During this season one thing is certain, parties. We attend parties, we throw them, we talk about them, plan them, and post about them. From the office to our families, we can be sure that somewhere between Thanksgiving and New Years we will be a guest or a host to at least one event. The most common and one of the easiest of these soirées to put on is the holiday cocktail party. These events can be intimate and simple or, a complex affair. The best part is that cocktail parties can always feel glamorous no matter how big the guest list or how small the budget!
Many elements make the holiday cocktail party so desirable as a host. Cocktail parties are a great excuse to have a kid-free evening with friends. They also tend to be quick, two-three hours long and start in the early evening. Many hosts find these parties appealing because the guest list can be small (we recommend six guests or more) or very large, depending on your space and budget. Smaller gatherings are best suited for old friends and family. This is great for a home party where you really want the time to catch up with people you may not see too often, though it also works well for groups of guests who already know each other. For large holiday cocktail parties, consider inviting co-workers, friends, neighbors… really anyone! If your home is big enough to host a large gathering, consider ordering rental high-top cocktail tables and a bar for set-up.
Cocktails are the main focus so keep the food light. Finger foods and hors d’oeuvres for snacking are sufficient. For a smaller budget simply place bowls of peanuts, olives, and, popcorn in different areas of the party space. Of course, cheese is welcome at any party! For the holidays, classics such as Brie en croute, or even a classy cheese and crackers platter are always crowd pleasers. Easy to make canapés like prosciutto-wrapped apricots, or a basic a bruschetta add a fancy personalized touch. If your budget allows, consider having catering for passed appetizers or even simply picking up a few platters to ease some hosting stress.
No need to be nervous, you do not need to stock a full service bar to host a cocktail party. Having beer, and red and white wine available is a good idea. Instead of providing a full bar, think about having one or two signature seasonal cocktails. This is a wonderful way to encourage guests to think outside of their typical cocktail styles. If you’d like, offer a hot beverage such as hot chocolate with Bailey’s or peppermint schnapps–this is a lovely winter-only adult treat that is always a crowd pleaser and easy to assemble. For other signature drinks keep the options simple and, preferably, something that can be made ahead of time, like festive pomegranate punch. Many times these cocktails tend to be sweet and syrupy so offering a stronger drink without as much fuss, such as a basil gimlet, will be a safer bet.
No matter what size the party, make it as easy as possible; after all, hosts who can enjoy themselves always throw good parties! Consider using disposable stemware, buying pre-made appetizers, or using a caterer. Keep décor to minimum; you want space for mingling and if the house is already decorated, all you need is few candles and the glow of a Christmas tree!