Planning a Cocktail Party for New Years Eve

Holiday Cocktail Party

It’s coming upon that time of year again – the holidays are right around the corner. Travel, parties, holiday lights and shoppers everywhere you go.  And then next thing you know, we’re getting ready for a brand New Year.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Party planning for New Years Eve can sometimes seem stressful in the midst of all the other holiday dinners, parties and events going on during this busy season, but it can also be fun and fabulous if you have a strategy in mind and keep it simple with a few great wines, some bubbly, winter cocktails and small bites for a crowd. Here are a few tips and recipes of my own to help you throw a brilliant New Years Eve cocktail soiree of your own. Cheers!

Send out handwritten printed invitations with RSVP if it’s a formal cocktail party – not necessary, but adds a nice personal touch.

Try to prep your food and drinks and decorations as much as possible before the party begins (even a day or two ahead) and find some helping hands as the guests arrive to help you get things set up and served – this gives them something to do if they show up early before the evening starts getting too busy and relieves some pressure off of you as the host so you can greet guests as they arrive.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Always serve a nice variety of the bubbly to celebrate the New Year. You can mix up the offerings by serving a fine French Champagne (Gaston Chiquet Grand Cru Blanc des Blancs NV or Vilmat et Cie “Couer de Cuvee” 2004), a sparkling Spanish Cava (Avinyo Cava Brut NV or Cava Recaredo Brut Nature), or a sparkling Italian Prosecco (Sorrelle Branca Prosecco di Valdobiadenne “Extra Dry” NV or Case Coste Piane Prosecco Frizzante Naturalmente 2011). Champagnes will run you about $30-125 per bottle (or more!), Cavas run about $12-32, and Prosecco is the most affordable at $10-20 per bottle.

Offer a nice selection of white and red wines such as Pinot Grigio, Dry Reisling and Sauvignon Blanc or a light, fruity Pinot Noir or Beaujolais. If you want to add a seasonal touch, try serving some hot mulled wine with spices to warm the party up.

Set up a mini bar and serve some fun classic Winter cocktails – Whiskey Sours, traditional Martinis, White Russians, and Pisco Sours are just a few of my favorites this time of year.  Make sure to have plenty of ice in a mesh strainer in the kitchen sink (to avoid it from getting to melted and watery) and a variety of cocktail mixers and glasses set out.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Have a nice assortment of finger foods and small bites: small veggie and cheese tarts, mini crab cakes, fried chicken bites (excellent with Champagne!), a variety of cheese and crackers, cold and hot baked dips, hummus, olive tapenade, pesto, holiday fruit or fig jam, served with crudités, crackers, small toasts and crostini. Have a stack of small white or colorful plates, cocktail napkins and silverware nearby for serving.

Try to pair your cheese selections with the wines and bubbly you are serving. I love a nice tangy Bleu cheese, Gouda, Manchego, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Emmental, Sharp Cheddar, baked Brie and Chevre. Serve the cheese board on a chalkboard or slate board and label the different cheeses for guests with a variety of cheese serving knives.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Serve sweet and spicy roasted mixed nuts in the oven that are easy to make and go great with the traditional cocktails you are serving. Place the nuts in small bowls set up around the tables and gathering areas of your home.

Think outside the box and create mini food stations with small bites: a Mac and Cheese bar, a bar with different Burgers and/or Crab, Shrimp and Lobster Sliders, a small Taco bar of different varieties (steak, shrimp, chicken, pork, veggie) – with small individual bowls and spoons nearby for the sauces and toppings.

Have a small bar set up in the kitchen with some drinks and small bites but also try to keep people mingling by setting up other stations in your dining or living room to avoid having them gather in just one area (especially in the kitchen where you are cooking!)

Keep the music lively and mix it up a little bit. Start with some classical or jazz music and then amp it up towards the end with some more upbeat music like pop or Top 40.

Make some fun and thoughtful party favors for guests to take home – some homemade chocolate truffles or candies or some scented soaps wrapped in cellophane with ribbon.

To make Parmesan Garlic Mushroom Tarts, first preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Unroll and separate croissant dough into separate triangles on a flat counter space.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Roll each triangle into a small ball and flatten each into discs.

