The key to a stress-free soiree—at least from the host’s perspective—is not to wait until the last minute. But we get it: We’re all tied up with deadlines and vet appointments. It doesn’t leave a ton of time to, say, plan the chicest holiday fête in town. That’s where we come in: Together with event planner Sofia Crokos, we’ve outlined everything you need to do to throw the ultimate holiday party. Read on for all our best advice and tips, from what to stock your bar cart with (hint: It’s Johnnie Walker Black Label) to the delectable items we love for party favors.
Style Your Bar Cart
If there’s one piece of advice that stays constant from party to party, it’s that you’d better have booze stocked, ready, and set beautifully on display where guests can easily grab it. For a cleaner look, organize your bottles from tallest at the back to shortest at the front, so labels are easier to read. Crokos also prioritizes having drinking vessels cleaned and visible: “Elegant glassware is super important,” she says. “I always make sure I have an excellent glass for whatever liquor I’m serving.” Rocks glasses, for example, are the perfect choice for serving whisky because of their characteristically wide rim, which allows space for statement ice cubes and leaves room for muddling. As for what spirits she keeps on hand? “I’d say Johnnie Walker Black Label scotch whisky is a necessity, as well as a good gin, a dry vermouth, and a vodka,” she says. “Bitters are also essential.” They can enhance any cocktail’s natural flavor, while still imparting a deep, rich flavor of their own. And for the finishing touches: “Every bar cart needs nice toothpicks, good olives, and a great cocktail napkin,” she adds.
Serve Easy-To-Eat Snacks
A holiday party, with all its mingling, is not the time to serve messy, drippy, appetizers (we’re looking at you, queso dip). Instead, stick to one- or two-bite snacks that can be eaten with one hand, since you’ll probably have a cocktail in the other. Crokos, for one, never throws a get-together without plenty of cheese. “I love a crazy delicious cheese platter served with honey that’s infused with lavender or thyme, plus crostini, crackers, and nuts,” she says. To tempt the non-dairy lovers, she’ll also offer seasoned warm olives, and sweet roasted garlic that’s perfect for spreading on toast. For a dessert bite, you don’t have to go big before everyone goes home: Often, a beautiful platter of dark and milk chocolate is enough to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth (plus, it goes extremely well with Johnnie Walker Black Label).
For Decor, Less Is More
“I love simplicity when decorating,” Crokos says. “I don’t mind a themed gathering for a holiday, but people can get a little crazy, making it too kitschy or obvious. Simple touches can go a long way, and for me, the true decor is the food and drink!” Some of our favorite low-maintenance decor elements include delicate string lights, gold-toned, unscented candles (so as not to interfere with food or drink), and evergreen branches to decorate the table and bar cart.
Send Them Home With Edible Party Favors
“I like prepping additional food that we know we’re not going to finish so I can send leftovers home with friends,” Crokos says. Not only do you know they’ll actually use this gift (who doesn’t love snacking on cheese or chocolate?) but it saves you the hassle of tying ribbons on a million goody bags. All you need to do is make sure you’re stocked up on to-go containers; we love compostable, eco-friendly boxes. You can also add themed stickers—like stars or ornaments—to help seal them.
Bring A Little Something For The Host
Since you’ll undoubtedly be on the receiving end of a lot of invites this season, this last one is a tip for when you’re the guest: Never show up empty-handed to a party! If you’re at a loss for what to bring, you can’t go wrong with a fan-favorite bottle of liquor. We love gifting Johnnie Walker Black Label; its smoky sweetness has a hint of vanilla and creamy toffee, making it the ideal holiday-time tipple. Tie a bow around a bottle and you’re good-to-go, or get fancy and put it in a gift bag with some whisky stones or oversized, spherical ice cube trays.