So you’ve chosen to accept it: The awesome responsibility of hosting the New Year’s Eve party. It’s more than just throwing a huge party (or a casual kickback as your tastes dictate). The New Year’s Eve host helps guests sum up the year gone by and set the tone for the year to come. That’s a lot to place on one person’s shoulders, but we believe in you.
At your disposal: the following guide full of tips on cool themes, easy-but-Instagrammable decor, no fewer than 14 iconic hors d’oeuvres ideas, plus cocktail recipes and party games galore. Ready to give your guests the swankiest possible start to 2022? Start here.
Lean into a theme
Rule number one: never, ever be too cool for a theme. They make parties more festive and memorable, and many guests appreciate guidance on the all-important “what to wear” question. If you’re looking to stomp in the new year, try a “Last Days of Disco” dance party. Lean into the camp of it all with gold balloons that spell out “1979,” foil fringe curtains, and a disco ball. Have guests come in their glitziest Studio 54 finery — feathered hair, ruffled shirts, and yes, it’s finally your chance to wear that thrifted gold lamé gown that even Joan Collins would call “a bit much.”
Or, if you’re looking to host a chiller affair, try an Après-Ski theme, also known as the finest excuse to wear an oversized sweater and leggings to the function. Deck out your apartment with hygge ski lodge vibes: hang paper snowflakes from the ceiling, drape wool blankets over the chairs, turn the lights low and set up a glowing virtual or mini fireplace, play board games and eat fondue on faux sheepskin rugs. The ideal refreshment, of course, is boozy hot cocoa — this buttered rum hot chocolate made with BACARDÍ Reserva Ocho Rum is a fantastic start to any year.
Keep the food festive
Guests generally won’t expect a full meal, so this is your chance to get creative with festive finger foods. Even if the party isn’t vintage-themed, we like to lean into old-timey hors d’oeuvres, which suddenly feel cool again after decades on the “do not serve” list. When menu planning, choose a few lighter bites, and few more substantial ones to keep things balanced.
On the lighter side, you could try: blini with crème fraîche and roe, oysters Rockefeller, mini quiches, tea sandwiches with cucumber and watercress or tomato and bacon, shrimp cocktail, or a classic crudité platter with spinach-artichoke dip. On the more substantial side, choose from dishes like sheet-pan meatballs, pigs in a blanket, deviled eggs, stuffed mushrooms, crab dip, fondue, or even that midcentury party staple — the cheese ball. If you can picture your grandmother proudly serving it to ring in 1965, it’s in.
Try a crowdsourced cocktail
The crowdsourced cocktail is a fun alternative to “bring whatever wine you like!” You supply the booze — something smooth and versatile like PATRÓN Reposado Tequila is ideal — while each guest contributes a supporting ingredient. Ask one to bring something effervescent like prosecco; another a tart liqueur or juice like lime or yuzu; and a third a garnish like dried lemon, candied ginger, or star anise. Each item is a surprise and helps create the night’s signature cocktail. And since the wise host leaves nothing entirely to chance, we recommend also having some ingredients on hand to turn your tequila into a tried and true cocktail, like the citrusy, herbal Alcachofa.
The final countdown
The countdown to midnight: this is what you came for, so make it, uh, count. Your friends are helping you pour and pass the champagne, countdown cupcakes, noisemakers, and confetti poppers (acceptable on this night and this night only). You’re eyeing the clock, ready to pause the music for the countdown and rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne, after which you’ll immediately transition back into your playlist stacked with the most sing-alongable bops of the last 10 years (because NYE is no time to flaunt your indie cred). You’ve passed out a few disposable cameras to your guests, because revelry looks better with direct on-camera flash. Come at us, new year, we’re ready.
Beyond the toast
After the ball drops, your dance party should be going strong. Or if your party is more “vibes” than “roll up the rug,” now’s the perfect time to keep the fun going with nontraditional ways of ringing in the new year.
You could take inspiration from one of the many New Year’s good-luck traditions around the world. In the Southern U.S., eating black-eyed peas, often in the form of Hoppin’ John, on New Year’s Day is said to bring wealth in the coming year. In Upstate New York, partygoers place a small peppermint pig in a pouch and take turns whacking it with a mallet — ostensibly for luck, possibly just to enjoy the sweet candy shards. In Denmark, they smash plates against the front door to bring good fortune. If that seems a bit much, the Turkish custom of smashing a pomegranate on the ground outside your home may be more agreeable. Or, a classic for a reason, you and your guests could take turns sharing your new year’s resolutions — or something from the past year you’ll never do again. Never hurts to ring in the new year with a lesson learned.