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Holiday Entertaining Guide

Written by: Elizabeth McCabe

Holiday Entertaining Guide


Hosting should be fun! Holiday entertaining can be relatively stress-free with the right tools and preparation. Your most important job as a host is to create a fun, memorable, and meaningful experience for your guests. Keep it simple and relaxed, don’t worry if everything is perfect.


Paying attention to details and taking individual needs into account makes your guests feel seen and valued. This can be anything from addressing dietary restrictions to providing boxes or Tupperware to take leftovers home. You want people to feel comfortable and welcome in your home. This can mean adjusting the temperature or opening a window if it feels stuffy. Being a host is really about anticipating people’s needs and trying to create an enjoyable experience for everyone. 


Forget stocking a bar cart with endless supplies for everyone’s favorite drink. Stick to a batch cocktail or an easy DIY cocktail guests can make themselves. 

Batch Cocktails

Decide on one or two festive picks (like spiked apple cider, Moscow mules, or winter sangria) to prep ahead, and let guests serve themselves from a punch bowl or pitcher. 

DIY Cocktails

If batch cocktails aren’t your style, you can always opt for one featured classic cocktail that guests can make themselves with a provided recipe. Here are three of our favorites:

Gin & Tonic

2oz Greenhook Gin and 4oz FeverTree Tonic served over ice with a squeeze of lime.


2oz Four Roses Bourbon, 1oz Contratto Vermouth Rosso, and 3 dashes Fee Brothers Bitters (we suggest orange or cherry). Mix with ice, stir, strain, and garnish with a Jack Rudy Cocktail Cherry


1oz Greenhook Gin, 1oz St. George Bruto Americano, and 1oz Contratto Vermouth Rosso served over ice and garnished with an orange peel.

Just be sure to use quality ingredients. High-quality mixers and garnishes make all the difference when you’re talking about cocktails that only have 2 or 3 ingredients.


Make yourself more interesting! A bottle of wine can be a great conversation piece at any gathering, so don't be intimidated to ask questions at your local shop. 

When buying for a number of people and you don't know what they all drink, stay away from the extremes; think crowd appeal.

  • Bubbly is a great palate cleanser and a festive way to start your party.

  • For whites, go with lighter varietals like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigios, and even some blends.

  • Dry Rosés are always a great option because they suit lots of different tastes and food profiles. 

  • For reds, blends are always the best option, followed by Pinot Noirs.

Here are four of our go-to crowd-pleasing wines:


Trecase Prosecco $14.99


Christian Lauverjat Sauvignon Blanc $12.99

Light Red

Domaine Dupeuble Pere Et Fils Beaujolais $12.99

Rich Red

Colossal Reserva $10.99

The basic rule of thumb when calculating how much wine to buy is 2 drinks per person for the first hour and then 1 drink per person per hour for the rest of the event. A bottle of wine (750ml) has about 5 drinks (5oz pours) each. 

If you choose to buy your wine from us, we're happy to let you return any unopened bottles, and we offer a 10% wine case discount on all non-sale wines.

Don’t forget to have plenty of non-alcoholic options on hand for those who won’t be drinking. Water is a must, but things like sparkling apple cider or a festive mocktail can help keep those guests in the party spirit.



Opt for no-cook appetizers that you can put together ahead of time. A cheese plate is a wonderful option. Using a solid color plate, like white, wood, or a slate chalkboard, will really showcase the cheeses and keep your plate from looking too busy. 

How to Build a The Perfect Cheese Plate:

  • Variety is key 

    • Choose 4 varieties of cheese ie. soft, semi-firm, hard/aged, and blue 

    • Mix in different textures and include one familiar cheese like aged cheddar or gouda

    • Some of our favorites include:


Delice de Bourgogone, Four Fat Fowl, Cana de Cabra


Drunken Goat, Honey Bee Goat Gouda, Manchego


Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, Prima Donna, Aged Gouda


Over the Moon Blue, Cambozola, Chiraboga Blue

    • Add sweet and savory accompaniments like olives, nuts, pistachios, chocolates, jams and conserves, chutney, fresh and dried fruit, and charcuterie/sliced meats (we suggest keeping the meat on a separate plate to accommodate plant-based diets)

      • Some of our favorite accompaniments include Tait Farm Fig & Honey Spread and Cranberry Chutney, DiBruno White Truffle Honey, chocolate-covered sea salt almonds, Bobby Sue’s Nuts, dried apricots, and marinated olives

    • Choose 2 kinds of crackers - one plain and one with flavor

      • For plain crackers, we recommend DiBruno Crostini Olive Oil or La Panzanella Plain Flatbreads

      • For crackers with some flavor, we reach for NY Flatbreads Everything, Jan’s Farmhouse Crisps, and Effie’s Pecan Nutcakes


A simple soup can be made ahead of time and is perfect for warming people up in the winter. I love making a butternut squash soup with cinnamon and spices. To make it creamy without being too rich, I add a can of coconut milk at the end and blend it all together. Keep it warm in a crockpot for easy serving.

