A Few Words on Throwing a Holiday Party They’ll Never Forget

To mistletoe, or not to mistletoe?

By The Editors
November 30, 2016 9:00 am

Yesterday, we went over the rules of navigating your company holiday party with grace, good humor and aplomb.

Today, we turn the tables: How does a man host a holiday party that his closest consorts will never forget?

Some of the roles and rules remain the same: Dress smart but not flashy. Never take the last hors d’oeuvre. Don’t end up under the table — or a coworker.

But others take a little know-how.

So we’re breaking you off with a proverbial host of holiday hosting tips, from the city’s most slept-on private event spaces, to the best restaurants in town that cater, to 10 jokes that are relatively tame but still thoroughly funny.

And don’t forget the mistletoe.

OK, so you’re throwing a holiday party.

First question: Where?

Your house is out. Too familiar. Too intimate. Plus you just had the carpets cleaned and interns are not to be trusted with red wine, no matter how adept they’ve proven at ferrying coffee orders around the office.

The bar down the street? Also out. How are your charges supposed to be inspired by a leader who can’t come up with something better than the bar down the street for the beloved annual holiday party?

No. This year, you’re taking ‘em somewhere special. Below: three private Chicago event spaces available for nightly rental, as indexed by the size of your shindig.


“How’d you find this place?” It’s what your guests will be asking upon entering DL Loft. Located in the heart of Lincoln Park, this gorgeously appointed studio is the perfect venue for intimate get-togethers, where among the vintage Parisian decor, a professional chef’s kitchen and dramatic window will impress. The space seats up to 30 comfortably, but make no mistake: the smaller the gathering here, the better.


If you’re of the creative persuasion, Low Res Studio is an ideal backdrop. This place has style. It’s got character. It’s built to inspire big ideas, and that’s something you can’t buy. Of interest: a convertible stage, open kitchen, bar and lounge, plus one-of-a-kind touches like a Klipsch sound system and a vintage 1950s chemical photo booth.


For full-scale blowout parties, the spiffy new Lakewood space from Paramount Events can be flipped and screwed to meet any and all needs. The possibilities, they say, are endless. Big bonus here: the venue features an on-site kitchen helmed by chef Devon Quinn that can pair each occasion with a custom menu with ingredients sourced by an on-property urban garden.

What do they want?!


What do you want?!

To not do the dishes!

There’s a solve for that. It’s called hiring out, and it doesn’t have to mean those same insipid crab cakes and spanakopita people were wadding up in napkins and discreetly discarding at last year’s party.

Below, three very fine Chicago-area dining establishments that you may or may not have known also do house calls.


Chef-prepared salads. Smoked meats from Green Street Smoked Meats. Arguably the best burger in town. You’ll have plenty of options with 3 Greens Market — the all-day food hall concept from restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff that opened earlier this year. The market’s online catering form is easy enough to fill out, giving you more time to focus on everything else.


Just launched, the catering program from Seven Lions offers the restaurant’s greatest hits, without the trip to Michigan Avenue. The real win here is in the hors d’oeuvres trays, which range from a selection of cheese and charcuterie to traditional devilled eggs. But a host would not be wrong for going all in on any of the sandwiches or entrees.


A classic among classics when it comes to decking out parties with the best food this city has to offer, Boka Catering offers a wide range of options led by Michelin-starred Chef Giuseppe Tentori. Throwing a seat dinner? Looking for buffet-style bites? How about a chef cooking station? Boka Catering has it all. Question now is, does your party?

“Make me a drink!” they say.

And when they do, you better have something superior to a whiskey ginger up your sleeve.

Enter the InsideHook Cocktail Quarterly, Vol. XIV, flush with seven holiday tipples every host, guest and jolly uncle needs this season.

For your devices as host — and a busy one, who is probably making too many introductions to be mixing cosmos at breakneck — we recommend something large format, like the Pilgrim’s Punch.


10 oz. Belvedere RED
14 oz cloudy apple cider
3 oz allspice syrup
4 oz. lemon juice
4 lemon wheels
4 orange wheels
5 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large punch bowl and stir. Serves 6-8.

Nota bene: For every specially designed Belvedere purchased, 50% of the proceeds go towards the fight against AIDS via the (RED) organization. You can purchase a bottle here.


Among the many roles a great host will have to play on the night of the big shindig? Making sure all the trains run on time. Don’t be the guy whipping his phone out every five minutes to make sure the roast isn’t overcooking. Do be the guy glancing down gracefully at the most dashing — and more pertinent to this scenario, accurate — ticker in the room, the the Oris Divers Sixty-Five 42mm, a revival of a model the independent Swiss watchmaker first introduced in the 1960s. It’s updated here with anti-corrosive stainless steel and a scratch-resistant sapphire lens, and for value, it can’t be beat.

“Leave politics and religion out of it.”

Every man has at some point been told these words by his partner — or his parents, or his children — immediately before entering someone’s holiday party.

But right now, things are different. Because right now, there are two Americas, they don’t play nice with each other, and they’re making very little effort to listen to what the other side has to say.

So this year, we challenge you to ignore the rules of polite dinner conversation: G’head. Talk politics. But before you go in guns blazing, exercise a few simple rules of conduct to make sure things don’t end in donnybrooks.

Challenge beliefs, not the people who hold them. Just because someone voted for Trump doesn’t make them a racist.

Listen. What’s the feeling behind someone’s stance? Are they an environmentalist because they connect to the earth the same way you connect to religion? If so, then you understand why they have that belief. Boom, common ground.

