By Jeanette Hurt.

Holidays: the mere mention of the word can send your heart into overdrive as you anticipate all that the season brings. So much to do, so many expectations to fulfill, and so little time to get everything accomplished. But take a deep breath, exhale slowly, and pour yourself a favorite drink.

While we can’t alleviate all of your holiday challenges, we can offer you some delicious cocktail entertaining tips to make your parties go more smoothly, some practically fool-proof, give you some grown-up gift ideas to make gift-giving easier, and share a selection of seasonal beverages to make the holidays bright.

The spirited part of all your holiday celebrations should be enjoyable, not stressful. Here are some suggestions to make entertaining your guests entertaining for you as well!

7 cocktail entertaining tips

Simplify

Unless you want to bartend all night—without the benefit of tips—offer a small variety of drinks. Except for simple mixers like gin and tonic or Jack and Coke, don’t offer a full cocktail menu. Instead, just plan on one to three drinks, max. Offer a classic or two, and then create one signature drink for the occasion.

Prep Ahead of Time

Premix, pre-make, pre-batch. Yes, freshly shaken and stirred cocktails taste better, but a pre-mixed drink usually still tastes delicious. Mix up a batch in a pitcher and let your guests serve themselves. Sangria and punches are great for parties because they always are pre-made.

If you’re determined to make the drinks as they’re requested, at least pre-squeeze the fresh juices and make your simple syrups ahead of time. And always, always use fresh juices—the bottled varieties, usually packed with corn syrup and additives, never make the best drinks.

Stock Up on Simple Syrups

Speaking of simple syrups, they’re basically just equal parts sugar and water, and they’re sometimes infused with herbs, spices, and other ingredients. If you’re short on time, try some quality, pre-made syrups like Cocktail & Sons. Professional bartenders and wife-husband team Lauren Myerscough and Max Messier created these syrups in part because they got tired of whipping up drinks at family parties. They make some amazing syrup flavors, like a spiced demerara (a type of raw sugar), a mint and lemon verbena, an oleo saccharum, a honeysuckle and peppercorn, and a fassionola (the secret ingredient to a Hurricane). Real bars use these syrups, and they’re made with all natural ingredients.

Set Up a DIY Cocktail Bar

Set up a do-it-yourself cocktail bar. Bloody Mary bars and mimosa bars are probably the simplest and most popular, especially for brunch parties, but you can do the same for almost any classic cocktail. Set out ingredients, tools and a simple card of instructions.

Create a Signature Cocktail

Take one of your favorite drinks, and then just change it up a little bit. For example, take a margarita. But instead of just lime, how about combine a quarter of the lime juice in the recipe with fresh pomegranate juice instead? Or, use spiced syrup in a Manhattan (again, Cocktail & Sons could be good here). You could also just go ahead and check out one of our holiday recipes.

Use Good–Not Great–Glassware

Here’s the test: how upset would you be if Aunt Frannie or your best friend’s boyfriend Bubba broke your glass? If it’s replaceable, use it. If it’s not—whether because of expense or sentimental value—then don’t use it. Instead, go to Goodwill, garage sales, and restaurant supply stores to buy nice, but not heartbreakingly nice, glasses. If you have to use plastic or just prefer not to wash any dishes, I recommend HaloVino. They’re stemless, stackable stemware you can put in the dishwasher that actually enhances the taste of wine (not like the red plastic cups you used at college parties), and they’re also actually a good substitute for both wine cocktails and cocktails served in small rocks glasses.

Set a Theme

Not necessarily Ninja Turtles or Frozen, but that’s okay if that’s your thing, but grown-up themes can be creative, classic, and they’re really only limited by your imagination. Throw a Game of Thrones New Year’s Eve party, a 70’s disco night or a Winter Solstice in Tahiti party. The advantage of a theme is that it gives you a set of parameters for food, décor, drinks and music; at the same time simplifying your choices yet giving your creative muse free reign.

7 cocktail party tips


Order your copy of Drink Like a Woman for more cocktail recipes and entertaining tips.