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As the director of brand at Tenmile Distillery, Eliza Dyson knows how to throw a bash. At the company’s lush property in Wassaic, New York, she recently invited her nearest and dearest to an outdoor dinner party with big salads, grilled meats (courtesy of chef Eliza Glaister and Westerly Canteen), and, of course, lots of whiskey. Here are her secrets for making any party a success. 

My go-to welcome cocktail: If we are at home, we set up a little bar with a few options: dry white wine, nice California Pinot, Listening Rock Gin with Boylan’s tonic, some flavors of LaCroix, and something else fun and fizzy that is nonalcoholic.

If we are at the distillery, we always compile a list of cocktails for that night: some seasonal, some greatest hits, some requested by the guests. There are a few drinks everyone orders if they see them—that includes our blended Greyhound, or the Tenmile, which is a take on a spritz we had on vacation. It’s gin, passion fruit, and sparkling wine served in a wineglass.

How I decide who’s coming: It’s always a mix of interesting people. Many know one another, but it’s always fun when there are a few folks who are new. 

I always ask people to bring: I don’t think people should bring gifts, as it is meant to be a treat for them. No cooking or cleaning, just eating and enjoying themselves!

Assigned seating, yea or nay: Yea! There’s less confusion and it makes people relax sooner. When they wonder where to sit, it can be awkward. 

Table linens I can’t entertain without: I like Ark Elements’s patterned tablecloths, and its solid napkins come in great colors with lots of different hem choices. The fringed ones are very special. I also love Gone Rural’s looped sisal placemats. 

My absolute favorite plates and flatware: I could go on and on about the subject! I love plates and flatware so much. Some of my favorites are Cabana Magazine, the Ark Elements, Laboratorio Paravincini, William Wayne, Moda Domus, Tory Burch, Get the Gusto, La Toile a Loup, Crate & Barrel, and Carolina Irving & Daughters—even Zara.

The serving platter I rely on: White ceramic Crate & Barrel anything! Nothing too big or heavy or hotel silver.

Candles that set the chicest glow: Houses & Parties has some great candle lamps it makes with custom shades, and Greentree Home has the best colors.  

Flowers I grab the day of: Anything in season! I like small arrangements of just a few stems in a glass—something like anemones or daffodils—something from the garden. I also like topiaries. 

Best conversation starter: We inadvertently started a game at a friend’s birthday when we made custom place cards with a choice of two things. Then we made the guests go around the table and guess which the birthday boy would pick. For example: Clouseau or Columbo? Jefferson or Jesterton? Elmer or Bugs? Jeeves or Wooster? It was an idea stolen from Houses & Parties (Rebecca Gardner is a genius) that we adapted a bit.

Dessert theory: big batch or individual? Depends on the group. I like to bring a dessert to the table, cut it, and serve to guests.

The sign of a successful party: People don’t want to leave, and you had a good time, too. Early preparation is key, and I’m very organized. And then it doesn’t really matter what happens—people are usually just glad to be spending time with each other!

Eliza’s Party Essentials