The Hollywood guide to the ultimate New Year's Eve Party

He’s the top movie director who also makes a mean martini for his starry pals (from Kylie to King Charles). Here Paul Feig reveals…The Hollywood guide to the ultimate New Year’s Eve Party

  • Paul Feig shares his top tips for making glitzy, fun cocktails for the festive season
  • The Hollywood director has made tipsy tipples for the most starry VIPs 
  • King Charles III, Kylie Minogue and Emilia Clarke just some of his famous pals
  • READ MORE: Doctor: The five ways to minimise your hangover this New Year’s Eve – and the one drink you should avoid at all costs 

How does a top Hollywood director celebrate his 60th? Paul Feig got to tootle down to Highgrove in Gloucestershire, with his wife, for afternoon tea with the soon-to-be King. ‘I will dine out on that for ever,’ Paul remarks merrily.

‘This treat was wangled by mutual ‘really good friends’: authors Santa and Simon Sebag Montefiore (everyone in Paul’s world, from Kylie Minogue to Sandra Bullock, is a ‘really good friend’). ‘The five of us [no Camilla, alas] had this hour-and-a-half tea, which was so nice, but then it was nerve-racking because right at the end Santa said, ‘OK, who wants a martini?’ I thought: ‘Oh, I hope I don’t blow it!’

Paul, you see, is a modern-day Renaissance man who, when not churning out blockbuster films such as Bridesmaids, Last Christmas and Ghostbusters, devotes himself to ensuring everyone in his orbit is slightly squiffy on one of his cocktails.

During lockdown — which he spent with Laurie, his wife of 28 years, at home in London — he filmed himself, in a cocktail-hour tuxedo, making a different boozy libation each day for 100 days straight.

Paul is a modern-day Renaissance man who, when not churning out blockbuster films such as Bridesmaids, Last Christmas and Ghostbusters, devotes himself to ensuring everyone in his orbit is slightly squiffy on one of his cocktails

The resulting Instagram show, Quarantine Cocktail Time, helped raise funds for Covid charities and was so entertaining it not only caught the eye of the then Prince of Wales, but also spawned a new book. It combines all 100 recipes with Paul’s seductively irreverent advice for hosting the perfect Hollywood bash — which he’s sharing in Femail to help make your New Year party go with a bang.

But back to Highgrove. The future King was, indeed, eager to try one of Paul’s Martinis.

How did he serve it? With a twist, stirred not shaken — as ice dilutes the gin — and most definitely gin-based. ‘Vodka is a no!’ he exclaims. ‘Charles is a Martini guy and he found the clips amusing and found our dog, Buster the Scottish Terrier, very amusing too.’ Did Buster come to Highgrove? ‘No! I didn’t want to share the spotlight.

‘I had my own gin [he has his own label, Artingstall’s]; good, dry vermouth; my mixing glass and I have this big, long mixing spoon.

Paul adores Kylie, to whom he dedicates his Pink Pearl cocktail of gin, grapefruit liqueur, Prosecco and Aperol

‘I also had my strainer and those big Amalfi lemons because part of the secret is a lemon twist that sticks its head out of the drink like a porpoise. But [the staff at Highgrove] provided the glasses and they were frozen! I was really impressed.’ Paul admits he was nervous: ‘I was thinking: ‘Don’t let your hands shake.’ But I think I pulled it off. Charles seemed fairly impressed. He said something like, ‘Oh, this is lovely.’

Paul is now based in Britain, although there are pads in Los Angeles and New York. London is a surprising choice perhaps given he’s a Hollywood veteran, but he and Laurie adore the Brits, he claims, mainly because — unlike the more puritanical Yanks — we love our booze.

Sitting in his London home, Paul is dressed in a trademark three-piece suit that could be straight out of TV show Mad Men (which is appropriate, since he directed several episodes).

The future King was, indeed, eager to try one of Paul’s Martinis. How did he serve it? With a twist, stirred not shaken — as ice dilutes the gin — and most definitely gin-based

His stylishness is an anomaly in an industry where the big-name directors, much like tech billionaires, pride themselves on a uniform of T-shirts and baseball caps.

‘Hanging on to your youth is the saddest thing to do,’ he says. ‘You’re not a teenager. You’re a grown man — embrace it.’

He says he adores hosting parties with Laurie. ‘We don’t have them all the time,’ he protests. ‘Maybe three or four a year. I mean, we had one last night but…’

Nor do these bashes comprise the wotstheirnames from Number 42, plus your boss and his dreary wife. To be Paul’s friend, it’s compulsory you have, if not an Oscar, then at least your own Wikipedia entry.

His book clinks, just like an ice-filled glass of Dubonnet, with mentions of superstars: take Charlize Theron who stars in his latest Netflix film, The School For Good And Evil (‘She’s the greatest’), Bridesmaids’ Melissa McCarthy (‘I had so many bullies as a kid so don’t like being around hyper-masculinity. I would always hang out with the girls’), British Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke (‘So fun — she taught me to say ‘Get it down your throat!’) and Kylie — to whom he dedicates his Pink Pearl cocktail of gin, grapefruit liqueur, Prosecco and Aperol.

‘We were in Paris a number of years ago and my wife was getting her hair done, sitting next to Kylie, and they just struck up a conversation. So then Kylie and some of her friends came over to our hotel and we had cocktails and a really fun time and we’ve been friends ever since.’

Simple, really.

The only person Paul’s failed to woo is Meryl Streep. At a Golden Globes party, he downed several martinis in quick succession to calm his nerves at being surrounded by a Hollywood Who’s Who — and then introduced himself to Meryl not once, not twice, but thrice. ‘My wife was like, ‘OK now, honey, you’ve done it three times.’ I’ve learned I need one martini so I can relax, but more than one and I become a total idiot,’ he sighs.