Kale Apple Salad 

  • 2 bunches kale, shredded and finely chopped 
  • 2-3 apples, thinly sliced
  • Juice of 4 fresh lemons 
  • ¼ c. maple syrup
  • 2 T. whole grain mustard
  • ½ c. extra virgin olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional add-ins: nuts, avocado, dried cranberries

Place kale in a bowl and add a dash of sea salt. Massage the kale with your hands and then add the apples. In a separate bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking the remaining ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the desired amount of dressing over the kale & apples and mix to combine. Serve immediately. Store any leftover dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator (a mason jar works well so you can shake it the next time you want to use it). 


A hearty kale salad is a wonderful option this time of year. This kale apple salad is one of my favorites, it’s simple, seasonal, and has just the right amount of sweetness.

Pro tip: cut the kale into shreds and massage it with a little bit of sea salt before assembling the salad to make it easier to chew and digest.


Opt for a main dish that is prepared and finished in the oven so all of your prep and clean up can be done before the party. Something baked can be put in the oven and then pulled out and served. 

Our go-to main dishes are Chicken Pot Pie, Lasagna, or Turkey Meatloaf.

Additional Tips

  1. Consider a potluck. As the host, you are in charge of the main dish and your guests can fill in the gaps.

  2. Add special touches where it counts. Real whipped cream instead of cool whip, for example, is an easy swap that feels more special and elevates your dessert. 

  3. Keep the food and drink on opposite sides of the room to prevent a gridlock of guests.


Focus on your table and your meal. Don’t overcommit yourself by redecorating your entire living room the day before your gathering. 

Bring the outside in with fresh florals, pumpkins, pinecones, and seasonal fruit and vegetables to decorate your table. Add some unscented candles and you’re all set. Stick to two to three colors for your decor to give it a polished look. Keep sustainability in mind when decorating as well and stay away from plastic and disposable items or opt for more eco-friendly alternatives. 

Spring for a premium account on a music streaming service so you don’t have to deal with commercials or ads. There is an endless amount of playlists to choose from. And keep the TV off for your dinner or event--nothing feels more impersonal than a blaring TV with half of your guests sitting around a screen.


The most stressful thing about planning is running out of time, so make a list of everything you need to do and plot out time to do it. Don’t leave everything for the day of your party. Here are a few things you can check off your list ahead of time:

  • One week out: do a deep clean.

  • 2-3 days before: decorate the table and go grocery shopping.

  • The day before: tidy up, rearrange furniture and/or gather extra seating, restock the restroom with toilet paper and clean towels, food prep, and decide where to put the drinks. 

The more you plan ahead, the less you’ll have to do during the actual party, which means more time that you get to relax and enjoy your guests!


Nothing is more fun than gathering with friends and family, but that also means you could be creating a lot more trash. In fact, household waste increases by 25% between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Be mindful of your waste and use sustainable, eco-friendly options whenever you can. 

One way to entertain the eco way is to say no to paper, plastic, and other single-use goods. Plus, using real plates and dishes makes an event feel more special! It might add a little more time to your clean-up, but it’s worth it when it comes to taking care of our planet. And remember: your guests will likely offer to jump in to help.

Pro tip: make sure your dishwasher is empty going into the party. Nothing is worse than having a guest jump in to help and having to empty your dishwasher and ask where every item goes.

If you’re worried about things breaking or you don’t have enough dishes and utensils for everyone consider the following options:

  • Invest in melamine or reusable unbreakable plates and dishware (a great option for kids' birthday parties and outdoor events). 

  • Head to a thrift store (this is wallet-friendly and even more eco-conscious!)

  • Rent your dishware - local rental companies like AC Party Rentals offer a full variety of rentals for party needs, and they do the cleaning too! Just clear the food from the plates and put them in a bin, and they take care of the rest. Chairs, tables, and linens are also available to rent for affordable prices.


Nothing causes more stress for both you and your guests than biting off more than you can chew. Make a list of the things that are really important to you and keep it realistic. If you’re having a dinner party, maybe you opt for getting dessert from a bakery rather than adding homemade dessert to your plate too. 

Overall, your guests will feel as comfortable as you feel calm, so enjoy these moments. Don’t get overwhelmed, and remember perfection is not the goal. Celebrating each other and the holiday is the point of the gathering. Relax and appreciate spending the holiday season with the people who matter most!

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