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Tray of Mint Juleps
Credit: Hector Manuel Sanchez

In the South, we take being a gracious host very seriously. It's less about showing off our manners and more about making every guest feel welcome and at ease—and it's all in the details, which involve knowing how to maneuver mishaps without skipping a beat and to be prepared for any circumstance. "Oh, it's fine you brought a guest. Really! The table's set for twelve, but what's one more?" Please. For a Southern hostess, that's Little League.

The mark of a truly seasoned Southern hostess can be seen only on rare occasions when she's caught…unprepared. Someone unexpectedly drops by just before dinnertime, or she gets called upon to save a baby shower in distress (the baby's fine, but the petit fours are not). That's Big League stuff. So, what's her first move?

She needs something that will simultaneously entertain and distract whilst executing her emergency plan, whatever the situation may need. Smoke and mirrors, people, smoke and mirrors.

That's why every Southern hostess in triage mode will tell you to start by doing one thing: Serve a choose-your-own-adventure beverage. As in, a good hostess should always have the key ingredients on hand for a makeshift coffee bar, Arnold Palmer station, or house cocktail tray. Depending on the time of day or situation, one of these will buy you time to get yourself together.

It takes no-time to pop a K-cup pod in the Keurig K-Duo Essentials brewer, and you're set with a cup of coffee that you can serve in your finest Wedgwood tea cup. Sugar cubes on the side. Give her five more seconds, and she can make the meanest mint julep outside Churchill Downs. That'll give them something to sip on whilst figuring out how many servings you can whittle out of your pot roast or how long it takes to re-frost 30 petit fours from pink to blue. Even a bottle of champagne will do. Get popping!

But, really, this all comes down to the hostess herself. Pick something that requires only a handful of items you can stock up on ahead of time. Know your strengths, and always proceed with confidence.

WATCH: How to Make Shoo-Fly Punch

If only more serious matters could be solved with an ice-cold drink, Southern hostesses would rule all the world. Let's start with Shoo-fly Punch!