Sunday, December 4, 2016

Lifestyle: Tips for Hosting a Holiday Cocktail Party

'Tis the season for hosting and toasting!

If you ask me, the holidays are synonymous with parties, soirees and hosting friends and family.

Cooking for the people I love is one of my favourite things and it just wouldn't be December if I didn't take every opportunity to invite them over to share in the warmth of the season.

For me there's a joy that is associated with cooking and entertaining. You can't deny there is a certain warm and fuzzy feeling that comes when those you love are over at your home.

Last weekend, I had a wonderful time hosting some of my lovely friends as we got together to kick off the holiday season. 

Since it's the most popular time of year for hosting, I'm sharing some of my favourite details of the evening, as well as some holiday entertaining tips and an easy appetizer recipe on the blog. 

Keep reading for a guide on what to do in the days leading up to your cocktail party to ensure you get to have fun with your guests too.

Hope you enjoy it and happy holidays!

A Few Days Before the Party

When hosting for the holidays, I try to make sure everything is cleaned and decorated at least a few days before hand.

I really like adding the little details, so I try to make sure I have enough time to enjoy the process of putting it all together. 

Set your menu about a week before. Then take stock of what you already have and make sure to make a list before heading out to buy anything.

I suggest you head to the grocery store and wine store a fews days beforehand to make sure you have what you need.

Tip: I usually split these errands and assign them to different days. For example, on Monday I'll pick up my wine and drinks; on Tuesday, I'll do my grocery run.

This way, I am spreading the workload over a few days and I end up feeling much more relaxed as I complete my tasks.

A few days before, make sure you have a party play list. I've found Spotify has some great music that you can stream during your party. 

Also check to see that you have all the glasses, cutlery, plates and platters that you will need. Set out any placemats, table decor or name cards so they are ready to go and in place.

The Day Before the Party

The day before, I set up my table-scape. For the ladies' holiday cocktail party, I used a simple, natural jute table-runner and some holiday garlands to dress up the table. I always want the food to be the star of the show, so I left the rest of the set-up fairly simple. 

The night before, I set out my serving platters and arranged them in an aesthetic way around the table. Here, I mixed natural wooden platters with classic white pedestals and gold chargers for serving.

I also set out bowls for dip, spoons for serving and cheese knives so that I wouldn't have to worry about these little details on the day of the party.

Tip: I picked up some cute holiday paper napkins and added them to the table along with the cloth napkins I had already planned to use. I found these ones from Micheal's were fun and festive. A cute little touch for the party season! 

If you're hosting a sit-down dinner, it's a great idea to fold or tie your napkins ahead of time. Again these are little details which your guests will really appreciate but they are best done the day before so that there's no added stress.

Tip: Anything you can do ahead of time -- do it! You will be much happier and more relaxed when it comes to party time.

While you're setting everything up, take out the plates your guests will use and the appropriate cutlery they will need. Arrange them on the table so that they look presentable and are accessible.

When it comes to the food, I recommend cooking anything that keeps well, the day before. This will really cut on the time you spend in the kitchen on the day of the party.

The Day of the Party 

I try to leave only a few tasks to the day of the party. This is mainly because I want to leave time to get ready and relax so I can have fun with my friends when they arrive.

I cook everything that I can make ahead of time and then chop/prep my garnishes and finishing touches. I place these close to where I will need them- the garnish for my appetizers will be near the stove, while the cocktail garnishes will be near the bar area. 

When it comes to the food, I always look for easy appetizers with big flavour that come together quickly. They should look pretty on the table too. 

Tip: Look for cute ways to serve your apps - I love to use shot glasses, mugs and tiny forks or spoons for some added prettiness. You eat with your eyes first and presentation is key!

For this party, one of my favourite appetizers that I made was a herbed goat cheese with a spiced cherry jam chutney.

What I especially loved was that I could prepare the chutney ahead of time and then just spoon it over the cheese right before party time - so easy and festive!

Herbed Goat Cheese with a Spiced Cherry Jam Chutney

Preparation time: 10 minutes

To make the chutney:

1) Put a little oil in a pan and add 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds, a star anise, one bay leaf, a few cloves and a cinnamon stick and let it simmer
2) Add one diced shallot and let it brown
3) Add 1/4 tsp of chilli flakes and some salt to taste
4) Add one jar of Bonne Maman Cherry Jam and let it simmer for about 10 minutes on low heat
5) Place a log of garlic-herb goat cheese on a platter
6) Just before serving, spoon your room temperature Chutney over top

I served this with an assortment of crackers and had nice french bread at the table.

This appetizer is perfect for entertaining because you can make this chutney ahead of time and it will keep well for at least a few days.

I loved Bonne Maman's Cherry jam for this as it has no preservatives, only a few natural ingredients and a tart but sweet taste which paired perfectly with the salt and spices. 

Tip: You can find Bonne Maman at Whole Foods, Walmart, Loblaws and Fortinos stores

Cocktails and Wine

Since this was a cocktail party, I knew I'd be serving wine as well as a signature cocktail.

Tip: During the winter, I usually stock more red wine than white for parties but I generally have at least a couple of bottles of white chilling in my fridge for friends who prefer a lighter drink.

I know it sounds like a lot of prep work, but I like to think about which glasses I will be using to serve each drink and I get them ready ahead of time. It really ends up saving time in the long run.

I do a quick wash and then arrange them on a tray with the other items I need for the drink. 

For this party, I set up separate areas to place the cocktails, wine and infused water I was serving. It really helped me stay organized over the course of the evening and  I knew exactly where everything was when it was time to serve.

As a bonus, when your guests know where to find glasses and drinks, they will feel comfortable to serve themselves and be at home.

An Hour Before

Light your candles and turn on your music. I also turned on my front porch light and the lights on the tree in the living room.

Ambience is so important and especially during the holidays, candles and extra lights add so much warmth to your home.

About an hour before the party, turn your oven on low. This will ensure it's ready to heat up any hot appetizers you may be serving. 

Try to plate as much as you can before your guests arrive. Of course, if you have something on the menu that needs to be served hot- keep it in the oven until it's time to eat it!

During the Party

Relax and have fun! If something small goes wrong- and it usually does, take it in stride. You planned and prepped and tried your best.

Your friends are over to hang out with you so make sure the majority of your time is spent enjoying their amazing company.

Make sure everyone feels comfortable and then make yourself comfortable too.

Tip: Grab a plate and enjoy your own cooking. 

At this point, all that's left to do is the best part; hang out with some lovely friends, kick back, relax, have a cocktail and smile - it's the holidays!

Wishing you all a warm season ahead!


A special thank you to Bonne Maman Jams for partnering on this blog post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Photography by Jeffrey Chan courtesy of Bonne Maman

1 comment:

  1. Truly amazing tips on cocktail party and hope you had an amazing one. I am planning to arrange a cocktail cum dinner party and searching for lovely lofty spaces. Hope to find perfect one soon to have an amazing time.