Ladies and gentlemen, the holidays are once again upon us. Huzzah!
This year, perhaps more than any other in recent memory, holds the promise of extraordinary revelry, merriment and cheer — we’re back together again, and the time has come to pull out all the stops to make this holiday season one for the record books.
With an eye toward our blessedly renewed togetherness, we’ve partnered with Neiman Marcus and Wondercade — the “weekly dispatch on the culture of curiosity” from our good friend Neil Patrick Harris — on this handy (and quite thorough) guide to holiday hosting. Three different seasonal scenarios, complete with the stylish fit to wear to each, the food and drinks you’ll want to serve, the tunes to play, and maybe even an amusing party trick to delight your guests.
Let this be your guide to making the most of your time together with friends and loved ones — never forget, as Neil is fond of saying, that “a life spent in good company is a life well-lived.”
When it comes to a cocktail party ensemble — particularly an ensemble for a cocktail party you are hosting — don’t be afraid to church it up a little bit. Again, this year in particular has an especially elevated air of festivity, and you shouldn’t be afraid to let that be reflected in an elevated, elegant fit. So bust out that showstopping dinner jacket you’ve been saving for a special occasion, throw a turtleneck underneath to keep ‘em guessing, then round it out with a left-of-center footwear choice (like a velvet mule) to really keep ‘em guessing.
It is a cocktail party, after all, so cocktails should ideally be (at least part of) what you serve. But no host wants to spend the night mixing drinks up individually. Your solution: a large-format craft cocktail that can be batched ahead of time and then set out in the appropriate vessel for guests to pour at their leisure. Place the garnishes nearby, and bear in mind that a printed recipe card to let revelers know exactly what they are imbibing is always a nice touch.
Which cocktail to batch is of course entirely up to your libational predilections, but putting a holiday twist on a classic drink is never a bad look. This take on the Old Fashioned features gingerbread and maple syrup for some yuletide flavor, plus a bit of rosemary for olfactory effect.
Ingredients (this is enough for roughly 16 drinks, multiply as needed):
Another thing a savvy host wants to avoid doing all night: futzing with the stereo. Thus it behooves you to craft a quality playlist that’ll keep things festive but not overpower the conversation and conviviality — ideally a playlist that can run uninterrupted the entire evening. Or you can just, you know, use this jazzy one right here.
And in the event you need something for that jazzy playlist to come out of…
If you’re one of those folks who likes to have a properly catered affair, more power to you. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t mind spending your whole day in the kitchen prepping food for a party, same deal. However, if you’re neither and you still want to have delectable bites on hand, it bears noting that Neiman Marcus has all sorts of gourmet snackable treats that can be delivered straight to your door, and then strategically placed around the party for your guests with zero hassle.
For a dinner party, you’re looking to hit that sweet spot right in the center of the style/comfort Venn diagram. No one wants to feel overly stuffy when the whole goal of the evening is to stuff oneself, but you also want to set the tone for an elevated affair. A luxe sweater with some pattern and/or texture paired with a solid pair of trousers does the trick nicely, especially when you complete the look with some dashing footwear like a leather Chelsea boot.
In terms of setting a holiday table, the hack comes down to one word: gold. It’s elegant, festive, picks up the lighting well, and, most of all, it’s versatile — i.e., it works for just about any type of holiday celebration and also plays well with whatever pops of color you choose to throw into the mix. Now, we’re not saying that your flatware needs to be filigreed, but … can’t hurt?
When you’re hosting the holiday dinner, an inventive twist on traditional favorites goes a long way toward making your affair the one everybody will rave about later on. Thus we tapped Neil’s husband — chef, cookbook author and host extraordinaire David Burtka — for his triple-threat stuffed baked potato recipe. Filled with the holiday trifecta of mashed potatoes, savory stuffing and mashed sweet potatoes, these are sure to have your guests calling for the recipe the next day (whether or not you want to share it is up to you).
Savory Stuffing (Instant stuffing works too!)
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet Potato Topping
Sweet Potato Topping
Once the meal is finished, it’s time to delight your assembled guests with a bit of the old razzle dazzle — in other words, a dinner party trick. Below you’ll find one that requires naught but a tea light, a plate, a bit of wine and the everpresent laws of physics.
Grab a tea light, light it and pour a little bit of wax onto the center of an empty plate. Set the tea light on top of it so that the wax will hold it in place.
Pour a small amount of wine onto the plate around the tea light and announce that you can get the wine into a glass without touching the plate.
Place an empty wine glass over the lit tea light. As the flame dies out, it will create a vacuum that draws the wine from the plate up into the glass.
Take a bow and collect your winnings (you were smart enough to make wagers with your guests, right?).
The goal here is cozy comfort, but some whimsy can absolutely be inserted into the mix — subbing out your typical sweats for a colorful pajama/robe combo keeps the proceedings fun and festive, and costs you nothing in terms of lounge-ability.
Again, cozy comfort is the name of the game. In terms of dialing up your space on that front, you can do no better than a cashmere blanket or two. And if you’re going to ensconce yourself in the world’s most luxurious fabric, might we suggest that you do so with a cup of gourmet hot cocoa made from a melted chocolate snowman in your hand?
The family snow day is about togetherness, so no need to spend all morning in the kitchen. Instead, opt for something both delectable and easy — Neiman Marcus’s Classic Popovers with strawberry butter are known the world over, and can be ordered fresh right to your door. You’ll like them so much you may want to grab a popover pan of your own to fold the recipe into your regular breakfast routine.
The natural temptation after a family breakfast is for everyone to go back to staring at their respective screens of choice. Instead, use this as an opportunity to break out a game or activity that you can all do together — whether it’s a card game, backgammon, puzzle or a good old-fashioned marshmallow-pop-painting session, this is the kind of stuff that everyone will remember fondly for years to come. Certainly more than they will a game of Candy Crush or an episode of Squid Game.