Planning a Simple and Elegant Holiday Cocktail Party

Believe it or not, the Holiday Season is once again upon us. And that means it is time for cocktail parties! Whether an annual work event or perhaps an intimate gathering with close friends and family, the cocktail party is a popular method of entertainment. Planning a cocktail party need not be stressful but in fact should be as enjoyable for the host/hostess as it is for the guests. Below are some considerations and helpful tips that will keep the stress out of your event:

The 20% Melt Rule

Many Holiday cocktail parties take place in the home of the host. Home parties are certainly cozy but too many guests can turn cozy into chaotic. Difficulty in accessing food or drink and noise level are factors that can cause a cocktail party to unravel. Apply the “20% Melt Rule” which assumes that 20% of your invited guests will not be able to attend. That said, create a floor plan ahead of time consisting of location of the bar, the food, caterer staff staging area, high top tables for guests and coat storage area. Once you have have a sense of how many guests can comfortably fit in your home create the list and assume the “20 % Melt Rule.”

Night and Day

It is readily acceptable to plan a work event during the week and Thursday seems to be the most popular night to do so. Often, these events are planned at a local restaurant or banquet room (if we may say so, DiFabio’s Rostree Room is a wonderful venue with a fireplace with accommodations for 50 to 100 guests).

If planning a cocktail party in your home, we suggest Friday night, Saturday with a 4:00 start time for those that like to get to bed earlier, or 7:00 for those that prefer the party with an unofficial end time. Remember, Friday night will need more substantial food and drink as guests typically will be working during the day and will not have time for dinner. In regard to Sunday, plan for a 4:00 start as well so your guests can get home and prepare for school or work on Monday. As far as the actual date of your event plan for earlier in the month. Guests are more likely to attend and stay longer as opposed to later in the month as other holiday parties and general tasks such as shopping and decorating become more prevalent. Consider a “Holiday Kick off Event” the first weekend after Thanksgiving to get your guests in the spirit.

The Food

The first crucial decision you must make is whether to hire a professional to make all the goodies, to supplement your creations, or to do it all yourself. While you cannot go wrong with your traditional buffet, the need for seating and tables increases therefore space may be an issue. Cocktail parties are best when a variety of traditional favorites are coupled with some unique yet simple ideas that are easy to handle allowing for ease of mingling. For example, always consider three nice cheeses of different textures as well as countries of origin offered with vegetables, crostini, cured meats and olives. A homemade fig or cherry jam and honey are great accompaniments to any cheese board.

Also Consider small skewered items such as fresh mozzarella and tomato, a cranberry chicken satay or possibly a mini filet atop a crostini with creamy horseradish and blackened onions. Whichever menu items you choose balance is key as there should be something for everyone such as vegetarian, seafood and meat options. While butlering hors douevres may seem classy, at smaller parties this style of service may become redundant. In the early part of the event, having staff pass the goodies is fine, but as guests have eaten make sure to have a decorated table available for later grazing. In order to make your presentation more impactful place some crates covered with linen cloth to rest your platters. Height always dresses any food table. There are so many simple yet delicious possibilities. Consider, speaking with a local event planner for more ideas (DiFabio’s will be holding a culinary event of November 14, Creating Simple Yet Elegant Holiday Hors Douevres).

The Drink

The “s” is left off intentionally. Full bars can be endless, not to mention costly, especially with a smaller crowd. One may find themselves purchasing quite a bit of alcohol only to see bottles barely touched. Beer, wine (three types) and a feature drink typically vodka based is highly recommended. A poinsettia, for instance, is one part vodka, one part prosecco, and one part cranberry juice. Choose a garnish such as orange slice and this red colored drink is both delicious and festive. Search the internet for unending options!

Last Thoughts

The music creates the vibe for your event. Mellow background piano interludes are nice with the crackle of a fire. The color of your table cloths will tie together the feel. Deep reds, greens and blues offer a real festive feel. While these are traditional the clean crispness of all white with some fresh greens and votive candles finds itself back in vogue.