The holiday season is a time for celebration with friends and family. What better way to kick off the festivities than by hosting a happy hour at your home? It can be easy and effortless to throw together, and it’s a great way to get everyone in the holiday spirit. To make party-planning stress-free for you, in today’s entertaining guide, discover culinary experts’ ideas and tips on how to easily host a fun holiday happy hour at home. So put on your party dress and let’s get started!
To start with, when planning a holiday happy hour, you’ll want to begin planning your menu. Since the primary focus of any party is the food and beverages, think about the types of foods that are easy to prepare ahead of time. This will make party planning much simpler and stress-free, as you can organize your food options hours (or a day) before the party starts.
For example, a fruit and cheese platter is one of the simplest and hassle-free food options to serve guests at a holiday happy hour. Not only can it be prepared in advance of the gathering (which makes life easier for you, as the hostess), but it also enables your guests to decide which items and how much they want to eat.
In addition to these benefits, there’s no actual cooking! So, even if you’re a novice chef, you don’t have to worry. Ideally, you should put together a mix of sweet, savory, salty, and spicy items on a large platter. It’s that easy!
A combination of fresh fruits and berries (such as grapes and strawberries), dried fruits (such as apricots), spiced nuts, dark chocolates, a savory jam, specialty crackers (like fig and olive oil crackers), and an assortment of cheese types (like Brie, cheddar, and asiago) are all you need. This exquisite variety of flavors, textures, and colors makes for a beautiful and tasty spread.
As Chef Chris Martin (Founder of Savor The Passion) says, “First of all, get more than you think. Sure, people won’t want to fill up on it, but if they find a combination they like they should get to have more than one. Getting extra gives you a better chance at that. Also, getting smaller ones will keep people from getting congested in one area.”
Chris has 17 years of hospitality experience in the kitchen, behind the bar, and on the floor, which makes him an expert at party planning and catering. As a result, he created Savor The Passion, a personal chef service that caters to guests in 20+ States by making intimate events and dinners at home a unique, personal, and memorable experience.
If you’re in the mood to whip up something special in the kitchen, below are links to delicious recipe ideas from John McConnell, the Executive Chef & Hospitality Director for Napa Valley-based winery and organic specialty food producer Clif Family.
John’s cooking career spans several noteworthy restaurants and food-centric cities. Most recently, he served as the Executive Chef for Hillstone Restaurant Group, a position that afforded him the opportunity to work in New York City, Santa Monica, Washington D.C., and East Hampton, NY. Prior to working for Hillstone, John was Chef de Cuisine for Michelin-star-rated Campton Place Hotel in San Francisco and as the Chef de Cuisine at Terra Restaurant in St. Helena before that. When it comes to creating gourmet-tasting recipes, he definitely knows a thing or two.
In addition to an easy-to-make cheese and fruit tray, I recommend opting for easy-to-serve beverages such as sparkling mineral water and wine (like Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon). To make it easy for your guests to serve themselves, leave the glasses and a fuss-free automatic wine opener on the table, so they can effortlessly open up a bottle and pour themselves a glass (or two). This is much easier than having a full bar (which can also get messy, as well as costly), or hiring a costly bartender.
Last, but certainly not least, before your guests arrive, create a festive atmosphere.
Light some candles, dim the lights in your home, and put on a holiday playlist (such as holiday-themed instrumental jazz or lounge music) that instantly sets the mood for celebrating.
In addition to this, turn on a YouTube HD video featuring hours of winter wonderland scenes, so there’s something interesting for them to watch while they’re lounging in your living room.
You can also set out a fun board game or a deck of cards so that your guests can play an entertaining game to keep themselves occupied. This is a great way to spark conversations among strangers, to make them feel more at ease while mingling with other guests.
Many years ago, I gained considerable experience planning events by becoming the President of the Monterey County Young Professionals Group. During my leadership, I quickly realized that people (no matter what their age or status) were timid when it came to chatting with strangers. So, one of the conversation-starting ideas I implemented at our monthly networking mixers was interactive games. As silly as it might feel to play icebreaker games, the truth is – it’s the easiest way to get adults talking to each other, especially if they’re shy or naturally introverted. Watch people start to relax, loosen up, and enjoy laughing with new friends over a glass of wine and a fun game!
For more inspiring tips and ideas, check out the Entertaining section on Inspirations & Celebrations to discover expert tips from party pros, gourmet recipes from celebrity chefs, and more.
[Disclosure: Affiliate links included. Press samples c/o Clif Family. All opinions are my own.]