Your intentions are good. You learned long ago that the polite guest never shows up empty-handed to a dinner party and you’ve stuck by it. You always grab a bouquet of wildflowers from the Coles discount rack on your way to the fete that you thrust magnanimously into the arms of your host on arrival. You’re polite! You sweat the details!
Unfortunately, your efforts to be a good guest are misguided. When someone Is throwing a party, when they have been scurrying around the kitchen stir-frying and basting and sautéing and wiping down counters and setting the table in those final moments before guests arrive, they want nothing less than another task. And when you, thoughtful you, ring their doorbell with a bouquet of flowers, you create more work for your harried host. He has to find a vase or other appropriately sized vessel, fill it, trim the stems, and find a place for those flowers. But those are tiny things!, you cry. It takes two seconds to throw this anemic clutch of alstroemeria in a pitcher! They can cut the stems later! They’re flowers, not a squalling infant!
I hear you, but your host — if they’re a host whose parties are worth attending — has not a millisecond to spare. They;re likely in a host heat, trying to tidy themself and plump the couch pillows and make sure there’s no hair on the bathroom sink in those final seconds before the deluge. They wants you at their party, they want you there about 10 minutes after they said to arrive (never, ever arrive exactly on time — no host is ready at 8pm on the dot, and woe unto the jackass who arrives early, you sadist), and they want you to pour yourself a drink and get to mingling so they can finish cooking.
The same goes for birthday parties, the type thrown in bars with a zillion people coming and going, buying shots and yelling over the music. Where on earth is the birthday girl supposed to put a cellophane-wrapped bunch of daisies but on the pile of coats in the corner where they are definitely going to get smushed? Flowers are fragile, and just because every supermarket and corner store sells them for ten bucks right by the entrance doesn’t mean they’re a good impulse host gift.
What is a good host gift? As we’ve said before, amaro (or another special liqueur) is a thoughtful, original gift that your host doesn’t have to deal with right now but will appreciate later.