How to....LifestyleRecipes

How to…throw a Christmas party

5bc38169f6f5390dad177365f429ea16Cheers. And welcome to part one of the W&W guide to hosting a (festive) party to remember. If there is one thing we are in favour of at all times, it would be eating, drinking and merry-making.

Now, we are not here to tell you how to cook Christmas luncheon. We’re all about the party. The cocktails. The nibbles. The easy-peasy cheatsheet.

The easiest way to have yourself a merry little Christmas party is to serve something sparkly, something soft and mulled wine; with a cheeseboard and mince pies (preferably mini mince pies for added chic factor). Add a bit of Michael Buble/Bing Crosby and you have yourself a party.


The perfect cheeseboard should have a minimum of three generous chunks: a crowd-pleaser (a vintage cheddar like Montgomery’s or Keen’s); something soft (Brie; a goats’ cheese like Charolais) or blue (Colston Bassett or Stilton) ; and an unexpected delight – something like Manchego or Comté. Try Neal’s Yard Dairy or La Fromagerie if you feel fancy; or, best of all, your local deli. Serve alongside grapes,figs or chutney.


If you have the oomph to exert yourself further, then do check out HRH of Entertaining, Martha Stewart. She is a domestic doyenne on this front.

I love the idea of crudites – not least because they are so easy and they off-set the heaviness of so much festive fare. Diana Henry has excellent suggestions in her wonderful book, Food From Plenty – and Jamie Oliver’s Winter Crunch Salad is very similar and looks fabulous.656_1_1350914295_lrg

Or, if you really feel like pushing the sleigh out (sorry), these Fresh Prawn Crostini with Caper, Green Olive and Goat’s Cheese Paste, Baby Peas and Lemon Oil from the wonderful What Katie Ate, look astonishingly good (and impressive. And, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to impress their guests?)

WKA_XMAS-2012_PRAWN-CANAPE-1-of-1I would contend that no party is complete without mini sausages in some form (apologies to the vegetarians out there). For my daughter’s third birthday party last weekend, I made Fay Ripley’s sausage rolls on the run (from this book which is, to my mind, indispensable if you are feeding a family). They look good and taste impossibly delicious and they are delightfully simple. Zhush plain sausages with honey and mustard and – top tip here – thyme leaves.

If your party is more afternoon tea than late into the night, you probably need something sweet. Smitten Kitchen’s spicy gingerbread cookies would do the trick nicely.

5283447726_6f8859999aWhat could be more Christmassy than mince pies? Feel free to buy them and then present them so beautifully no one will care. Simply sprinkle with icing sugar and then decorate.bf60d367f60c75210bb0ce873b1d8358-1

If you do fancy turning your hand to making your own, try Daylesford’s Aunt Mimi’s mince pies (recipe here). 


On the v important subject of drink. I freely admit that I don’t make my own mulled wine. Nope. I buy it from good old M&S (for preference), then add cinnamon sticks, star anise and slices of clementine as it warms on the stove. (If you do want to make your own, Jamie Oliver’s comes very highly recommended).

92a7d078f149a174064632cd447bb4c4I always like to serve jugs of water stuffed with ice and lemon/lime/bunches of mint to add a touch of sparkle. I also mix up a jug of non-alcoholic cocktail e.g. cranberry juice with elderflower cordial and sparkling mineral water (this also works well with apple juice). And what party is truly complete without bubbles of some sort? We err towards Prosecco (this is an excellent guide to the best around)


Festive cocktails


I am no mixologist. Fortunately the bar staff at the uber-chic Mayfair hotel The Connaught have very kindly shared how to make their favourite winter cocktails with us. Simply mix and then pretend you are reclining in their gleamingly beautiful art deco bar.

Honeybee Mule

30 ml Babicka vodka

10 ml Bols Honey liqueur

20 ml pink peppercorn-apricot puree

15 ml fresh lemon juice

30 ml ginger beer

Shake all ingredients beside ginger beer together, top up with ginger beer and strain into copper mug. Garnish with dried apricot, cinnamon and pink peppercorn.


30 ml chestnut milk

15 ml Cacao liqueur

15 ml Ratafia

40 ml Cognac

Shake all ingredients in shaker and double strain into champagne flute. Garnish with flamed chestnut and grated tonka bean.

Holland Punch

30 ml pear juice

20 ml jasmine syrup

20 ml fresh lime juice

30 ml Bols Genever

40 ml Oolong tea soda

Pour all ingredients into mixing glass over ice and gently stir. Strain into old fashioned glass and garnish with pear slices, mint sprig and jasmine flower


Rosehip Cup

45 ml Sacred Rosehip cup

15 ml Grand Marnier

60 ml sweetened hibiscus soda

3 bsp orange marmalade

20 ml fresh lemon juice

Shake Rosehip Cup, marmalade and lemon juice together; top up with hibiscus soda and strain in highball glass. Garnish with dried orange wheel, dried rosehips and and golden sugar.

Deep Purple Cobbler

15 ml Beetroot juice

15 ml lemon sherbet

30 ml Sipsmith sloe gin

45 ml port

Stir all ingredients together in mixing glass and strain into white wine glass over ice. Grate cinnamon on top and garnish with dried orange on top.


30 ml noisette butter infused Bowmore 12

15 ml Amaro Lucano

15 ml black cardamom and cocoa syrup

130 ml hot water

Mix all ingredients in mug and heat it up. Strain it to white wine glass, spray over with discarded orange zest and grated tonka beans on top.

Images via here, hereherehere, here, here, here and thanks to The Connaught

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    January 1, 2015 at 10:00 pm

    Love your pics! food looks amazing

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