No month cries out for a party quite like January. It’s the longest month (or at least it feels like it) in the thick of winter. Holiday celebrations are behind us, and weeks of 5 p.m. sunsets lay ahead. To entertain in January is to offer your loved ones a little life raft of warmth and cheer that’s more welcome than ever in the post-holiday hush.
You don’t really need a reason for a friendly gathering (although we have a few fun ideas below). You’ll just need something suitable to gather around — a bonfire, a dinner table — some no-fail food and drink ideas, and a grasp on the particular etiquette of entertaining in January, a time when many of us are eating and drinking more mindfully. Can the revelers and the abstainers all unite in good cheer? Of course they can — your guide to doing so awaits.
Any excuse for a party
Do you need a theme for your party? Definitely not. But a theme feels festive and can help direct everything from the food and drinks to decor and dress — so why not?
You could gather friends for a Bonfire Bash: an outdoor soirée around a blazing fire where you play field games, go sledding, and make s’mores. If you’re a city-dweller without the benefit of wide-open spaces, host a Snow Day party: Ask guests to dress in their best ski-bum wear (leggings and Moon Boots, it’s your time to shine), or just their coziest clothes. Then get down with board games, crafting projects, and hot chocolate served in Thermoses (bonus points for offering boozy whipped cream made with ANGEL’S ENVY bourbon, a good dark rum, or your favorite liqueur). If you’re the type who can correctly guess someone’s rising sign within 10 minutes of meeting them, try a Wolf Moon party celebrating the first new moon of the new year on January 17. Deck out your space with lupine decor like faux-fur throws and plan activities that celebrate fresh starts, like writing out your intentions for the new year.
Set the stage
No need to go full domestic goddess — a little decor goes a long way. Wintry touches like the pine garland and icicle lights you haven’t put away from Christmas yet are perfect. A eucalyptus or bay leaf wreath is chicer than your average green needle, pine cone, and jingle bell situation, and easy to DIY for way less than fancy stores are charging. If you enjoy a bit of crafting, add some seasonal magic to your place with yarn garlands in white to string above doorways and the fireplace, and paper bag luminarias (just make sure to use LED tea lights for indoors). And for the resolutely non-crafty types, just ask your florist to make you an arrangement using varieties of flowers that are in season in winter (of which there are surprisingly many), or that bloom year-round.
More than any other month, January calls for some sensitivity in planning food and drink, since your guests might be eating and drinking more mindfully. Some may be experimenting with Dry January (bless them), undertaking a new eating plan, or just wanting to balance out the indulgence of the holidays. The key is to offer options for everyone without making a whole thing of it.
For drinks, make mocktails and low-alcohol beverages like spritzers available alongside standard cocktails so your guests can moderate as needed. For food, don’t feel like you need to completely overhaul your menu, but some lighter options like a soup and a veggie-forward dish or two will be appreciated.
The smartest move of all is to tell your guests what you’ll be serving in advance. Chances are your menu will cover most of your guests’ dietary needs, and the rest can plan to bring any auxiliary food and drink as needed. Plus, all will be wowed by your thoughtfulness.
No one wants to be that guest asking the host if mocktails will be available “because I’m trying the whole Drynuary” thing — or worse, the one stuck sipping soda all night. So be the righteous host who makes everyone feel welcome with a selection of low-ABV and non-alcoholic options that feel as festive as a fancy cocktail.
Bougie seltzers, a growler of local kombucha, or mocktails will intrigue even those decidedly off the wagon. A low-alcohol cocktail like the lemongrass-infused Strawberry Fields, made with GREY GOOSE Essences Strawberry & Lemongrass Vodka, brings to mind warmer days. Or make a classic ST~GERMAIN Spritz by combining the Elderflower Liqueur with prosecco and sparkling water — serve it in coupe glasses for extra soignée.
Comfort food for all
January calls for comfort food — but it doesn’t have to be the kind that puts you to sleep. For a simple winter meal that’s impressive enough to serve guests, follow this formula: Soup for the first course, something braised for the main, and something roasted on the side.
Find inspiration in this list of hearty winter soups — the white bean and lacinato kale soup is a gem. Next, peruse dozens of mostly hands-off slow-cook recipes here — the short ribs braised in red wine and lemongrass are exactly the right kind of filling. As for your roasted side dish, why overthink it? Brussels sprouts with shallots and salt pork are divine. Finish with bread pudding or pie for a meal they’ll still be talking about in February.