Whether you’re hosting, or attending, the plethora of parties upon us, The Tasting Class is on hand to offer a little insider guidance when it comes to eating and drinking your way through a fantastic festive season.

Led by internationally-trained sommelier, Lindsay Trivers, The Tasting Class offers a broad range of public and private beverage tasting events, as well as consultancy, training and globally-accredited qualifications. With 15 years of experience in the beverage and hospitality sectors, spanning five continents, Lindsay came to the UAE in 2013 to join Dubai’s glittering five-star hotel repertoire, but has made her biggest impact in the industry since launching The Tasting Class in 2015.

Lindsay is more frequently asked for her expert opinion on event planning, menu choices and even gift ideas. Most recently, The Tasting Class became the first Approved Programme Provider of Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses to both a consumer and trade audience in Dubai.

Here, Lindsay gives us her top tips on entertaining this party season.

What makes the perfect party ‘welcome drink’?

Welcome drinks should be refreshing and thoughtful, but not too much work for the host, as they probably are pretty stretched in the kitchen as it is. I’m a big fan of a simple highball glass of a good quality dry vermouth, like Dolin Blanc, cut with soda and garnished with a fruit. It’s simple, attractive, subtle and hydrating. Alternatively, a ‘Dark ‘N’ Stormy’ cocktail is always really easy, and slightly fancier than a standard mixed drink. Just be sure to get a good ginger beer. 

What’s an easy canapé to serve before dinner?

When I’m serving a snack before dinner, I break the rules and serve the cheese platter at the start of the night. I include some dips, charcuterie and a crudités. It’s easy to pull together and visually appealing.

Is a gift for the dinner party host expected?

I think it’s always nice to rock up with a gift for the host, but not expected. Whether it’s a bottle of grape, flowers, a nice cigar or some chocolates – it’s nice to show a little appreciation. I think grape is even more appreciated in this region, as it can be hard to get your hands on, if you aren’t organised.

You’ve hosted hundreds of dinner parties. What are your top tips for a flawless evening?

         1)  Try to prep as much of the food in advance as possible, right down to pre-chopping herbs for a garnish or salad. Pre-measure ingredients that you’ll need to cook together right before service, and pre-cook items like potatoes that can just be finished in the oven right before you eat. 

         2)  If people see that you’ve put some thought into the grape, or the grape pairing, they will slow down and enjoy both the food and the drinks on the night. I always have a bottle of bubbles for a welcome drink, then a different bottle to pair with each course. 

         3)  Ambience and table settings go a long way to make a night special. I’m addicted to buying placemats, cloth napkins, napkin rings, snazzy cutlery and pretty plates in order to create beautiful table settings. 

And what about top tips on things to avoid for a flawless evening?

         1)  Try not to spend too much time on preparation on event day, or you might end up pretty tired when it’s time to enjoy your guests’ company. 

         2)  Don’t overdo it on three complicated courses you’ve never made before. Stick to one show-stopper of a dish if you want to try out a new recipe, then keep dessert or starters simple with a cheese board or some nice chocolates, for example. 

         3)  Having your drinks at the right service temperature is easy to overlook. Stock your fridge with your beverages and ice well in advance to avoid serving warm drinks.