Hosting a cocktail party is one of my favourite ways to celebrate the holidays. Inviting our friends and family, sharing good conversation, laughs, food and alcoholic beverages is the best way to spend any evening, but even more so when the holidays hit. What’s nice about a cocktail party is that it is a classy way to host a casual get together. Casual in the sense of informality. There’s no dinner being served at a specific time or planned activities you have to adhere to. So while you can still dress up and get fancy, there’s relief in just being able to mingle and relax.
And to make your party planning even more effortless, I’ve created a FREE Cocktail Party Planning Worksheet for you to download!
Set the Tone
Once people begin to arrive, have your lights dimmed and use lots of candlelight to create a warm inviting ambiance.
Instead of playing DJ all night, use a playlist from Spotify you can keep on as background music. We want to encourage conversation, so the music should only be loud enough to hear without people feeling like they have to talk over it.
If your furniture is not always set up in a way that is easy for people to move around, move your furniture to create space. You don’t want guests to feel crowded or like they have to walk through a maze to get to the next person they want to talk to. Again, we’re encouraging people to mingle, so make it easy for them to do that!
Clear off your tables and make space for food around the house, so as people walk by, they can grab a bite.
If you have a bar cart, this is the time to use it! Have an assortment of glassware, ice, and beverages ready for people to help themselves.
This is a holiday cocktail party after all. So decorate for the holidays! I’ll be honest with you, in order to get this content written in time for the holidays, I took these photos long before it was acceptable for me to put up my tree. My military husband barely lets me put out my plaid Christmas tumblers before Remembrance Day, otherwise, I’d have much more holiday decor to share with you.
Since this is all about how to host an effortless cocktail party, let’s keep things simple. Make one signature cocktail, and provide an assortment of wine and beer. There’s no need to source 10 different bottles of alcohol and liqueurs so you can make 5 different cocktails, plus who’s going to mix those? Do you really want to play bartender? Make it easy on yourself!
I’m not a fan of a lot of cocktails because I don’t really like the taste of a lot of hard liquors. However, the sweet, tangy orange syrup paired with whisky, dry vermouth and amaretto make this cocktail super easy to drink.
- 2 Parts Whiskey
- 1 Part Dry Vermouth
- 1 Part Satsuma Orange Syrup recipe to follow
- ½ Part Amaretto
- 6 Satsuma Oranges juiced (save 3 orange halve peels)
- ¾ cup Sugar
- ½ cup Water
Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, pour, serve. Garnish with an orange slice. * Freeze orange slices ahead of time to keep your drink cool longer.
Add ingredients into a saucepan. Boil on medium-high heat until the juice becomes thick and syrupy and is reduced by about half. Set aside to cool.
When you’re thinking about food to serve, think of items that are easy to grab as guests walk by and can easily be eaten with hands and a napkin. Charcuterie is always a great (and easy) option, salsas, dips, bruschetta, baked canapes, etc.
Winter Satsuma Orange Salsa
This beautiful winter salsa is the perfect blend of tangy, sweet, spicy and salty! I dare say, it’s even super nutritious so you can eat the whole bowl without feeling guilty. It’s the ideal holiday appetizer to give yourself a break from all the yummy but oh so not healthy treats we typically consume this time of year. Serve with corn chips. Ps. This salsa also makes an amazing topping for baked fish, so keep that in mind if you have leftovers! Click here for the recipe!
Cranberry Pomegranate Bruschetta
This cranberry pomegranate bruschetta offers a fresh winter-y twist on the summer-y classic. Bursts of tart cranberry and juicy pomegranate paired with crisp red onion, sweet orange and hints of winter spice. Click here for the recipe!
You can also use this bruschetta mix as a topping for brie cheese. When roasted, the fruit and onion caramelize turn into a sweet, melty dish.
A little sweetness goes a long way. Instead of making multiple sweet treats, opt for a fondue. This gives your guests the option of what fruit, (store-bought cookies or cakes) they want to dip in it! Plus, this cocktail party is all about interaction, and what encourages more interaction than a fondue station. To kick things up a notch, try a twist on a classic chocolate fondue and make this Spiced Winter Ale Chocolate Fondue instead.