The Neil Patrick Harris Guide to Becoming the Ultimate Holiday Host

Step 1: Be the best dressed guy in the room

November 24, 2021 10:57 am

In partnership with Neiman Marcus and Wondercade

Photography by Timothy Smith

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.”

the cocktail party
neil in a smoking jacket with a cocktail

Your Fit

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.

ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Men's Wool Floral Dinner Jacket

Ermenegildo Zegna Wool Floral Dinner Jacket

ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Men's Solid Wool Turtleneck Sweater

Ermenegildo Zegna Solid Wool Turtleneck Sweater

ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Flat-Front Wool Regular-Fit Trousers, Black

Ermenegildo Zegna Flat-Front Wool Regular-Fit Trousers

CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN Men's Coolito Logo Velvet Red Sole Mules

Christian Louboutin Coolito Logo Velvet Red Sole Mules

cocktails on a tray

Your Drink

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. 

The Holiday Old Fashioned

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):


Combine the ingredients in a large vessel and mix thoroughly (a long bar spoon helps). To serve, pour over ice and add cherries and a sprig of rosemary to garnish.

Baccarat Harmonie Double Old Fashion Tumblers

Baccarat Harmonie Double Old Fashion Tumblers

Corrine Cocktail Jug and Spoon

William Yeoward Corrine Cocktail Jug and Spoon

JONATHAN ADLER Eyes Cocktail Napkins, Set of 4

Jonathan Adler Eyes Cocktail Napkins, Set of 4

LES OTTOMANS Eye Gold Hand-Painted Iron Tray

Les Ottomans Eye Gold Hand-Painted Iron Tray

Your Tunes

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…

BANG & OLUFSEN Beosound 1 Speaker with Google Assistant

Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 Speaker with Google Assistant

Your Bites

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.

NEIMAN MARCUS Almond Pecan Popcorn

Neiman Marcus Almond Pecan Popcorn

NEIMAN MARCUS Bourbon Pecan Liquor Cake

Neiman Marcus Bourbon Pecan Liquor Cake

Neiman Marcus Chocolate-Coated Corn Twists & Potato Crisps

Neiman Marcus Chocolate-Coated Corn Twists & Potato Crisps

NEIMAN MARCUS NM Chocolate Peppermint Bark

Neiman Marcus Chocolate Peppermint Bark

the holiday dinner
neil in a sweater holding a le cruset pot standing next to an oversized stuffed plush bear in a santa outfit

Your Fit

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.

STEFANO RICCI Men's Textured Cashmere-Silk Sweater

Stefano Ricci Textured Cashmere-Silk Sweater

ERMENEGILDO ZEGNA Flat-Front Wool Regular-Fit Trousers, Gray

Ermenegildo Zegna Flat-Front Wool Regular-Fit Trousers

SAINT LAURENT Men's Wyatt 30 Leather Chelsea Boots

Saint Laurent Wyatt 30 Leather Chelsea Boots

SHINOLA Men's 45mm Runwell Automatic Watch, Black

Shinola 45mm Runwell Automatic Watch in Black

a golden table setting

Your Decor

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?

Bernardaud Noel Bread & Butter Plate

Bernadaud Noel Bread & Butter Plate

RICCI SILVERSMITH 45-Piece Gold Parisian Garden Flatware Set

Ricci Silversmith 45-Piece Gold Parisian Garden Flatware Set

Kim Seybert Astrid Napkin Ring

Kim Seybert Astrid Napkin Ring

Robin Reed Christmas Crackers

Robin Reed Christmas Crackers

Your Food

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).

Twice-Baked Spuds With Three Different Holiday Fillings

Mashed Potatoes 

  • 8 russet potatoes (scrubbed clean)
  • 8 tbsp/1 stick of butter or more 
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup sour cream 

Savory Stuffing
 (Instant stuffing works too!)

