Holiday hosting is a big responsibility—but there’s no reason to let it consume you. This season, reconsider your approach to service, and take your cues from fine- dining restaurants: Set your mise en place and focus on the art of gathering. After all, the heart of our holiday celebrations isn’t the logistics, but the people we bring together. Here’s how to keep it relaxed so you can be fully present at your next party.
A few days before the event, collect your ingredients, start making syrups and special ice, and figure out what space you’ll need for beverages and glassware. Batch cocktails like the Smoky Mezcal-Fig Sour and Earl Grey–Aquavit Spritz can be made the night before so on the day of, you can just set out your garnishes, let guests assemble their own drinks, and mingle.
If you don’t want to work a bartending shift in your own home, have self-serve options, like beer and wine, plus batch cocktails in a pitcher or punch bowl. This frees you up and allows guests to take ownership of their drinking. The key is making sure not to put everything out at once. Set some of the beer and wine out along with half of the cocktails, and refill throughout the night. For batched cocktails, try these two festive alternatives:
Rent the Dishes
If you’re entertaining a crowd, don’t go out and buy festive glassware—rent it. Racks for glassware generally come in sets of 15 to 25 starting at 40 cents a glass, and you don’t have to worry about cleaning them afterward. Punch bowls are fragile and bound to break if you are putting them to good use. Rent them, or buy them inexpensively at thrift stores, estate sales, eBay, and discount stores.
Stay Bougie on a Budget
It’s not about buying the most expensive products; save yourself some cash by picking mid-range spirits for your cocktails. Staying in the $19 to $28 range is best, and always ask the store if they have mixed-case deals. If you know your guests will be drinking spirits neat, buy a couple of nicer bottles just for that.