‘Tis the season for entertaining!” Whether you go with cocktails, wine, beer, or all three, these savory appetizers and cocktail recipes will curb hunger and delight your guests. A great holiday cocktail party has a festive buzz — not just from the cocktails! Sparkling candles, seasonal music, and a bountiful display of bites and treats add to the ambiance of a fabulous party. Here are some tips for hosting a festive holiday cocktail party.
If you’re holding a cocktail party outside of typical meal hours, five or six types of hors d’oeuvres will be sufficient. Plan on each guest eating one or two of each kind.
If your cocktail party takes place during meal hours, your guests will be hungry and there should be enough food to constitute a meal. Prepare eight to ten types of hors d’oeuvres and plan on each guest eating two to three of each.
Each guest will drink an average of two drinks the first hour and one drink each hour thereafter.
• A one-liter bottle of alcohol yields approximately 22 mixed drinks, so if you know how many guests are attending and what kind of bar you’re going to have, you can easily figure out how much alcohol to purchase.
• To accommodate any non-cocktail drinkers, estimate one bottle of wine per eight guests, remembering that white wine tends to be more popular than red.
• One 750ml bottle of Champagne fills six regular Champagne glasses. If you plan to have a Champagne toast, you will need to purchase additional bottles—you only need to pour about a third of a glass for a toast, so plan on one bottle of bubbly for every ten guests.
• Garnishes are inexpensive, so it’s always smart to buy extras. Plan on 1/2 lemon and 1/2 lime and two each of olives, cherries, and onions per guest. This means that if you have 24 guests, you’ll need at least 12 lemons and 12 limes plus 48 each of olives, cherries, and onions.
• Plan on one and a half pounds of ice per person. This will provide enough ice for drinks as well as any ice baths for wine or beer.
While you can wait a bit to serve the food, you should have the drinks ready when the first guests walk through the door—it gives people something to do and gets them mingling.
Special Holiday Cocktails
- 1 ounce strawberry liqueur
- 1/2 ounce white-chocolate liqueur
- 1/2 ounce creme de cacao
- 2 ounces heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
Pour the strawberry liqueur into the bottom of a martini glass. Shake the bottle of white-chocolate liqueur; measure 1/2 ounce and pour it over the back of a spoon on top of the strawberry liqueur to make a separate layer.
Shake the creme de cacao, heavy cream and chocolate syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice until frothy. Slowly strain into the glass over the back of a spoon to make another layer.
You can keep a batch of this easy beverage recipe in the freezer and be ready for company any time of the year.
Yield: 32 servings
- 5 cups fresh or frozen strawberries
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 6 oz. can frozen lemonade concentrate
- 6 oz. can frozen limeade concentrate
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1-1/2 cups rum
- pinch salt
- 5 cups ginger ale or 7 Up
- Strawberries for garnish
Combine all ingredients except ginger ale or 7-Up in a blender or food processor and blend well, then freeze in freezer containers.
Adjust the amount of powdered sugar you use depending on how sweet the strawberries are and to your taste.
When ready to serve, fill glass 2/3 full of frozen mixture and top with ginger ale or 7-Up.
Makes 1 Drink
- 1 ounce gin
- 1 ounce Campari
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 orange twist, for garnish
Fill a pint glass with ice. Add the gin, Campari and vermouth and stir well. Strain into a chilled serving glass and garnish with the orange slice.
Prosecco Italian Cocktail
Serves: 2 servings
- 1 cup chilled Prosecco or other Italian sparkling white wine
- 2 tablespoons chilled vodka
- 1/3 cup frozen lemon sorbet
- Sprigs of fresh mint leaves
Pour the Prosecco and vodka into 2 Champagne flutes, dividing equally. Spoon a scoop of sorbet into each flute. Add a sprig of mint to each glass and serve immediately.
8 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)
- 8 (3 x 1/2-inch) lemon rind strips
- 8 tablespoons Limoncello (lemon-flavored liqueur)
- 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 (750-milliliter) bottle brut Champagne, chilled
Roll up each strip of lemon rind; place 1 into each of 8 Champagne flutes.
Add 1 tablespoon liqueur and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice to each glass.
Divide Champagne evenly among glasses. Serve immediately.
Easy Cocktail Party Nibbles
Platter of Smoked Salmon with Sliced Bread and Philadelphia Cream Cheese Spread with Chives and Onion
Variety of Marinated Olives and Stuffed Peppers
Sliced Cheese and Cracker Tray
Shrimp Platter with Spicy Cocktail Dip
Skewer a small ball of mozzarella, a grape tomato and a bit of basil leaf. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle with oil.