So what are Paul’s hints for a perfect New Year’s party? ‘I would inspire my guests to wear something with a theme. I’m all for a formal New Year, so I’d go for black tie but have lots of party horns. Create fun glamour — there’s no shame in trying to do that in your own world.’

Obviously, this year we have to factor in the cost-of-living crisis. ‘But I wouldn’t cut back on the quality of booze if you can. You don’t have to go crazy with high-end food, though. Don’t bankrupt yourself for a party.’

Paul’s far too discreet to reveal if any of his starry friends have ever had any, er, drunken moments — but does he have a surefire hangover cure? ‘Grapefruit juice,’ he says. ‘It sweeps all the fog out of you. Then you’re ready to go again.’ Chin, chin!

NINE WAYS TO WOW GUESTS 

1 BUY YOUR GLASSES AT A CHARITY SHOP

You can find some real gems in charity shops — classic old cocktail glasses that get buried on the shelves with all the other old water glasses and plates. I’ve also bought a lot of glasses at restaurant supply stores. Professional barware is made to be very durable, so it’s perfect for parties.

I’ve had some elegant, expensive wine glasses over the years with gorgeous thin stems and paper-thin bowls that literally snap into pieces the minute you put a sponge inside to try to wash them. All my guests get restaurant wine glasses that you could pretty much drop from the top of a ladder onto cement and they’d simply bounce once and be ready for a refill.

2 YOU DON’T NEED ALL THE KIT…

It’s easy to amass a ton of gadgets and doohickeys for every possible purpose under the sun.

But all you really need are a jigger for measuring — don’t guess spirit measurements — a bottle opener and a long-handled stirring spoon. And a shaker is obviously essential: the ‘cobbler’ type, with a metal body, small cap and integrated strainer, is the most versatile for home use.

3 . . . OR EVERY SINGLE BOTTLE OF BOOZE

to have a complete cocktail bar, you’d need an endless supply of ingredients. Instead, decide what you want to serve and what will be most in demand when people come round. Here are the basics if you’re stocking a bar: A bottle of gin, a bottle of vodka, a bottle of rum, a bottle of tequila and a bottle of whisky. Add two bottles of vermouth, one sweet and dark and one dry and light.

Get a bottle of Angostura bitters and, if you’re at all drawn to Negronis, a bottle of Campari or other brand of Italian bitter liqueur.

Add a bottle of simple syrup, lemons and limes and you’ll be able to make guests enough different cocktails to impress the most seasoned drinker.

4 BEWARE TYRANNY OF THE CASUAL

In what I call The Tyranny Of The Casual, there seems to be a feeling we have to be comfortable at all costs, no matter where we are.

But cocktail culture is all about being an adult and enjoying grown-up things.

Dressing nicely is a part of that. The most important thing is to let your guests know what you expect them to wear. My dream — one I’ve still never made happen — is to have a formal black-tie cocktail party at our house. I would hire a jazz trio and require that all the men wear tuxedos and the women whatever they feel most elegant in.

But I haven’t done it yet, partly because I never want to make somebody who doesn’t have formal attire feel bad, and I don’t cherish the idea of someone having to rent a tuxedo as if they’re getting ready for the prom. As a friend of mine says about rental tuxedos: ‘I don’t want to wear something that a teenager probably had sex in.’

5 DON’T IGNORE NON-DRINKERS

You should always have great non-alcoholic drinks on hand and make sure those are presented as nicely as any alcoholic cocktail, so that non-drinkers don’t feel like they’re being treated differently.

Don’t just hand them a glass of soda. Stick a lime or lemon wedge on the lip of the glass or hang a plastic monkey holding a cocktail cherry over the side. It’s also up to you to make sure no one at your party overdrinks — and that anyone who has had drinks doesn’t drive themselves home.

6 BREAK THE ICE WITH FAKE ‘TACHE

My good friend Tania Idle [Monty Python star Eric Idle’s wife] always keeps a small silver box filled with fake moustaches on her coffee table.

Whenever the energy starts to flag, she makes everybody put on a fake moustache. It sounds crazy, but I’ve never seen it fail to work. Suddenly everybody is having the greatest time ever. Give it a try!

7 DON’T BE A DRINKS SNOB

Never be judgmental. The person who wants a Jack Daniels and cherry Coke is just as deserving of your respect as the person who wants a perfect dry martini. As the host and drink maker, you are there to please, not judge.

8 ONLY MONSTERS DON’T SERVE FOOD

Should you serve food at a cocktail party? Of course! Are you seriously going to booze people up on empty stomachs? What are you, some kind of monster?! You don’t have to put out a full spread. Bowls of crisps and popcorn are at least something. Cheese, hummus, olives, dips, those old-timey celery sticks with blue cheese — the list is endless. Even frozen mini-pizzas you picked up at the supermarket.

Just make sure to plan it out as carefully as you do your cocktail list. Because people always remember who served them food at a party… and who hung them out to dry with booze and nothing to eat.

9 HAVE A PLAYLIST SHOWDOWN

I have one rule when it comes to music and that is to not blast it so loudly that your guests have to shout at one another to be heard.

Want to kick your soiree into high gear? Do what my friend Steve Higgins of The Tonight Show does — have a playlist showdown. Hook guests’ phones into your sound system and let people take turns surprising each other with their favourite party songs.

The only rule is anybody can change the song after a minute.

  • Adapted from Cocktail Time! by Paul Feig, published by Morrow at £22. © Paul Feig 2022. To order a copy for £19.80 (offer valid to 7/1/23; UK P&P free on orders over £20), visitmailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3176 2937.

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