A party doesn’t have to have alcohol to be fun

Published 9:08 am Saturday, January 3, 2009

QUESTION: Remind us again, please, that alcohol doesn’t have to be the primary focus of a party for it to be fun.

ANSWER: Great parties have three ingredients: enjoyable guests, fun things to do and good food. Perhaps you’ve noticed that tough new DUI laws, strict workplace policies and people’s interest in a healthier lifestyle have combined to reduce alcohol’s status on the party priority list.

Measure the appropriateness of serving alcohol for the party you will host. Are most guests non-drinkers? Will children be present? Think about the kinds of messages children receive when alcohol is served at family events.

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Limit the amount of alcohol that is served, if it is offered at all. A good general rule is one drink — a beer, a glass of wine, or a one-shot mixed drink — per hour. That’s about all the average person can handle safely. Place non-alcoholic drinks in a highly visible location.

For fun and creativity, here are two recipes that took the “honors” during a past “Making Spirits Bright” non-alcoholic drink contest. Banana Split Punch took first prize: put 2 ripe, mashed bananas in the blender; add 3 cups milk, one 10 oz. package frozen sweetened strawberries (thawed) and 1 pint chocolate ice cream. Beat until thoroughly blended. Pour the mix into tall glasses. Top each glass with a scoop of chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry. (Serves 4 – 6) Raspberry Sparkle recipe serves 30: put 20 oz. frozen raspberries in syrup, partially thawed, and 12 oz. frozen lemonade concentrate, thawed, into a blender and process until smooth. Pour the puree through a sieve to remove seeds. Pour the seedless puree into a punch bowl and stir in 46 oz. chilled pineapple juice. Just before serving, add 64 oz. chilled 7 -Up.

Being a good host or hostess includes making guests feel at ease without alcohol: Warm up a party with personal greetings and introductions. Make the party climate one that discourages overindulgence. Keep alert yourself, so you can be a good judge of your guests’ actions and decisions. They are your responsibility. Just like everything else, our children learn how to socialize and celebrate from us, and they “catch on” to our style at a very early age. Make especially sure that you are never the provider of alcohol to anyone under 21; you could now go to jail for up to one year and pay up to $3,000.

If you would like to talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in raising children, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204. (Llame gratis a la Lnea de Apoyo y Comprensin Paterna al – 1-877-434-9528). Website: www.familiesandcommunities.org.

Maryanne Law is the executive director of the Parenting Resource Center in Austin.