I love hosting around the holidays almost as much as I love being a guest at friends’ parties. Most of all, I adore when friends come to me for advice about how to plan a menu, prep, and cook for their holiday meals. I love this because it gives me a chance to dole out all the wisdom I have: make sure to have fun at your own party.
Too often, hosts—especially people like me who are improvising parties in tiny kitchens and itsy bitsy apartments—get so involved in the hosting aspect that they forget to be guests at their own events. The best defense against becoming high-strung or worried is tons of preparation. Here’s a rundown of how to get the party rolling long before it starts.
Make punch. A huge bowl of punch has all the allure of a sophisticated mixed cocktail without the necessity of paying individual attention to everyone’s drink. At its most basic, you can do a punch with freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, Smirnoff Sorbet Light Lemon vodka, seltzer, and champagne; add drops of bitter for a more nuanced taste. Serve with plenty of ice.
Do all the little extras ahead of time. By this I mean scrub every countertop, clean every floor, wash every glass, caramelize every onion, assemble every crostini, arrange every cheese plate, and make and plate every dip and crudités platter. The more you can accomplish long before guests arrive, the more your hostess duties can have to do with introducing friends and setting up potential romances and less with basting some silly turkey.
On that note, your entire menu should be made up of foods that can be made ahead of time and taste just as great a few hours later, like these. That means yummy dips, trays of crostini, shrimp cocktail, chicken skewers, big grain salads, savory pies, roasted vegetables, and cheese plates. If you’re serving a sit-down meal, make a stew or a roast that merely needs pulling from the oven. If you need to check on dinner once or twice; fine. If it’s more than that, I guarantee you won’t have a good time.
Have extra booze on hand. My “quarter-life” crew is now approaching thirty, but it’s still self-evident to all of us the the beginning of the end of the party occurs when the booze supply runs dry and a guest has to bolt out for replacements. Have plenty of booze and mixers in your fridge and pantry when you start, and always ask friends to bring more.
Pre-game. Reward yourself with a cocktail about 30 minutes before the first guests arrive. Sip it (and any ones that follow) slowly so you can enjoy and relax!