Press each dough triangle into an ungreased muffin pan and press up the sides to create small tart cups in each tin.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Stir together in a small bowl the mushrooms, garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil and salt and pepper and place in the mixing bowl of the KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender.

Mushroom_6

Holiday Cocktail Party

Pulse a few times on medium speed to chop ingredients and blend together.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the mushroom-garlic-cheese mixture into each cup in the muffin pan.

Place in preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until crusts are lightly golden brown. Remove mushroom tarts from oven and sprinkle a small handful of shredded mozzarella over each one. Heat oven to 500 degrees, and broil the tarts for about a minute or so until the mozzarella cheese starts to melt and get bubbly.

Holiday Cocktail Party

Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Parmesan Garlic Mushroom Tarts

Makes 12 small tarts

INGREDIENTS

2 packages refrigerated croissant dough
2 cups fresh or canned mushrooms
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon minced parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Unroll and separate croissant dough into separate triangles on a flat counter space.

Roll each triangle into a small ball and flatten each into discs.

Press each dough triangle into an ungreased muffin pan and press up the sides to create small tart cups in each tin.

Stir together in a small bowl the mushrooms, garlic, Parmesan cheese, parsley, olive oil and salt and pepper and place in the mixing bowl of the KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender.

Pulse a few times on medium speed to chop ingredients and blend together.

Spoon about 1-2 tablespoons of the mushroom-garlic-cheese mixture into each cup in the muffin pan.

Place in preheated oven and bake for about 15 minutes until crusts are lightly golden brown. Remove mushroom tarts from oven and sprinkle a small handful of shredded mozzarella over each one. Heat oven to 500 degrees, and broil the tarts for about a minute or so until the mozzarella cheese starts to melt and get bubbly.

Let cool for a few minutes and serve.

Makes 12 small tarts. Can also double recipe for a larger crowd.

Holiday Cocktail Party

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Whiskey Sour

INGREDIENTS

1 small lemon wedge
Turbinado sugar, for rimming glass
1/4 cup bourbon, preferably Maker’s Mark
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, preferably organic
1 cup ice cubes

DIRECTIONS

Rub the lemon wedge around the rim of a 12-ounce rocks glass. Place turbinado sugar in a shallow dish. Dip the rim of the glass in the sugar to coat; set aside.

In a large cocktail shaker, combine bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and ice. Cover, and shake vigorously until all ingredients are well combined and cold. Pour into prepared glass, and garnish with orange slice.

Holiday Cocktail Party

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Classic Dry Martini

INGREDIENTS

1 2/3 oz Gin
1/3 oz Dry Vermouth

DIRECTIONS

Stir with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with twist of lemon peel or olives.

Holiday Cocktail Party

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Mulled Red Wine with Brown Sugar

INGREDIENTS

Two bottles of fruity red wine (Zinfandel or Merlot)
Zest strips from one orange
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, lightly crushed
1 3-inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed

DIRECTIONS

Put the peppercorns, fennel seeds and cinnamon in a large tea ball or wrap them in cheesecloth and secure them with kitchen string. In a large saucepan, combine aromatics with the wine, bay leaves and orange zest.

Cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered for 30 minutes. Remove the aromatics and orange zest strips. Stir in the sugar until dissolved.

Serve warm in glasses or mugs with a variety of cheeses and crackers and spiced nuts.

Holiday Cocktail Party

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Pisco Sour

INGREDIENTS

2 oz Pisco
1 oz Lemon or Lime Juice
1-2 dashes Angostura Bitters
1/4 oz Sugar
1/2 Egg White

DIRECTIONS

Shake all ingredients except bitters with ice. Strain into champagne flutes.

Dash with bitters and drag with a toothpick to make design.

Holiday Cocktail Party

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Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts

INGREDIENTS

1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup cashews
3/4 cup pecan halves
1/2 cup almonds
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
1-1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Dash of Louisiana-style hot sauce

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, combine the salt and spices; set aside. In a large heavy skillet, melt butter. Add cashews, pecans and cashews; cook over medium heat until nuts are lightly toasted, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Add the brown sugar, water, Worcestershire and hot sauce. Cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until sugar is melted.

Place nuts on a large baking sheet lined with foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes until nuts are golden brown. Remove from oven and let nuts cool before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Makes 2 cups.

MixedNuts

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*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*

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KitchenAid® 3-Speed Hand Blender

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