If you are the brave host who agreed to have a holiday party this year, please, take a moment and breathe. Your to-do list may be a mile long, but this will be fun. For both you and your guests—promise.
The editors at Imbibe Magazine think so, too. In their new cocktail cookbook, Cocktails for the Holidays, the drink mavens at Imbibe offer up incredibly good recipes (Northern Lights Cranberry Sauce Cocktail or Vixen Cranberry Cocktail, anyone?) along with advice for stree-free, alcohal-infused festivities. The following tips and tricks, covering everything from party prep to glassware, are just a sampling of the advice found within its pages.
Join the Party
If you’re hosting a party, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! That means you shouldn’t be playing bartender all night. Unless you’re a bartending dynamo, making dozens of cocktails and being a good host at the same time is virtually impossible. Here are a few ideas for planning that will allow you to have a good time at your own party:
- Ask a friend to make drinks at your party in exchange for bar duty at his or her fête.
- Before the party, squeeze fresh juices and prep syrups (and any other ingredients you can) to save time later on.
- Make punches ahead of time and let guests serve themselves.
- Grate spices and make citrus peels for garnishes ahead of time, so they’re ready to go when it’s time to pour your drinks.
The Big Chill
Ice rings can be essential when it comes to making punches. Fortunately, they’re a cinch to make. Simply fill a Bundt pan with water and freeze the day before you’re planning to serve. It’s a good idea to freeze two so that you have a backup. And be sure to set the pans on a level surface in the freezer so the water freezes evenly. To get the frozen mold out of the ring, just run some water over the ice, and then carefully turn the pan upside down while supporting the ice ring.
As a host, you always want to plan for safe departures for your guests. Make sure everyone has a designated driver and print out a list of cabbie phone numbers to post near the door or hand to guests as they prepare to leave.
Share the Wealth
Making lots of cocktails or big batches of punch can be expensive, so consider hosting a potluck where guests are assigned to bring certain spirits instead of snacks.
If you’re planning to batch a bunch of cocktails in advance and you don’t have enough containers to hold all of the mixtures, simply reuse the empty bottles that held the spirits.
Cool Like That
You never want to run out of ice in the middle of a party, so make sure you’ve made or bought plenty of ice for your drinks. You can store it in coolers and use it as needed.
If spending money on matching sets of the right glassware stresses you out, think about going vintage and mixing and matching styles. Your local Goodwill store carries loads of fun and inexpensive glass¬ware, and don’t be afraid to get creative with whatever you already have around.
Be sure to have on hand all of the tools you’ll need to make your cocktails—plenty of shakers, barspoons, muddlers, and strainers. Ask friends ahead of time if you need to borrow their tools, so you’re sure to be fully outfitted when you’re ready to start mixing.
Spice is Nice
Holiday cocktails are chock-full of wintry spice, and to maximize the flavor factor, you’ll want to use the freshest whole spices possible (throw out that decades-old container of ground cinnamon already!). Crush or grate them at the last minute for nuanced cocktails with layers of fresh seasonal spice. (Consider investing in a mortar and pestle or a Microplane grater—even a few spins in a clean coffee grinder would do the trick.)