A First-Timer’s Holiday Cocktail Party How-To

Cocktails, Drinks, Entertaining, Featured Article, Holidays, How-To
on November 28, 2011

With cheer in the air and plenty of reasons to rejoice—the holidays are the perfect time for to-do's and ta-da's. We suggest wowing your guests and celebrating the, er, spirits of the season with a swanky yet slightly sassy cocktail party. Here are some no-fail tips for ensuring the night goes off without a hitch:

  • Be specific in your invitations on dress, time (including end time) and what is being served food-wise. Casual language will indicate a laid back affair while a formal tone and font will have guests anticipating something fancy.           
  • To cut down on alcohol costs, mix just a few cocktail recipes and have them be your signature drinks for the evening. Doing this will keep things simple and allow you to make all your mixes beforehand.
  • Be sure to include at least one non-alcoholic “mocktail” on your menu so guests who don't drink will still be able to tote around a fun beverage. The classic Shirley Temple mix (Sprite with a few shots of red grenadine) is always a safe bet, but we suggest renaming it something festive such as “Midlnight Sipper.”
  • Don’t forget to buy extra ice. It’s a commonly forgotten basic and there is little worse than serving lukewarm drinks.
  • Fill a buffet with all types of hors d'oeuvres and finger foods for easy help-yourself bites.  Serve both savory and sweet recipes such as our Brie and Onion Marmalade Tarts and Chocolate Fudge Brownies.

  • Turn off harsh overhead lighting and stick with the soft ambient glow of lamps, candles and Christmas lights.
  • Play music throughout the evening or hire a great local band (some of them will work for beer) to croon holiday tunes as guests sip their cocktails. Doing this will create instant conversation starters and promote a fun atmosphere. Turning the music off at the end of the night is a subtle way of signaling the party’s over.
  • Relax! People are much more willing to let their hair down and have a good time if they see you’re doing the same.

—By Emily Arno