  • 1 lb of sliced, 1- to 2-day-old sourdough bread cut into 1/4 inch cubes (store-bought is fine) 
  • 2 small onions (small dice)
  • 4 celery stalks (small dice) 
  • 8 tbsp/1 stick of butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley 
  • 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
  • 1 tbsp chopped thyme leaves 
  • 2 tsp kosher salt 
  • 1 tsp pepper 
  • 2 cups good quality chicken broth 
  • 2 eggs 

Mashed Sweet Potatoes 

  • 4 sweet potatoes 
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp of salt 
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 2 egg yolks

Sweet Potato Topping 

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2 cups mini marshmallows

Potato Shells

  1. To make the shell of the potatoes, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pierce the potatoes with a fork and rub with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in the oven and cook for 1 and 1/2 hours, or until the potato gives a little. Set aside and let cool for 20 minutes.
  2. Once the potatoes are ready to handle, hold horizontally and cut off the top quarter and scoop out the flesh, leaving a small layer of potato inside the remaining skin. Tip: use a paring knife to score the inner flesh before you scoop. Add the flesh to a bowl (this will be the base of your mashed potatoes). Set aside skins on a rimmed baking sheet.

Mashed Potatoes 

  1. To make the mashed potatoes, combine the butter and cream into a saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and the cream is hot but not boiling. About 3 minutes. While heating the cream and butter, mash the flesh of the potatoes with a hand masher, ricer or food mill.
  2. Add melted butter and cream along with the sour cream to your mash. Gently stir until combined, season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl or fill back into your potato shells.

Savory Stuffing 

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Add butter to a skillet and melt till brown, then add chopped onion and celery. Cook over medium-high heat while stirring vegetables until they are translucent, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the vegetables to a bowl with the small bread cubes. Stir in herbs and spices. Toss with 1 cup of broth. Let cool.
  2. Whisk the eggs and add to the remaining broth. When the vegetable and bread mixture is cool, add the remaining liquid to the bowl and toss gently. Fill each potato shell with the stuffing and cook for about 30 minutes. The top should be golden brown. 

Sweet Potato 

  1. Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees until tender, about 1 hour. Set aside until cool enough to touch.
  2. Peel potatoes and put the flesh in a bowl. (These skins can be used too! Repeat same process as above.) Mash with the brown sugar, unsalted butter, salt, cinnamon, milk and egg yolks. When that has come together, fill the potato shells with your mash.

Sweet Potato Topping 

  1. In a separate bowl, stir in the sugar, flour and pecans, drizzle with butter and combine. Spread over the potatoes and top with marshmallows. 
  2. Bake for 30 minutes or until the marshmallows are golden. Serve right away.
LE CREUSET 9.5-Qt. Signature Oval Dutch Oven

Le Creuset 9.5-Qt. Signature Oval Dutch Oven

Your Trick

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.

Step One:
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.

Step Two:
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.

Step Three:
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.

Step Four:
Take a bow and collect your winnings (you were smart enough to make wagers with your guests, right?).

the family snow day
neil in a rainbow bathrobe holding backgammon and drinking from a hermes mug

Your Fit

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.

PAUL SMITH Men's Multi-Stripe Shawl Robe

Paul Smith Multi-Stripe Shawl Robe

PAUL SMITH Men's Classic Multi-Stripe Pajama Set, Boxed

Paul Smith Classic Multi-Stripe Pajama Set

SALVATORE FERRAGAMO Men's Nazzareno Gancini Mule Slippers

Salvatore Ferragamo Nazzareno Gancini Mule Slippers

PAUL SMITH Men's 3-Pack Multi-Stripe Boxer Trunks

Paul Smith 3-Pack Multi-Stripe Boxer Trunks

backgammon and pastries

Your Space

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?

Sofia Cashmere Double-Face Cashmere Throw

Sofia Cashmere Double-Face Cashmere Throw

Sofia Cashmere Basket Weave Cashmere Throw

Sofia Cashmere Basket Weave Cashmere Throw

Kate Weiser Chocolate Carl the Drinking Chocolate Snowman

Kate Weiser Chocolate Carl the Drinking Chocolate Snowman

Hermès Promenade au Faubourg Mug

Your Brunch

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.

Neiman Marcus Popovers With Strawberry Butter

Neiman Marcus 6-Cup Popover Pan

Your Activities

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.

Jonathan Adler Botanist Backgammon Set

Jonathan Adler Botanist Backgammon Set

Printworks Waves 500-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle

Printworks Waves 500-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle

Galison Publishing Christian LaCroix Maison De Jeu Playing Cards

Galison Publishing Christian LaCroix Maison De Jeu Playing Cards

Neiman Marcus Holiday Marshmallow Pops Paint Kit

Neiman Marcus Holiday Marshmallow Pops Paint Kit