It was a hot summer night on the lanes of Pierpont in Ventura. The moon was full, the guests were happy, and that night was one of my most memorable birthdays thus far. But it all came together with the right planning, the right people and the right drinks. It all began one week earlier when my next door neighbor and I realized we were born only days apart.

My neighbor and I had sent out invitations for our Leo birthdays party that Monday preceding the event. Also, I had just moved in and she was just about to move out, which justified an elaborate celebration for another dual reason: our housewarming/going away party. We had set the wheels in motion: the family, the neighbors and, of course, the friends were all on their way, and we had little time to spare.

While the food aspect of our event had already been covered by my mother, when it came to the drinks, my neighbor and I just started acting like we were kids in a candy store, except we were adults in the liquor store. What started off as a minuscule beer and wine list quickly turned into a seemingly endless list of mixed drinks. My advice: When you want to hold the unforgettable end-of-summer party, preparing a good drink list is always essential. And more importantly, don’t forget

to invite the neighbors. That way, anyone who thinks the music may be too loud had already shown up for the free drinks and would just leave the night owls alone.

So the night before the big extravaganza, my next-door neighbor, her friend and I hit up Smart and Final. A great place to find cheap booze and find enough booze to keep the party going, until, let’s say, 3 a.m.? We started off randomly pulling down beer items from the shelves: first, a 30-pack of Miller Lite, in cans; then a 12-pack of Stella Artois; and, of course, a 24-pack of Corona.

Next came the liquor aisle: a large bottle of Barcadi rum, Smirnoff vodka, and Jose Cuervo tequila and margarita mix.

Last but not least, we just had to pick up a bulk package of strawberry-flavored Jell-O for congealed fruity shots. While I thought Jell-O shots were only for college frat parties, turns out the 30-somethings like ’em, too.

The total cost was $200, which also included plates, platters and some other relevant party supplies.

We were adamant about providing our guests with any drink they could possibly think of. I think we accomplished our mission and then some. Some of my other friends even suggested we charge an entrance fee.

Then my mom pitched in four bottles of red wine — all of which were left unopened from our massive family reunion held a few weeks earlier — and a case of Bud Light.

But we couldn’t leave good enough alone and let our guests fend for themselves. We decided that just cracking open a beer or a rum and cola wasn’t suitable for our guests. So my neighbor insisted on making homemade piña coladas, margaritas blended and on the rocks, and mojitos prepared with fresh mint.

I then realized, “Who in the world would want to drink warm red wine on a muggy summer night?” Sangria was sure to be a quick and inexpensive fix: three bottles of red; three limes, oranges and lemons — juice and rind minus the seeds; a bottle of ginger ale; chunks of pineapple and a few shots of gin.

For those who would prefer something simple: a cool Cape Cod, prepared with vodka, cranberry juice and ripe limes.

Before the guests arrived, my neighbor, her friend and I kept scanning over the voluminous selection of mixed drinks and beers and kept wondering what in the world we had been thinking. “Too much? Of course,” we all shook our heads.

But then the guests slowly started trickling in, and we were happily mistaken. The night took on a wonderful glow as guests mingled and played beer pong and darts in the front yard.
With enough booze in the system, some visitors even ran off to the beach for a midnight dip.

Apparently, a night that became unforgettable for me became a memorable night for several others as well.

First went the beers, then the sangria. Some guests wanted margaritas on the rocks. The 60-plus Jell-O shots were also a big hit.

We couldn’t get enough people to rally for the piña coladas, so we have enough frozen pineapple and coconut cream for another fun night under the stars. And, the mojitos? I guess we just planned to have those for another day.

After this wonderful, superb and fun summer night, if you are planning on a party of around 40 people, remember the sangria, some cheap and foreign beers, margaritas and some cheap and easy Jell-O shots. With this formula, all of your guests will be looking forward to your next birthday bash.  And yes, even the nondrinkers enjoyed themselves.