Ask questions. How did they arrive at their conclusions?

Be self-deprecating. Even if the other person is incapable of doing it. It’s charming, and can lighten the mood when things get tense.

Breathe and mind your body language. Don’t cross your arms. Don’t roll your eyes. Be open with your posture as well as your mind. You’re having a conversation, and you should feel lucky to have the freedom to take part in one.

Know your positions. Don’t go into your conversations half-cocked. Read up. Cite credible sources. The Economist and The Atlantic do a thorough job that doesn’t skew as one-sided as, say, The New Yorker.

Curb Your Enthusiasm star Jeff Garlin once told Esquire, “There’s only one true superpower amongst human beings, and that is being funny.”

And while it’s true that humor is a gift you either have or you don’t, there is a way to appear funnier than you actually are — if only for the space of a night. It’s called knowing a good joke, and it requires naught but a sharp memory and some semblance of comedic timing to execute.

Below, 10 that check all the boxes for the perfect office party joke: A) they are short — and thus easy to memorize; B) they are all-ages-appropriate (relatively); and C) they are funny. Actually funny.

How do you tell if someone’s a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

A Buddhist walks up to a hot dog stand and says, “Make me one with everything.”

Say what you want about deaf people …

A nurse finds a rectal thermometer in her pocket and thinks to herself, “Hey — some asshole has my pen.”

I asked my North Korean friend how it was over there. He said he can’t complain.

A Roman guy walks up to a bar, holds up two fingers and says to the bartender, “Five beers, please.”

I have an inferiority complex. But it’s not a very good one.

You can never lose a homing pigeon. If your homing pigeon never comes back, what you had was a pigeon.

My ex-wife still misses me — but her aim’s getting better.

A woman asks a bartender for a double entendre, so he gives it to her.

Giving a toast is to the drinking man what saying grace is to the God-fearing one:

It honors. It thanks. It makes us laugh.

And it acknowledges the importance of the moment and all those present, which is why we drink in the first place.

To give a good toast requires tact, perspective and a few good words. So we reached out to some of our favorite bartenders, CEOs and one of TV’s funniest writers for some advice on how they’ll be toasting their nearest and dearest over the holidays.


John Harris
Bar Manager, Virgin Hotel Chicago

“A toast to the old, to those who made it through and those who did not. May you reflect well on the good times and learn from the hard ones. A toast to the new, to those who will make it through and those who will not. May we revel greatly in the good times and learn from the hard ones.”

John Harris oversees bar program in all four bar and restaurant concepts at the ultra sexy, one-year-old Virgin Hotel Chicago.


Stephane Bombet
Owner, Bombet Hospitality

“Some days are difficult to go through. Then there are moments like tonight, amongst friends, and I’m filled with joy and happiness deep in my heart. Lets remember this moment and enjoy every minute of it. Because that’s what life is all about. Carpe Diem!”

Stephane Bombet is the Los Angeles restaurateur behind Bombet Hospitality, which recently opened two new spots in one month: Viviane and Hanjip. He also owns Terrine and Picca, with more to come in 2016.


Mehar Sethi
Writer and Producer, BoJack Horseman

“To alcohol and thumbs, the only two things that separate man from beast.”

“A toast to that family member who cracks a bottle of wine at 2 PM on Christmas. We were all thinking it.”

“To Australians, for making all of America’s drinking problems seem a little less severe.”

“To my Tinder Family: because every Tinder sister is special in her own anonymous way that is fun once and rarely again.”

Mehar Sethi is a television writer and producer who has written for BoJack Horseman, The Cleveland Show and Robot Chicken. He paid a marketing team six-thousand dollars to write this bio.


Michael P. Davidson
CEO, GenNext

“I hear it’s ‘that time of year.’ Anyone here have any idea what that means? Angry shoppers, nosy relatives, hectic schedules. All small things.

‘That time of year’ should mean reflection, gratitude and a wink to the year ahead. All big things. Big things that are only words without each of you here tonight.

So here’s to the big things, and to experiencing them together all year round. Cheers!”

Michael Davidson is the CEO of GenNext, an organization of leaders who seek and inspire pragmatic and creative solutions to issues surrounding education, economic development, and global security.


Brett David
Creative Director, The Line Group

“May your intentions be better, but decisions be worse, and give a bit more of that change from your purse.”

As Creative Director at The Line Group, Brett David oversees the cocktail list and ambience at four of NYC’s hippest bars and nightclubs.


Quy “Q” Nguyen
CEO, Allyance Communications

“I’m so glad my other good friends were busy tonight, so I get to spend it with you guys. In all seriousness, I’m truly blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most amazing, talented and kind-hearted people I could ever ask for. I love when we kick ass and make magic happen for our customers like we did this year. But what I love more is we’re able to share this awesome journey together. Raise your glass … Here’s to continued success with the people you love.”

Quy Nguyen is the CEO of Allyance Communications, which handles the cloud computing and voice and data needs of massive companies like Warner Brothers and Zappos.

And a few old standbys from the InsideHook editorial team:

“To our sons: may they have rich fathers and beautiful mothers.”

“May we get what we want, may we get what we need, but may we never get what we deserve.”

“To our wives and girlfriends — may they never meet.”

“Here’s to staying positive and testing negative.”

“I drank to your health in company. I drank to your health alone. I drank to your health so many times, I’ve nearly ruined my own.”