classic Manhattan cocktail

Does this scenario sound familiar? The holidays have arrived and you consider yourself social, but going out on the town has lost its appeal or has become unfeasible. Maybe you have reproduced one or more mini versions of yourself; maybe you have a needy fur baby you would rather snuggle; or, maybe, loud bars flare up your tinnitus. Have no shame in your homebody game. It happens. But, what can you do, all ye who long to be truly home for the holidays, but crave human connection?

Let us get you set up for a holiday happy hour at home. Sure to have you feeling merry and bright, this half cocktail party, half potluck, brings together your favorite human beings for a holiday gathering in the comfort of your own intimate abode. And, if you have plenty of Thanksgiving leftovers in the fridge or you have already begun decorating for Christmas (because your inner spirit avatar is an elf),  guess what, half the job of party preparing is already done. The rest is a cinch. Just follow these simple steps and recipe recommendations.

1. Invite your friends to a holiday happy hour at your home.

Specify “with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and pie” so they can expect the event to substitute dinner. This day in age, a text message invite works or, if you want to go the extra mile, mail a paper invitation. But be warned: Many more people than before fail to check their physical mailbox for days at a time.

2. Create a “set list” of festive drinks and food.

One of our eight must try cocktails for Negroni week, one of our festive vodka cocktails from around the world, and our holiday punch will do. Did you know an aperitif, like the classic Italian Negroni, serves two purposes? With its light but present alcohol content and its aromatic floral and herbal notes, an aperitif will both relax your guests’ senses and prime their appetite.

Chowhound

With that fun fact in mind, do plan on serving appetizers that satiate slightly boozy stomachs, like these homemade Italian meatballs that you can make and bake the day before, refrigerate, and warm back up in your slow cooker with marinara sauce. Place a bowl of shredded mozzarella, grated Parmesan, and fresh parsley next to your slow cooker and invite your friends to sprinkle the garnish on their meatballs. A guest who is even just partially engaged in the cookery is far more likely to enjoy eating the outcome of said cookery.

Another must-have on your holiday happy hour buffet table: finger foods, like crackers or sliced French baguette on which to shmear our cheeseballs that will wow. In addition, serve perennial classic apps like our basic cheese nachos, our easy guacamole, and our baked artichoke and spinach dip.

For dessert, you can buy a variety of pre-made or ready-to-bake pies from a good bakery or, the day before your event, you can make our mixed berry pie with anise or any one of our crowd-pleasing no bake desserts.

If you have serious host goals, treat your friends who do not drink alcohol to sparkling apple cider; serve your friend who follows a gluten-free diet gluten-free break and bake chocolate chunk cookies from Immaculate Baking Company; make these scrumptious pan fried apples tossed with pumpkin pie spice for little toddlers whose molars have not come in yet. Set up a generous bowl of mixed berries or sugar snap peas for the health conscious amongst your guests. There is nothing worse for a guest than showing up to a food and drink event without any food or drink options that say, “welcome to the party.”

3. Accept your friends’ offers to bring something.

If you want to enjoy yourself at your at-home holiday happy hour, which you deserve to do, you need to coordinate and delegate who is making what dishes. If your friend specifies what food he or she can bring, work your appetizers around your friend’s food. Or, if your friend would rather you take the lead, ask them to bring a different dish than the ones you and your other friends plan to serve.    

Suggest a friend bring our cheese plate as a gift or bake these easy hot ham and cheese party rolls that can be made with leftover honey glazed ham without anyone batting an eye.

holiday flower centerpiece

Overall, keep your holiday happy hour at home simple, yet festive, warm, and welcoming. If you must release your inner Martha Stewart, get to crafting these botanical centerpieces from our comprehensive guide to decorating flowers for the holidays. Or, let the Christmas greenery, tree, and décor that you have already set out suffice.

At the end of it all, relax, your at-home holiday happy hour is meant to help your friends and you get into the spirit of sharing, joy, and laughter. Bask in the glow of your wonderful friends gathered in your home.

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