Anyone can throw a party. But setting up a summer soirée full of smiles, laughs and memories takes a little something extra.

So we went straight to a pro—Grey Goose Global Ambassador Joe McCanta—for expert advice. The Southern California native, who previously worked as a sommelier and mixologist in New York, is well versed in the art of relaxation, as we learned in this honest, helpful interview.

Take notes, and don’t be surprised if folks are raving about your party planning skills for years to come…

“If the cocktails are so complicated that you need a bartender, something’s wrong!  It’s all about simple elegance—and effortless, tasteful and beautiful drinks.”

What’s the number one thing to keep in mind when planning a summer soirée?
Make it fun and interactive! There should be options for all of your guests and most importantly it should be elegantly relaxed. Make sure you’re not stuck in the kitchen or behind the bar the entire time frantically trying to mix the drinks—a little preparation goes a long way.

Name three things no summer soirée is complete without.
One: Grey Goose! Two: Really good quality ice as it’s warm. Three: Only the freshest ingredients and juices.

What’s the ideal location?
Ideally the French Rivera! Other than that, poolside, or on a terrace. You want to feel the warmth of the sun.

What’s the best way to invite people to this sort of gathering?
Invitations set the tone of the event. Think of creative ways to do it. For Grey Goose we once invited everyone to a soirée by hand-wrapping the invitations in white linen napkins. Make sure your invites stand out.

Give us a cool cocktail recipe that everyone will love.
1 ½ parts Grey Goose vodka, 3 parts Perrier (as it has a much more vivacious sparkle), 2 lime wedges, and top with chilled Perrier. Surprise your guests by garnishing with fresh sprigs of mint. Clap over the mint to release extra aromatics.

What sort of food is ideal to serve?
I love leaning on some of the best of simple French countryside cuisine. Goat cheese on toasted brioche, asparagus with olive oil infused with herbs de provence, fresh lamb cutlets marinated in herbs, bite-sized mini croquet monsieurs.

Is it worth it to hire a bartender or caterer? If we can only hire one, which is preferable?
I think having a caterer is always a good call. As for the bartender, if the cocktails are so complicated that you need a bartender, something’s wrong! It’s like the best chefs can combine ingredients easily to create something beautiful in a non-fussy way. It’s all about simple elegance—and effortless, tasteful and beautiful drinks at a summer soirée.

What’s the best way for a guy to dress?
First you must have are excellent sunglasses! They are everything and make the look. Perfectly tailored shirt that you can unbutton as the day gets warmer. Nice tailored light colored shorts, never with socks. Comfortable, rich leather (and even vintage) deck shoes.

What’s something cool and creative any guy can do to take the party up a notch and make it memorable? 
I like setting up a ‘station’ for the cocktails where guests can help themselves to make an amazing drink. It’s super simple: an ice bucket, some glassware and Grey Goose (plus a range of our flavors). Next, have some citrus fruits cut into wedges (oranges, lemons, limes) and a mixture of herbs along with some lovely Perrier. The guests can walk up and build the ultimate vodka-soda drink and play around with amazing combinations using just a different mix of the vodka (or flavor), the citrus and the herb as the garnish. It’s actually quite fun watching guests try to outdo each other on their combinations. Lemon vodka with fresh lemon and a sprig of thyme? Orange vodka with fresh lemon and basil? Pear vodka with fresh lime and rosemary? The combinations are endless and the guest becomes the mixologist!