Holiday cocktail party: Food and entertaining ideas

Dec 5, 2012 at 4:06 a.m. ET

The holidays are always an overwhelming time of year. Between gift purchasing, trip planning, gift wrapping and making plans, there is barely any time to breathe. Throw a cocktail party into the mix and, well, you may not make it to New Year’s. Here's a guide on how to throw a fabulous cocktail party that is creative and easy.

Christmas dining table

Pick a theme

Rather than just the same old holiday party, pick out a theme to add a little spice and act as a conversation piece. Some fun possible themes include:

  • Tropical Heat: Turn up the heat, and instruct everyone to wear Hawaiian print. Serve only summer or tropical related cocktails and apps.
  • Naughty and Nice: Food and drink can fit the naughty and nice category as well, with sweet and spicy flavors.
  • Cold as Ice: The theme is “icy” and blinged out. Create a look of glass or diamonds.
  • Holiday Costumes: Everyone dresses up in something to match the holiday theme.
  • Arctic Chill: Everything frozen, blue and white from the colors to the beverages.
  • T’was the Night Before: Guests wear holiday-inspired pajamas. Make everything cozy just like your childhood bed. There is nothing as exciting as being young again, waiting in bed the night before the holiday and anticipating gifts.
  • Masquerade Ball: Wear masks and black tie attire.
  • Ugly Sweater Party: An easy go-to classic.

Do it buffet style

Rather than serve finger food and other treats on trays, set up tables with cake stands, platters and serving cups. Have one station for appetizers and another for desserts. Buying bags of candy with coordinating colors can be added to the dessert table by throwing them into glass vases with scoops and a basket of paper or plastic baggies. You can even throw in a chocolate fondue spread or a chocolate fountain. Some other ideas are a hot chocolate bar, s’mores table or a spread of cookies with frosting and sprinkles to decorate. Set it all out and allow yourself time to breathe and enjoy.

cocktailMake it a group effort

Most people have a signature drink they enjoy. Hold a contest for the best drink recipe. Email or mail out pretty entry forms. Have friends bring the ingredients for their cocktail and supply mini plastic martini glasses to serve. Everyone tries each drink and votes. Give the winner a bottle of nice Champagne.

Holiday cocktail party ideas
Photo credit: Not Just a Mommy

Bartenders need not apply

You don’t want to be stuck making fancy cocktails all night, and hiring a bartender can get costly. In addition to throwing a drink recipe contest, set up some drink stations of cocktails that can be made ahead of time. Create the drink in a large pitcher and refill as needed. You can also make infused liquors ahead of time. Select holiday-inspired flavors or flavors to match your theme. Add ingredients into bottles of liquor. Shake every day, and then filter out remaining ingredients once liquor is infused. Set out in pretty bottles with glasses and various beverages to mix with. Serve drinks in something pretty. Dawn of Not Just a Mommy used glass ornaments to serve beverages. How ingenious! Click on the link to see more photos.

More on holiday entertaining

Fun color schemes for holiday dining
Tips and tricks for holiday food presentation
Must-try holiday cookies