The gifts are unwrapped (revered or returned) and the last turkey sandwiches are officially done, but don’t tuck yourself in for a long winter’s nap just yet. Raise your glass and toast to good fortunes to come while singing a round of Auld Lang Syne. This guide will help you throw one last hurrah before the year comes to a close:
A cocktail party, especially one with a New Year’s theme, is meant for mingling, sipping tasty concoctions and nibbling on delicious morsels of food. Here are some tips on creating the perfect atmosphere for your swanky soirée:
- You will need some sort of sidebar to hold your bottles, glasses and food. Move a low cabinet or card table over to the side of the room and out of the way. End tables placed in the corners of the room can house chips, dip and other munchies.
- Turn your space into a hip lounge by creating a good party flow. Rearrange furniture into “conversation clusters” so that the couch is freed from the wall and placed in the middle of the room, two wing chairs are grouped in another area and a couple of floor cushions are placed in a corner for more intimate conversations.
- A few white indoor Christmas lights strung around the room can give your space a festive touch without looking over the top. If that’s not your thing, check out Chinatown for paper lanterns.
- Mirrors make very sexy serving trays and with the addition of a few tea lights will make the serving table twinkle all night long. Just wash your mirrors thoroughly and adorn with a few votives held in small holders.
- Pick up a light dimmer from your local hardware store for the party room. Turn the main light down a bit and place floor lights, replaced with low wattage bulbs on the peripheral of the space. Start the evening with brighter lights when everyone is getting to know each other, going darker the closer you get to midnight.
Here are some essential items you will need to make your party a hit:
- Martini glasses and wine goblets – Stock up on glasses at your local dollar store. They’re cheap and your guests won’t be afraid of breaking them. Also have some plastic cups on hand in case you run out—do you think Dick Clark is washing dirty dishes on New Year’s Eve?
- Ice storage – If you run out of space in your fridge, set up some cooler cases on the balcony, in the garage or in the bathtub for additional storage. Yes, the bathtub—it’s big and no one is using it, might as well put it to work.
- Noisemakers and party hats – New Year’s Eve wouldn’t be complete without them. Go for a chic approach and choose hats and noisemakers in similar colour schemes that match your room’s décor.
- Sound system – You’ll never be forgiven if the music is muffled or barely audible. Now’s the time to finally install those speakers or borrow a great player from a friend. Keep your CDs close by or burn your MP3s onto discs to make switching it up easier.
Send your invitations two weeks ahead of time. New Year’s Eve is such a fun-filled night, take the liberty to play up this theme and send out cheeky invites in vibrant colours and patterns. The party should start a few hours before midnight; around 9 or 10 pm is a good bet.
Take a cue from professional DJs and start the evening off with mellow tunes, slowly progressing to more upbeat tracks towards the middle of the night. Here are some great album ideas to stock your sound system with for the party:
- Light My Fire [Astrud Gilberto]
- Modern Cocktail Party [Various Artists]
- Baby Its Cold Outside [Holly Cole]
- Nina: The Essential Nina Simone [Nina Simone]
- Cocktails with Cole Porter [Various Artists]
Instead of spending a lot of money on expensive spirits and wines, take the easier route by making one signature drink that will be universally appealing, such as your own personal take on a familiar favourite, filling in the rest of the evening with bottles of inexpensive red and white wines. Another cost-friendly alternative is to arrange the ingredients for three or four cocktails out on the table along with shakers and instructions so guests can create their own drinks. Below are a few popular cocktail party drinks to try:
- Classic Martini [Gin, Dry Vermouth, Pimento-Stuffed Olives]
- Bellini [Peach Schnapps and Champagne]
- Cosmopolitan [Cointreau, Triple Sec, Vodka, Lime Juice, Cranberry Juice]
- Black Russian [Vodka and Kahlua]
- Long Island Iced Tea [Vodka, rum, gin, tequila, Triple Sec, Cola]
And, here is a list of additional items to stock the bar with:
- White or blush wine
- Red wine
- A case of good quality domestic or foreign beer (24 pack)
- Festive liqueur such as Bailey’s Irish Cream or Grand Marnier
- 1 non-alcoholic mixed drink
- A few bottles of cola, ginger, orange juice, soda water and cranberry juice
- Ice scoops
- Small cutting board and knife (to slice lemons and limes)
- Shot glass (for measuring mixed drinks)
Good to Know
A 750 ml bottle of wine will serve about four to six people, while the same quantity of spirits (vodka, rum, etc.) will make about 12 to 16 mixed drinks. Also, figure each guest will go through about a pound of ice. A time-saving tip for wine is to open a few bottles and then reinsert the corks half an hour before the party starts. This way you won’t have to struggle to uncork bottles while your guests stand there empty handed.
Guests don’t have the luxury of sitting down to a table to use knives and forks, so meals should be served appetizer-style, either laid out on the sideboard or taken around with napkins.
Inexpensive parting gifts are simple to make and are a great memento of the fun your guests had as they capped off the year at your party. Here are some small parting gifts you can do weeks in advance in preparation for the big night:
- Buy a stack of re-writeable CDs that come in colourful case colours (even better if the colour coordinates with your decor scheme) and burn a personal album for each guest containing a selection of the music you played during the evening.
- Pick up inexpensive, Chinese take-out style boxes and fill them with gold chocolate coins. Personalize each box by writing a good luck wish for the New Year.