Drinking Rules

Ali Larter’s Perfect L.A. House Party

The movie star and cookbook author shares her entertaining tips and signature Margarita recipe.

Courtesy Cointreau

You have a reputation for throwing some of Hollywood’s best parties. What’s the secret to being a good host? “I think actually engaging in the party! I’m definitely one that will stay up until dawn if my guests are willing to. I also do all the shopping and the cooking myself, whether it’s two people or 50. It’s something I really like to do.”

How did you get started cooking? “My family has really always been into food. My grandfather was a farmer, and he’d come home with fresh tomatoes, eggs, and corn. I was always surrounded by amazing smells coming from the kitchen, but that’s also where the action was, where the conversation was. When I started traveling and striking out on my own, I tried to create those same kinds of moments. I would invite people over and cook with them.”

What’s your go-to cocktail? “My favorite cocktail is a spicy Margarita. We live in Los Angeles, and that’s something you can drink year-round here. Put a jalapeño pepper in a bottle of tequila for two to three days, and then mix one part tequila, one part lime juice, and one part Cointreau. If you like it sweeter, add some agave or simple syrup, or you can just shake it and serve as-is. It’s an easy drink that I think everybody loves.”

What’s on your home bar right now? Casamigos Tequila, Cointreau, Nikka Whisky. I have a very rare sake called Ippongi. A 1990 Pauillac. Montrachet. Coming home after a long day of work and being able to be in my kitchen and enjoy a beautiful glass of wine is an important part of my life.”

So, you’re a bit of a wine geek. What are your favorite wines? “I like white Burgundies because I don’t like things too oaky, but I like them full-bodied. We go skiing, anywhere it’s cold and snowing, I like a white Burgundy. I also like chilled red in the summer. And rosé from Bandol. I try to try wines from all over, but in the end, I love a rosé from Bandol.”

Your book Kitchen Revelry features party menus organized by month. What’s your favorite season for entertaining? “I appreciate different things about each season. I do love lazy entertaining in the summer—fresh fruit, fresh herbs, you can just put something on the grill and not worry about it. But I love fall flavors and spices, and I love having stew simmering on the stove all day long, too.”

How did Kitchen Revelry come about? “It was really born from my nights when I’d obsess over reading cookbooks, putting together menus for parties I wanted to throw. I was doing tons of cooking on my own and wanted to demystify the process. These recipes really work: I made them, I developed the recipes in my own kitchen.”

How can someone serve great drinks for a party without spending the whole night behind the bar? “You have to pick a drink that works well in large batches. If you have to do something like shake an egg white each time, that’s not realistic. With a larger group, you’ve gotta go with pitcher cocktails. That’s gotta be pre-mixed. But with a smaller group, individual drinks are possible. One of the things I love about entertaining a small group is you can have a conversation in the kitchen while you’re cooking or making drinks.”

What do you cook on a typical day when you’re not throwing a party? “Usually things that don’t take too long. Chopping an onion, prepping and cooking fresh stuff, that only takes 10 minutes. I enjoy doing steaks on the grill and just really easy simple salads. Pesto is the easiest thing to make, and you can put it on top of all kinds of things. You can also make it in the morning to serve at night. I do all sorts of chicken curries. I do a soup almost every week—I like to throw in Parmesan rinds for flavor and pureed white beans to thicken it. I love any kind of meatballs; I’m into lamb meatballs right now. I also bake a lot: homemade madeleines, apple cakes, orange cakes. There’s so much stuff added to store-bought food that I like to cook for my family as much as possible during the week, and then we can cheat on the weekend!”

You’ve filmed movies and TV shows all over the world. What are your favorite eating & drinking cities? “I got to go to Pujol in Mexico City and that was a real experience. It was such beautiful flavors. That’s something I love—to go in and get a real taste for a city—and food’s an easy way to do that. Tokyo is another one: It’s very precise and beautiful, and that’s the opposite of the way I am as a cook. I’m also a total Francophile, so anytime I can get to France and have a fresh soufflé, some wine, I’m happy.”

Where do you like to eat when you’re home in Los Angeles? “For a fancy dinner, I love to go to Giorgio Baldi because you can sit there for three or four hours. You’ll way over-pay for food and wine, but you know that that’s your whole evening! Gjelina is a place I love to go for a Friday lunch with my girlfriends. During the week, I love Greenleaf; it’s a great grab-and-go place.”

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Interview has been condensed and edited.