Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Party Hardy without Alcohol

How to Party Hardy, Alcohol-Free
By April Lisonbee
from our friends at Phired Up Productions

You often hear folks, including Keith, suggesting the use of alcohol as a social lubricant. But what about those who don’t drink?

At Ferrazzi Greenlight alcohol is just one tool in our party kit. Other strategies are just as critical, probably more so, to helping our guests step outside their norms and truly connect with others in an honest, intimate way. With that in mind, I’ve put together an “Alcohol Free” version of our party tricks – along with some of my own ideas for booze-free fun.

1. Ambiance: Setting the mood is critical. I throw a lot of costume parties for this reason. Be creative with space and lighting, and don’t forget the power of music. A well crafted playlist, or several, can transport your guests into a different world. Brazilian or other Latin music is nice, but also fun, pop songs and oldies get people reminiscing and sharing stories that are evoked by the songs. (For more on setting the mood, download Keith’s Holiday Guide.)

2. Activities: Here at FG, some of our favorite group experiences are created around a learning-based activity. Guests will remember you and the party each time they use the trick or skill, and more importantly, it creates that shared experience guests can use as a starting point on their way to creating intimacy. Be creative. Some examples include magic tricks - which are fun, especially card tricks, and easy to teach. Once we brought in a pool shark to show a group of executives trick shots. How memorable is that?

3. Herbal Remedy: No, this is not marijuana or peyote but herbal teas that stimulate similar parts of the brain as alcohol to create empathy, relaxation, and trust. Thanks to Kate Temple-West , The Friendly Herbalist, for providing this list of teas you should consider for any brunch and alcohol free events:

Linden Tea: Makes you feel mellow, relaxed, and happy. Steep 1/2 cup Linden Tea per quart of water for 20-30 minutes in a closed container. It can be served hot or cold. Check out mountainroseherbs.com for bulk info.
Hibiscus and Rooibos Tea with a touch of honey: A great choice for when there are drinkers and non-drinkers together. It contains a lot of Vitamin C, which gives you energy, and the hibiscus is considered to be an aphrodisiac in many cultures. This can be served at room temperature in a pitcher. Looks just like red wine. Steep 1/8 cup each per quart of water for 15 minutes.
Elderberry syrup in sparkling cider: Similar to a virgin Kir Royale. It looks beautiful and has the added benefit of keeping you incredibly healthy while also tasting delicious.
You can also create the feel and fun of a snazzy cocktail by serving fruity, sparkling, or even spicy drinks (or all three?) in a martini glass with a garnish.

4. Guests: We all like fun people and just one person’s enthusiasm can be contagious. Having someone who is “crazy,” extroverted, or has an above average energy can be invaluable, especially in the beginning of the evening when guests are still testing the waters. This isn’t to say you need that crazy college friend who strips down and walks around all night covered in plastic wrap (true story – and he WAS sober) but most people’s energy levels are at a 2 or 3 and interacting with someone with an energy level of 6 or 7 will raise the group to a 4 or 5.

5. You: As the host, YOU are the social hub of activity. It’s your responsibility to connect your guests, engage wall flowers and set the appropriate tone of openness, easily done by first sharing yourself in order to create a safe environment for others to do the same. Don’t be afraid to enlist the assistance of close friends to act as a second You if it’s a large party.

I hope you find these strategies helpful and would love to hear YOUR stories of success, or failure, using them. Also, if you have any other strategies we can use at our next alcohol-free party, please share!
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