The Civilized Minute

a minute of manners and musings

tips for the tipsy

*This is a post I wrote after a porch party last spring. Today’s weather seemed to call for it. Enjoy!

I love all things tipsy.  Not that kind of tipsy. Well, maybe, sometimes, that kind of tipsy.  This is the tipsy I love:  the way a person tips his head toward a friend when they first meet; beautiful edibles offered from a tray as it is tipped in my direction so I can taste something new; the way a new bottle of wine tips sideways in an icy container as it chills; the way the clock tips the day from business to pleasure.  And, I love to tip my glass with friends.  I’ll bet if you stopped to think, you would realize you like getting tipsy, too, but in different ways.

Conducting oneself with grace and ease during these times of tipsy, however, seems to be a lost art.  We’ve all seen it.  Someone holding a glass of wine in one hand and texting with the other.  Someone taking a few nuts from a bowl using their fingers fresh from running them through their hair.  The wallflower who looks and acts miserable.  Then, of course, there is the old fashioned definition of tipsy that always brings obnoxious and embarrassing scenes one hopes never find their way to places like Facebook and Twitter.

So, here are some etiquette tips for the new ways of getting tipsy.


Whether you are planning a full-out event or simply a backyard get-together, relax.  Old etiquette rules would have you wound tight over a few weeds in the beds or not enough linen cocktail napkins.  New etiquette is less about the rules and more about enjoying life in a way that allows you to put your best foot forward. 

  • Where food is concerned, less is more.  Resist the urge to fill up empty space on a table with bowls and saucers of hard to eat and unhealthy fares.  Choose 2 or 3 interesting and tasty treats and be done.  This approach lets you spend less time in the kitchen and more time ensuring your guests are comfortable and enjoying themselves.  Remember, it’s not about the stuff, it’s about enjoying the company. 
  • When you are deciding on what kind of drink to offer, go simple and have fun with it.  You don’t have to wait for a life-changing event to occur before you break out the bubbly.  Have fun with what you serve and how you serve it.  As a break from the expected, use stemless wine glasses to serve sparkling white wine rather than champagne flutes and ice down the bottles in a small planter.  This casual approach makes it easier for new guests to unwind while they meet new friends. Worried this would be viewed as a breach of entertaining etiquette?  Remember, the basis of displaying nice manners is to act in a way that makes yourself look good and others feel comfortable.  Think about it…wouldn’t it be easier to handle a stemless glass rather than a flute while you also juggle a nibble?
  • Reach deep into your address book when coming up with a list of guests.  Bring in new and interesting acquaintances you know would like to meet new people. And,
  • Make sure you are up on your introduction skills.  Use first and last names and offer a tidbit of information on each person so easy conversation will follow.



It’s easy to forget that guests have responsibilities, too.  The burden of a great gathering does not rest solely on the shoulders of the hosts.  Guests should arrive with no expectations of pretension, glamour and glitz.  People are different today versus 3 years ago.  Recent events have taught us to value what is real in life and to appreciate the unexpected.  While you may be tempted to pass judgment on a host’s decision to use paper products or to serve only beer and assorted nuts rather than an elaborate spread, – gasp! – realize that you may be the one who is outdated.  You didn’t hear about this new ale brewed in your hometown? Maybe you weren’t listening when someone said the pecans were gathered in the host’s backyard and toasted just for tonight’s guests.   Be appreciative when you are offered an evening of dialed back formality and enjoy something new.  

  • Offer a toast to your hosts to show appreciation for bringing friends together.  Nothing formal; keep it light.  Just remember to clink with the bottom of the glass so you won’t swap germs.
  • Casual doesn’t mean your manners don’t have to make an appearance.  Appetizers and finger-foods should be taken with a napkin in hand – no eating directly from the tray. Certainly don’t over-indulge since you likely were not invited to be the evening’s entertainment.  If you contributed a food item or bottle of wine, don’t take home the leftovers.  Those are for the hosts.
  • Offer the hosts a hand and replenish food or drink when you notice something is running low. They will appreciate the hand!
  • Mingle.  Your shyness could be misinterpreted to mean you are not enjoying yourself and that is offensive to those who invited you.

Now, gather up some friends and find new ways to get tipsy – nicely.

Try this recipe when you want something tasty to eat, quick to prepare and easy to eat.

Prosciutto Pear Cups

Thinly sliced prosciutto, cut in 4” square pieces to line the cups of a mini-muffin pan

Fresh pear, diced

Goat cheese


Line mini-muffin pan cups with prosciutto, bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crispy.  Prosciutto will pop out of the pan shaped as little cups.  Stack diced pear and a dollop of goat cheese inside the cup.  Drizzle with honey.  Serve with Pearly Bay Celebration.




2 responses to “tips for the tipsy

  1. Jay Remer March 15, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Thanks for these great tips Kate. Makes we want to start outdoor entertaining now! I applaud bringing new people together. I do it all the time. People gasp and then say thank you! I also find that people do not require banquet size helpings of food. Keeping meals simple is easy for everyone. And as for tipsy? Gents should always tip their hat to a lady!

  2. Kate March 16, 2011 at 6:54 am

    Keeping meals simple also help me keep my head during the event…it’s so much more enjoyable when you aren’t so frazzled trying to get the next course or nibble presentable. This makes me want to pull together an outdoor soirre, too. Our weather is almost ready for it!

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