a pitcher of nonalcoholic punch that looks and bar in a bedroom or side room and the buf fet in
tastes just as special as the signature cocktail. Look the living room. It also helps if you distribute
up “mocktails” on the Internet and you’ll find three or four bowls of easy munchies (olives,
dozens of tempting recipes. Or simply mix pineap- nuts, wasabi-crusted peas) around the room to ease
ple juice, orange juice and ginger ale ( 6 cups each the crush at the hors d’oeuvres table and encourage
OJ and pineapple juice and 8 cups ginger ale to guests to spread out.
serve 20 to 30). It sounds deceptively simple, but Provide a conversation kick-starter.
you may find that even the cocktail crowd begins At the first party we ever threw together, Anne’s
pouring from the punch pitcher. friends (financial types, mostly) stayed on one side
of the room, while Lauren’s (lots of journalists)
Gcongregated on the other. That inspired us to create
what we call conversation kick-starters—an unob-
toetmginugelests trusive, unforced activity that lets guests strike up
It’s great when the conversations about what they’re doing instead of
food gets rave reviews and the ice supply holds out. having to search for opening gambits.
But you know you’ve given a really terrific party At one holiday party, we put several bowls
when your guests get swept up in the mood of the around the room filled with retro stocking-stuffer
evening—and forget that they had planned to stay toys—Silly Putty, Wheel-o’s, mini Etch-A-Sketches,
only an hour. Here’s how to help that happen. yo-yos. Our guests were soon creating funny por-
Plan the traffic pattern. You would traits of one another and challenging the yo-yoers
never invite more guests for dinner than you could to walk the dog. A much better way to strike up a
seat, but that should be exactly your goal for a holi- conversation than “Um, hi, I’m Susan.”
day cocktail party. Our rule of thumb: a three-to-one guests-to-seats ratio. Count all the places guests
could sit in the main party space—chairs and sofas,
of course, but also ottomans, piano benches, even E
wide windowsills. Aim to have about three people doaesseit-y
Above all, what makes a
for every available perch. You want a good number successful party is that hard-to-define but instantly
of people standing and moving about rather than recognizable element of ease. And the best way to
commandeering a spot on the sofa and settling in achieve that is for you, the host or hostess, to have as
for the long haul. That way, your party will have a wonderful a time as everyone else. Decide what’s
lively, swirly atmosphere and guests will naturally stressful to you about entertaining and eliminate it.
encounter lots of their fellow party-goers. Do you worry you’re not good at decorating?
Another way to ensure swirl is to keep the two Then don’t bother. We rely solely on tons of votive
main crowd attractors—the food and the drink— candles for atmosphere, saving us from bumbling
on opposite sides of the room. We often set up the around trying to arrange flowers or create centerpieces. Have no clue what music to play? Buy a couple of those pre-mixed CDs that seem to be playing
Your event will be just as (and sold) in every home store and coffee shop. Is
festive—and much easier on your job so demanding that even make-ahead
you—if you serve beer and wine recipes won’t help you? Buy every bit of food ready-
and two “featured drinks.” made and don’t even think about apologizing for it.
So long as everything tastes great, who cares
whether you can (or did) cook?
In other words, decide here and now, before
you’ve even started a guest list, that your goal is this
simple: to show your guests how much you enjoy
their company. And then don’t blame us when they
have such a great time that you have to kick them
out in the wee hours.
Happy holidays, happy hosting! C
COSTCO FEATURES dozens
of delicious dishes for your
holiday party, from complete
trays to cheeses, crackers and
dips that you can mix and
match. Here are a few of the
Antipasto (new this year),
shrimp with cocktail sauce,
meat and cheese
wings with Ranch
dressing, assorted fruit, vegetables with various dressings.
Dips, spreads and sauces:
Kirkland Signature Cibo
Naturals pesto, bruschetta
topping, seafood spread,
gourmet spreadable cheese,
hummus, artichoke jalapeño
dip, spinach artichoke
Parmesan dip, white wine
pâté. (Brands vary by region.)
Sliced cheeses: Cello Party
Tray (cheddar, Swiss,
Havarti and Gouda); and
Muenster, pepper jack, cream
Havarti and Gouda.
snacks: Chicken mini tacos,
petite quiches, breaded mozzarella sticks, Delimex or Ruiz
beef and chicken taquitos,
Nantucket Supreme Bacon-Wrapped Scallops. (Brands
vary by region.)
Costco members Lauren Purcell and Anne Purcell
Grissinger perfected their entertaining expertise
over 15 years of throwing parties together in
Manhattan, marrying Southern hospitality to city
chic. They wrote Cocktail Parties, Straight Up!:
Crackers and nuts: Carr’s
Cracker Selection, Dare
Collection; Kirkland Signature
Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts.
Easy Hors D’Oeuvres, Delicious Drinks, and
Inspired Ideas for Entertaining with Style
( www.PurcellSisters.com). The book is available at
costco.com. The sisters are also featured chefs in
Costco’s new cookbook, Creative Cooking The
Desserts: Holiday Cookie
Tray, traditional fruitcake,
pumpkin pie (all fresh from
the Costco Bakery).