Small pieces of melon and figs wrapped with thinly sliced prosciutto.
Chucks of Salami and Provolone Cheese
Toasted Pita Chips and your favorite Hummus
Platter of Cookies, Brownies and Chocolates
- Holly Jolly Cocktails! (cpandb.wordpress.com)
- A Few Christmas Cocktails (putneyfarm.com)
- Classic Cocktails for the Holiday Season (mintjulep87.wordpress.com)
- Best Holiday Cocktail Recipes (pr.com)
- Christmas Cocktails (drunkendisastersandculinarymasters.wordpress.com)
- Season’s eatings: Haute holiday cocktail (naplesnews.com)
- The Cocktail Party (marketingbydesign101.wordpress.com)
Although its botanical name Prunus Persica refers to Persia because the Persians introduced the fruit into the Western world, peaches actually originated in China, where they have been cultivated since the early days of Chinese culture, circa 2000 BC. Peaches were mentioned in Chinese writings as far back as the 10th century BC and were a favored fruit of kings and emperors. Currently, the history of the cultivation of peaches in China has been extensively reviewed, citing numerous original manuscripts that date back to 1100 BC.
Its English name derives originally from the Latin malum persicum, “Persian apple”, which became the French pêche and peach in Middle English.
The peach was brought to India and Western Asia in ancient times. Peach cultivation went from China, through Persia, and reached Greece by 300 BC. Alexander the Great introduced the fruit into Europe after he conquered the Persians. Romans began cultivating peaches in the first century AD. Then it was brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century and, eventually, made it to England and France in the 17th century, where it was prized and considered a rare treat.
Although Thomas Jefferson had peach trees at Monticello, United States farmers did not begin commercial production until the 19th century, mostly in the Middle Atlantic States. California today raises 65 percent of the peaches grown for commercial production in the United States, but the states of South Carolina, New Jersey, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington also grow a significant amount. Italy, China, India and Greece are major producers of peaches outside of the United States.
Some Peach Facts:
A freestone peach is one where the flesh separates easily from the pit. When the fruit is cut in half, the pit can be removed by hand. It may even fall out if you tip the cut fruit over.
Clingstone peaches have flesh that clings to the pit. When the fruit is cut in half, it is very difficult to separate the two halves because the flesh sticks to the pit.
Peaches are a favorite fruit for snacking, for cereal, and for pies and jams. Peach ice cream is a summer favorite. Ripe peaches also freeze well for later use.
You can ripen peaches by placing them in a brown paper bag for two to three days. Sliced, fresh peaches should be tossed in lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.
You can do a variety of things with peaches.
• Baked – Peach cakes, peach cobbler, and peach pastries
• Pureed – Make peach chutney, peach salsa and peach sauces.
• Poached – Peaches can be poached in sugar syrup to make a variety of desserts.
• Sliced – Use for salads and desserts
• Boiled – Cut the peaches and boil to make jams and marmalades.
How to peel peaches:
Place peaches in a large pot of boiling water for 10-20 seconds or until the skin splits.
Remove with a slotted spoon. Immediately place in an ice water bath to cool the peaches and stop the cooking process.
Use a paring knife to peel the skin, which should come off easily. If stubborn areas of skin won’t peel off, just return fruit to the boiling water for a few more seconds.
How to make peach puree:
Yield: Makes about 1 cup
- 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh peaches or 1 cup frozen
- 1 teaspoon sugar
Process peaches, sugar, and 1 tablespoon water in a blender 1 minute or until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl; cover and chill until ready to use.
Yield: Makes about 1 cup
- 3 cups coarsely chopped peeled ripe peaches (about 1 pound)
- 1 teaspoon grated lime rind
- 1 cup fresh lime juice (about 4 large limes)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup packed mint leaves
- 2 cups white rum
- 4 cups club soda, chilled
- Crushed ice
- Mint sprigs (optional)
Place peaches in a blender or food processor; process until smooth. Press peach puree through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids.
Combine lime rind, lime juice, sugar, and mint in a large pitcher; crush juice mixture with the back of a long spoon. Add peach puree and rum to pitcher, stirring until sugar dissolves. Stir in club soda. Serve over crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired.
Crostini with Peaches and Blue Cheese
Yield: Makes 18
- 18 thin baguette slices
- Olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups peeled peaches , chopped
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup blue cheese, crumbled
- Freshly ground black pepper
Brush baguette slices with olive oil; place on a baking sheet. Broil until toasted and crisp. Cool completely. Toss peaches gently with vinegar. Top crostini with peaches and blue cheese. Sprinkle with pepper. Broil until cheese is hot, soft, and very lightly browned.
