Chances are it’s been a while since you threw open your doors and welcomed your nearest and dearest for a holiday soirée. But as we return to socializing, the holiday party is undoubtedly making a comeback. Where once they felt like a burden (two friends’ get-togethers and your partner’s office party all on December 17th, really?), this year the holiday party is a much-missed return to form — a celebration of the people and pleasures we’ve missed the most.
Of course, even the most seasoned host might feel a little rusty — in which case, you’re in the right place. Ahead, our best food, drink, and decor ideas to help you throw your finest holiday dinner party yet, from no-fail meals that require almost zero prep to the GREY GOOSE cocktails that bring the coziest vibes. Don’t worry, it’ll all come back to you in no time.
Meet the sheet
Maybe you’re an expert cook who makes four-course meals on a Tuesday, or maybe more than one pot gives you agita. Either way, we suggest your menu lean into “way easy” to keep stress at bay. A brilliant solution: sheet-pan meals — yes, like the ones from Instagram — like roast chicken with spicy chickpeas, curried pork chops with sweet potatoes, or slow-roasted snapper with harissa and baby potatoes. Juicy protein plus toasty charred vegetables is always a hit, and makes prep and cleanup a 10-minute affair.
As for pre-dinner nibbles? Surprise, you can do those on a sheet pan, too! This warm winter vegetable salad with halloumi is a divine addition to a standard charcuterie plate. Pro tip: add fresh or dried figs, quartered lengthwise and drizzled with toasted walnuts and good local honey — it’ll take the mood from “deli tray” to “dimly lit trattoria,” and always draws compliments.
Station to station
Hosting in a small space? Break your food, drink, and seating areas into different “stations” to keep guests circulating. Your fruit and cheeseboard can double as a centerpiece. This works best when styled dramatically on a rustic chopping board or vintage platter that’s literally overflowing with food. Elsewhere, try simple arrangements of winterberries (make sure to buy fake if you have pets) and eucalyptus as a chic alternative to fussy — and more expensive — flowers.
And remember: no one wants to party under overhead lights. Use the interior designer trick of “layering” lights instead — spread table or floor lamps throughout the room, and supplement with whatever mood lighting you’ve got: Himalayan salt lamps, tea lights in hurricane glasses, fairy lights in jars, or those color-changing strip lights all over your “For You” page.
Mix up some cheer
There’s a reason batch cocktails like punch are an eternal party favorite: they feel festive, are easy to make ahead of time, and get your guests mingling whenever it’s time for a refill. The classic party move is to serve two batch cocktails: one that’s light and refreshing — like this effervescent, ruby-red Holiday Punch made with GREY GOOSE vodka, pomegranate juice, and prosecco — and one that’s spicy and soul-warming, like Winter Scarves, a soothing vodka-based Hot Toddy, or Candy Cane Lane, a tasty peppermint-espresso cocktail.
The real pro tip is to use the same type of liquor in each drink you serve — it’s simpler for you, and your guests won’t need to choose one to “stick to.”
Trust us: buy dessert. It’s one less thing to worry about, and guests won’t mind if it’s not homemade, especially once they’re well-fed with a cocktail glow. Bûches de Noël — yep, yule log cakes — are making a comeback at chic bakeries, trifles are elegant, and few can pass on a comforting slice of apple or salted honey pie.
If you love baking, then, by all means, have at it — let this list of classic American desserts inspire you. Make cookies, cakes, and pies two days ahead of your party. They’ll still be plenty fresh when you serve them, and your day-before prep will feel a lot less stressful.
Appoint a co-host
The most sanity-saving tip of all? Consider a co-host — a reliable friend you deputize to help your party run smoothly. This works especially well if you think like a restaurateur and designate one of you to “front of house” duty (answer the door, take coats, introduce guests, refill drinks), while the other works “back of house” prepping food and drink. Genius for avoiding that panicky “can everyone please vacate the kitchen!” moment.
Get guests talking
To keep the conversation flowing, some hosts send an article ahead of time as “required reading” or play party games like “never have I ever.” A less formal, more festive approach is to ask each guest to bring a small item that reminds them of the holidays. It could be a snack from their hometown, a condiment their grandparents always served with holiday meals, or a song they come back to every winter. Go around the table and let guests present their items — it’s a great way to get everyone talking, discover what you have in common (four of you went to Michigan State, really?), and bring back the warmth of holidays past.