Tips for hosting a cocktail party!

If you are considering hosting a holiday party with a variety of guests, consider a cocktail party. Because of their casual nature, cocktail parties lend themselves to accommodating guests from a variety of different situations: business colleagues, family, neighbours and friends. Cocktail parties also allow you to have a variety of different foods, many of which can be prepared in advance, and served in a casual way, placed throughout the room, and at different locations in your home, to encourage mixing and mingling.

  • Pick a date, theme and time, and send out invitations as soon as possible (since holiday calendars fill quickly). Be sure to include a request for RSVP, to help you plan.
  • Establish a budget and then plan your menu. Remember that your budget will need to include food, beverages (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), serving ware, decor, etc.
  • A variety of food choices is crucial for a cocktail party. Consider seafood and meat selections, finger foods, canapés, hot and cold dishes.
  • Plan on 7-8 pieces per person per hour.
  • Presentation is as important as taste at a cocktail party. Plate your items on interesting platters, with unique garnishes, and remember to consider colour and contrast.
  • Prepare as much food as possible ahead of time. Don’t hesitate to use items you purchase from your favourite restaurant, deli or gourmet shop.
  • Plan the traffic flow for your party and locate food and beverage stations throughout your home, and do everything possible to avoid congestion in one area. Try to place food and beverage stations in “dead zones” to improve traffic flow.
  • Set the mood by utilizing ambient lighting and music.
  • Towards the end of the evening, consider setting out a coffee/tea/ dessert table. Everyone loves something sweet, and it can also indicate to guests that the evening is winding down.

Tips for setting up your bar:

  • Having a bartender available greatly relieves the stress on the hostess.
    (bartending tips)
  • Have plenty of ice on hand, both for drinks and for chilling. Experts recommend up to 1 pound of ice per guest.
  • Have twice as many glasses as guests.
  • If you plan on serving wine and/or champagne, plan on one bottle for every 2 guests.
  • Red wines are best served at 65°F; white wines should be chilled and served at 45°F to 55°F.
  • If you are serving mixed drinks remember to stock up on mixers, as well as garnishes such as Tabasco sauce, lemons, limes, oranges and cherries.
  • Be sure to have sparkling water, pop and juice available.
  • Ensure that there are designated drivers for each guest, and keep the phone number of a taxi company readily available.

Bar Measurements:

¼ fluid ounce = 1 ½ teaspoons (7 ml)
½ fluid ounce = 1 tablespoon (15 ml)
1 fluid ounce = 2 tablespoons (25 ml)
2 fluid ounces = 4 tablespoons (50 ml)
Dash = a couple of drops (scant 1/8 tsp or 0.5 ml)
Splash = small amount of mix (about 1 tsp or 5 ml)
Pony = the small end (1 fluid ounce or 25 ml) of a double-ended measuring “jigger”
Jigger = shot glass for pouring standard size drink (1.5 fluid ounce or 45ml). Also available in 2 fluid ounce (50 ml) size.

Other holiday planning suggestions:

  • Do as much holiday shopping as you can before the end of November. Don’t underestimate the benefits of online shopping.
  • Write Christmas cards now, and then post on the first of December.
  • Wrap Christmas gifts as you get them -- don’t wait until Christmas Eve!
  • Double up your recipes now and store the extra batch in the freezer for a quick meal on those busy evenings.
  • Share the joy (and the work) of the season. You’d be surprised by how much people are willing to help out.
  • Consider an evening out with family or friends, instead of hosting a large event yourself -- often these evenings are the most enjoyable.
  • Be easy on yourself when entertaining -- your favourite caterer, deli, gourmet shop or bakery may be the best source of items for some (or all) of your holiday culinary needs.

It's Freezing!

Most freezers operate around -18℃ (0℉).

Ice box cookies became extremely popular with the introduction of the modern day refrigerator in the 1930’s.

Minor freezer burn does not make food unsafe to eat. The grayish-brown spots are caused by air reaching surface points on the food. Simply cut off the freezer burned sections and you’re set to go. Severely freezer burned items are best discarded.

The Chinese cut and stored ice in 1,000 BC.

Food about two inches thick usually freezes completely in about 2 hours.

Rapid freezing prevents undesirable large ice crystals from forming in your food, and is the preferred method for long-term freezing.

A brain freeze is a form of brief cranial pain or headache, often associated with consuming cold beverages or food (like ice cream).

Icebox (or refrigerator) cookies, are cookies in which the batter is shaped into a log and refrigerated until firm (or kept in the freezer for longer periods of time). When ready to bake, the log is sliced into rounds and then placed on a cookie sheet to bake.

When water freezes it increases volume by 9%.