022 Gwen by Church Road Pinot Gris pairs well with salads such as burrata and tomato, fresh goats cheese with rocket, or lemon chicken skewers, suggests Robertson. Serving Rosé? You can’t go wrong with charcuterie or Mediterranean classics like prosciutto and melon.

Image: Tim Marshall. Supplied.
Image: Tim Marshall. Supplied.

Rule 3. If in doubt, refer to the regions

If the aforementioned rules have you left you feeling more confused, keep it simple and let the wine’s origin set the tone for your food accompaniments. “New Zealand’s wine regions deliver some wonderful aromatics, flavours and textures that marry so well with riches of the region,” says Robertson. “Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with oysters and mussels, Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay with roast chicken or lobster Salad, Wairarapa and Central Otago Pinot Noirs with Venison or what I’m planning tonight; Blue Cod fish and chips with a bottle of Mumm Central Otago Blanc de Noirs.”

Rule 4. Set the scene

Creating a stylish and inviting spread for hosting a pre-event soiree in summer requires a blend of vibrant decor and practical serveware. The warmer temperatures invite you to incorporate pops of colour. Try elegant vases filled with bright seasonal florals or foliage. Or for more evening-appropriate settings, consider the centuries-old Japanese art of ikebana and craft a minimalist arrangement. If you’re hosting a formal dinner, use vibrant napkins or linen options with coloured details. Embrace the summer theme with citrus-infused water in stylish pitchers and complete the setting with comfortable and stylish outdoor-friendly seating, such as woven chairs or seasonal hued cushions. 

Olive Linen Wavy Linen Napkin - Blush/Coral (Set of 4), $69.99
Broste Smoked Cocktail Glass, $36.99 from A&C Homestore.
Image: In The Roundhouse.

Need inspiration?

Try: Olive Linen (offers rental options), In The Roundhouse, Maison Balzac, and Broste Copenhagen

Rule 5. Plan your outfit in advance

Choosing your outfit in advance when hosting an event alleviates last-minute stress, allowing you to focus on the final event preparations and tending to any guests who arrive earlier than expected. Aligning your outfit with the theme or dress code of the event will ensure you feel confident and comfortable throughout the event — which also has a positive flow on effect for your guests’ experience. Opt for lightweight linens, experiment with playful prints, and always choose footwear that balances functionality with form. Summer events are the ideal environment to break out your fun and sophisticated accessories, too.

Caitlin Crisp ‘Adrift’ dress, $450. Ulla Johnson ‘Eleni’ top, $665, from Net-a-porter. Otiumberg ‘Tied’ hoops, $249, from Superette. Meadowlark ‘Bon Bon’ bracelet, $589. Caitlin Crisp ‘Charleston Mini’ dress, $425. Jennifer Behr ‘Kate’ headband, $355, from Net-a-porter. La Tribe x Caitlin Crisp ‘High Wedge Espadrille‘, $339. 

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