Put a seasonal spin on the traditional cocktail party this year. Start with a signature drink that represents the season (notes of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice or cranberry are a good place to start) or a theme (retro, glamorous, traditional) and then build on that. Set up all of the ingredients you need for your signature sip on the bar area, along with a recipe card so guests can mix their own. We suggest making the first round and having them ready when guests arrive, as a festive welcome. Serve small bites and appetizers to complement your chosen beverage. Set up your appetizers on platters and spread them around so guests move around and mingle rather than all congregate in one area. Keep decor simple and sophisticated and give each guest a printed card featuring the recipe for the night's cocktail as a parting gift.
If you haven't trimmed your tree and aren't picky about what the final product looks like (as in you aren't aiming to rival Martha Stewart's tree), have your close friends and family come by for a tree decorating soiree. Have each guest bring one decoration and supply the rest (Christmas balls, twinkle lights, ribbon, etc). It's also a fun idea to get old-fashioned and make a few popcorn or cranberry garlands. Serve a simple meal such as a make-ahead casserole, hearty stew or rustic pasta dish so you don't have to spend too much time in the kitchen, and then just have fun. Your guests will love taking part in the trimming of your tree, and it's a great alternative to traditional holiday dinners.
Mimosas anyone? This holiday think about trading one of your dinner parties for a seasonal brunch. Have guests come over earlier in the day for a casual early afternoon or late morning meal. Have a selection of muffins and biscuits on hand accompanied by pots of preserves and butter to start. Serve a comforting main such as spinach and feta quiche or broccoli and cheese strata, along with a platter of cut fruit, bowl of yogurt and pitcher of orange juice. Offer sparkling wine or champagne for anyone who would like a mimosa.
Limit your cookie baking to one batch by hosting a fun (and tasty) cookie exchange. Choose a date, decide how many cookies each person should make and get baking! Just make sure no two guests make the same recipe. On the day of the party package up your cookies in containers (Chinese takeout containers are a cute choice or opt for small gift boxes tied with ribbon). Once guests arrive, let the exchanging begin. Serve hot chocolate, eggnog and cranberry cocktails, along with simple savory snacks (to balance out all that sugar) such as veggies and dip and a selection of cheeses, olives and crusty bread.
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