Deck the Halls with Less-Frizzled Hosts

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by J.K. O’Hanlon, author of “12 Happy Hours (Thirsty Jane Guides)” and “3 Ingredient Cocktails

This is the time of year when the calendar pages for the next few months are red-lined with parties, making December through January look like they’re on fire. It’s a love-hate stretch of time, especially for hosts coming up with new ideas for drinks and food without pulling zombie-marathons in the kitchen.

I always suggest keeping it simple by starting with one signature cocktail for a party and offering a bottle of wine and some beer, along with nonalcoholic beverages. Two huge pitchers of water with glasses nearby grace my bar area at every gathering.

You should plan on having around 15 appetizer bites per person for a three-hour party. Two to four drinks over a three-hour party is the average. One 750-ml bottle of spirits makes around 15 drinks. A bottle of wine will provide five servings, and a bottle of champagne serves about six.

When it comes to partying, champagne tops the list of the most traditional celebratory beverages. Besides being pretty, fun, and even a bit ticklish as the dainty bubbles effervesce at our noses, another bonus to serving sparkling wine cocktails is that most people do not guzzle champagne. The bubbles force the drinker to slow down and sip, which is supposedly a good way to avoid a champagne headache.

Champagne Cocktail

1 sugar cube
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 ounce cognac
Sparkling wine

Place sugar cube in bottom of Champagne flute. Add bitters, and then cognac.
Top with sparkling wine.

In January, after the holiday parties and while New Year resolutions of an alcohol-free zone for a while are still fresh in one’s resolve, I suggest a non-alcoholic version of the margarita.

non alco margaritaI know what you are thinking. The margarita is one of my favorite drinks, so I shuddered when experimenting with non-alcoholic versions. But this one is refreshingly tart and sassy enough even for me. 

Non-Alcoholic Margarita

1 1/2 ounces fresh lime juice
1/2 ounces orange juice
1 1/2 ounces Thirsty Jane’s Sour Mix
 Salt (optional)

Moisten rim of a cocktail glass with lime wedge and dip glass in salt. Shake ingredients with ice and strain into cocktail glass filled with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

Editor’s Note: “12 Happy Hours,” is available on Amazon in soft-cover and eBook formats, and features drink and food recipes with monthly themes and entertaining tips for casual, stress-free parties. O’Hanlon, a former corporate attorney, gets her ideas and inspiration from years of hosting cocktail gatherings in her suburban Kansas home; so many, in fact, that she has been dubbed “Thirsty Jane.” Her blog is and she’s on Facebook as Thirsty Jane.

photos © 2013 Lisarae Photo Design

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