The Holiday Party: What To Serve Or What To Bring

It's holiday season again, so we've enlisted a "lady friend," Laura House of the Good House Guest blog, to school us on all matters of being the host with the most.

It's tippling season. That time of year when the cocktail hour stretches out into a weeks-long event from Thanksgiving until the New Year's Eve ball drops us into January. A little variety will help you go the distance in the cocktail season ahead.

What to Serve

Lure guests in from the cold with a warming mulled wine. The cozy scent alone of this traditional European favorite is reason enough to keep a pot simmering on the stove at all times.

One reassuring thing about the holidays is that nostalgia often trumps trends (green bean casserole, anyone?). Channel the 1950s and stir up a batch of kicky rum punch for a cocktail party or open house.

You can't go wrong with a sparkly cocktail like The Velvet Rope from New York's Hurricane Club. Or, try a blood orange juice cocktail. Mix 3 tablespoons of blood orange juice and Champagne or Cava in a Champagne flute, stir and sip.

This elegant La Danse Diable pairs cognac with Fernet and grenadine gives it a holiday hue.

For a bright, nonalcoholic option, serve Cranberry Sparklers. Pour 1.5 ounces of blackberry puree and 2 ounces of cranberry juices in a tall glass or champagne flute. Fill with sparkling water and garnish with fresh mint.

What to Gift

You can never go wrong with wine. Have bottles of bubbly and vibrant reds, like Spanish Tempranillo, on hand for last minute party invites. Attach one of these clever gift tags as your calling card.

If bringing beer look for seasonal ales and lagers. Or, for something more original still, select a sparkling cider.

Despite all this holiday cheer, people get a bit run down this time of year too. Assemble a little Hot Toddy care package with a nice bottle of whiskey, jar of local honey, lemons and box of tea. Directions: mix 1-ounce whiskey, 1-tablespoon honey, juice from ¼ lemon in cup of hot water, add tea bag and revive.

Forget Swiss Miss, high quality hot chocolate is still a total treat. This Vosges Couture Cocoa Sampler makes a thoughtful host/hostess gift. 

This holiday entertaining guide is presented by our friends at Rioja Wines.