In 2016 my husband (then boyfriend) Ricky and I bought our first home on The Southside. Instead of hosting a housewarming party, then an engagement party, then my birthday, and then a Christmas party we combined them all into one event. Since then, we’ve hosted an annual holiday party at our home for our friends and family. We started off our hosting history with a Christmas Cocktail Party. We thought it suited the many events we were celebrating! Last year, we decided to kick our theme up a notch and make it a Christmas Cocktail Party Competition.
I was a little nervous that it would be lame and no one would want to participate but our friends surprised me. They were totally into it; bringing sugared rims glasses, fancy candied ginger garnishes, and even a blender! This year, we picked a theme for the cocktail competition to make it a little more fun: Winter Is Coming! Yeah, we’re GOT fans and are so sad it’s ending in 2019 so we’re doing a little tribute. So if you’re looking to throw a holiday party that isn’t the usual Tacky Sweater here are a few ways to spice things up with a Holiday Cocktail Competition.
Pick a Theme
Our first year we kept the theme simple – Holiday. This year we went a little harder with Winter is Coming. It may seem like doing a theme makes it harder but people enjoy the challenge of being creative, which leads me to my next suggestion.
This year we went with a Winter Is Coming theme from Game of Thrones. I found the perfect email invite from Evite.com.
Determine Points for Winning
We learned our first year that it can be hard to simply vote for a single winner (so many of the cocktails were so good!) so this year we added categories you could gain points in. One point for taste, one point for creativity, and one point theme relevance. AKA if you dress up like Ser Brynden Tully for your Bourbon Blackfish you could get extra points!
Make It Easy to Vote
Having to count strips of paper is tough when you’re trying to entertain 30+ people. We use a large chalkboard in our dining room to keep track of the cocktail votes. When someone comes in they write their cocktail on the board and then people can vote as they taste. This year we switched it up to be scrolls of paper to go with the theme but kept it an easy tally system.
Designate a Food + a Cocktail Area
Last year we weren’t quite prepared for so many people to bring cocktails. Seriously, we thought it would be us and like one or two friends but almost everyone brought one. This year we’re separating our food area and our cocktail area so that people can taste all the cocktails without walking back and forth between the rooms. We’ll let you know if this makes the tasting easier or not.
Update: We ended up not being able to separate the two areas because so many people brought cocktails. Plus someone had a cocktail that involved lighting liquor on fire (I told you, people get into it) so they had to prepare on our least flammable surface. Next year we’re getting multiple folding tables to give people more space.
Host + Enjoy
If you’re like me, you may be trying to make everything perfect and make sure everyone has everything they want and need at a moments notice. Over the years I’ve learned that this can’t always happen IF I TOO would like to enjoy the party and time with my friends. Since my wedding I have learned that the key to a great, stress free event is to select a few key points that are the most important to get done. Anything that gets done beyond those key items are bonuses. Keep your Must-Do list short and let the other items go to the Extras list. That way you can enjoy the party too and not feel like you’re running around the whole time.
This gathering of our friends, family, and now my clients is a chance to celebrate the year we’ve had together. So many good things happen over 365 days. Getting together at least once a year to reflect on those times through informal story circles and the clinking of glasses makes me thankful and sets me up right for moving into the next year. My hope is this event continues to grow with more family, and more friends that feel like family, and colleagues, and clients that we host out at a home. We’ll build with a big fire pit and get some of those large deck heaters you see at restaurants keeping everyone warm as they trade “remember whens.” My hope is this becomes an event that our friends look forward to and they start plan