classic Manhattan cocktail
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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. Just follow these simple steps and recipe recommendations and it’ll be a cinch.

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1. Let Your Friends Know What to Expect

When you send your invite, whether that’s an actual card or a group text, specify “with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and pie” so they can expect the event to substitute dinner. Or let them know if there are minimal nibbles so they can grab a snack to cushion their bellies before they arrive.

2. Decide on Your Drinks—and Make One a Mocktail

spiced cranberry sangria recipe


You can offer wine and beer, but at least one or two seasonal cocktails make the event special. Big-batch cocktails like punch or sangria are easier on you, but if you want to mix drinks to order, bring out the bar cart. You can even use your slow cooker for a warm Crock-Pot cocktail.

Related Reading: 9 Interesting Alcohols to Bring Holiday Cheer to Your Home Bar

And don’t neglect the non-drinkers; give them something better than seltzer and sparkling cider, like a pitcher of chicha morada, Peru’s beloved purple corn drink.

3. Make the Food Grazeable

goat cheese stuffed peppadew recipe


It’s not a sit-down dinner, so the food can (and should) be bite-size and communally served. Think dips, of course, and cheese in all forms, and maybe something warm like Crock-Pot meatballs; you can bake these homemade Italian meatballs 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.

For that reason, fondue can be a great choice too, but if you don’t have the equipment, there’s always a cheese ball, cheese board, or other festive cheese appetizer.


At least offer a couple starters that satiate slightly boozy stomachs; see our easy party appetizers for more great finger food ideas.

Related Reading: Easy Holiday Food Hacks to Impress Your Guests

4. Don’t Forget Dessert

For dessert, if you haven’t already made a bunch of Christmas cookies, you can buy a variety of pre-made or ready-to-bake pies from a good bakery (or Trader Joe’s!), 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. Check out these easy Christmas candy recipes too.

5. Make Sure Everyone Is Accommodated

If you have serious host goals, offer something gluten-free or keto if your guests have any such dietary restrictions, and be sure there’s something vegan too, if only simple spiced nuts and olives. Fresh fruit can be nice for everyone; tangerines taste great right now and a light, bright bite can be a real relief amid all the rich and sugary holiday treats.

(No pressure, of course, buuut 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.”)

6. 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 contribution. 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. Let someone else be responsible for the drinks if they love mixing things up.

Or maybe you’d like them to bring a festive floral arrangement, or something less sexy like extra paper towels or hand soap for your bathroom because you’re almost out. Be honest when they ask and let them help however you need!

holiday flower centerpiece

7. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Details

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 some centerpieces and hang up some extra string lights, but you probably already have some holiday decorations making your place look extra welcoming. Cue up some Christmas music and relax.

At the end of it all, sit down with your friends and enjoy it; your at-home holiday happy hour is meant to help your crew get into the spirit of sharing, joy, and laughter. Bask in the glow of your wonderful friends gathered in your home and don’t worry if it’s not spotless or you didn’t get around to infusing your own liqueur and digestifs. That’s not the point. The people are.

See our Ultimate Guide to Christmas and visit our Holiday Headquarters for more tips, tricks, and recipes to make things merry and bright.

Related Video: How to Make a Holiday Sparkler Cocktail

Header image by Chowhound.

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