ask the experts
entertaining U
by Siobhan Flaherty Haber and Jane Miller Rennert

Festive with a CAPITAL F

Make your party the party of the season!

Who doesn't get a little thrill when its time to dig out the black velvet and head out to that first holiday fête of the season? In our opinion, whatever your religious persuasion, the holiday season should be one long cocktail party. Make yours the one everyone else uses to plan their calendars around. We're talking festive with a capital F.

  • Call it a formal. Encourage your friends and family to don their swankest finery and you'll get everyone in the holiday spirit before they even walk through the door.

  • Brrrr-its winter! Give your guests something warm to get them in the mood. Welcome them with a delicious hot drink such as a rum toddy, hot cider and bourbon, or a mug of spicy mulled wine. For an impressive hors d'oeuvres serve a creamy soup in shot glasses arranged on a platter. Most soups can be made well in advance and frozen with no ill effect.

  • Pile silver ball ornaments in glass bowls in every corner of the room for inexpensive holiday décor.

  • Everyone loves presents! Organize a gift grab bag at your next holiday party. Give everyone a price limit and a theme and have them bring a gift. As the host be sure to provide a few extra gifts to make up for any guests who forget to bring one.

  • Candles in the bathroom-nothing is more of a buzzkill than having to switch on the fluorescent lights.

  • Serve a sparkling wine with a couple of drops of pomegranate syrup and a few pomegranate seeds floating on top for a colorful holiday quaff.

  • A dessert party is perfect for the holidays. Serve an array of elegant sweets accompanied by sweet Champagne-like demi sec or extra dry-and dessert wines.

  • Break the bank and spring for caviar. If you have one standout hors d'oeuvre the rest can be simple and no one will notice.

  • The Basics: Figure on three drinks per person for a three hour holiday party. If you are planning a late night blowout-and we think you should-you'll need at least five drinks per person. One bottle of wine = five drinks. One 750ml bottle of liquor = 12-15 drinks. Have three cocktail napkins per guest. If you are serving passed hors d'oeuvres exclusively you'll need around six per person for a two or three hour cocktail party. If your party goes all night you'll need some more substantial fare so people don't get (too) wasted.