Grilled Peach-and-Mozzarella Salad
Makes 4 servings
- 5 Freestone peaches
- 3 green onions, sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- 1 (6-oz.) package baby arugula, thoroughly washed
- 3/4 pound fresh mozzarella 1/4-inch slices
Peel and chop 1 peach. Cut remaining 4 peaches into 1/4-inch-thick rings. (Cut peaches inward from sides, cutting each side just until you reach the pit. Lift the rings off the pits in one piece.)
To make dressing: Process chopped peach, green onions, and the next 6 ingredients in a food processor 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth. Add oil, and pulse 3 to 4 times or until thoroughly combined.
Heat grill and grease grates. Brush both sides of peach rings with the peach dressing.
Grill peach rings, covered with grill lid, 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear.
Mix arugula and basil and arrange evenly on 4 plates. Alternately layer grilled peach rings and cheese slices over greens on each plate. Drizzle with remaining peach dressing.
Entree Course: Grilled Chicken with Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce
- 2 chickens (2 1/2 to 3 pounds each), quartered, with backs removed
- 1 recipe Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce, recipe follows below
Marinate the chickens in 2/3 of the barbecue sauce for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator.
Prepare your grill for direct heat and indirect heat.
Lay the chicken pieces skin side down on the hottest side of the grill in order to sear the skin side well. Grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot the grill is (you do not want the chicken to burn). Once you have a good sear on one side, move the chicken pieces to the cooler side of the grill, or, if you are using a gas grill, lower the heat to medium low. Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 20 minutes.
Turn the chicken pieces over and baste them lightly with the barbecue sauce. Cover the grill again and allow to cook for another 30 minutes. Repeat, turning the chicken pieces over, basting them with sauce, covering, and cooking for another 20 minutes.
You can check to see if the chicken is cooked with a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each chicken piece. Look for 165° for breasts and 170° for thighs.
If the chicken isn’t done, turn the pieces over and continue to cook at a low temperature. If you prefer, you can finish with a sear on the hot side of the grill. To do this, put the pieces, skin side down, on the hot side of the grill. Allow them to sear and blacken slightly for a minute or two.
Serve with barbecue sauce on the side.
Georgia Peach Barbecue Sauce
Yields about 4 cups.
- 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon onion salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 2 cups ketchup or 1 cup ketchup and 1 cup tomato puree
- 1 cup peach, purée, see recipe in this post
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons butter or Smart Balance Blend, cubed and well chilled
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients except the butter. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. With a whisk, blend in the butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated.
Dessert Course: Peach Upside-Down Cake
If you would like to make your own low-fat caramel sauce instead of using a store-bought product, I have included the recipe from Eating Well Magazine below.
Yield: 9 servings (serving size: 1 cake piece, 1/4 cup frozen yogurt, and 2 teaspoons caramel syrup)
- 3 cups thinly sliced peeled peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds), see how to peel peaches in this post
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Cooking spray
- 2/3 cup sugar (or Domino Light or Truvia for Baking)
- 1/4 cup butter or Smart Balance Blend, softened
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- Vanilla fat-free frozen yogurt
- Fat-free caramel sundae syrup, warmed, recipe below
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Spoon into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray.
Place 2/3 cup sugar and the next 4 ingredients (2/3 cup sugar through egg) in a large electric mixer bowl; beat at medium speed until well blended (for about 5 minutes).
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk.
Add the flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.
Spoon batter over peach mixture in pan. Bake at 350° F for 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack. Place a plate upside down on top of cake, and invert onto plate. Serve warm with frozen yogurt and the caramel syrup.
Low Fat Caramel Sauce
From EatingWell: September/October 1991
This quick caramel sauce is made lighter with evaporated fat-free milk and uses molasses to give it rich flavor.
Makes 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup regular sugar or 1/2 cup Domino Light or Truvia for Baking
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 3/4 cup nonfat evaporated milk
- 1 teaspoon molasses
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine sugar and water in a small, heavy-bottomed pan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. After the mixture comes to the boiling point cook, without stirring, until the syrup turns amber, about 15 minutes. (Take care not to burn it.) Remove from heat and cool for 2 minutes.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in butter. Gradually stir in milk. Return to the heat and cook, stirring, until the caramel has dissolved, about 1 minute. Stir in molasses and vanilla. Serve warm.
Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze in small portions. Warm slightly before serving.
- Feelin’ peachy > Henri eats a peach, or 30. (newsreview.com)
- peach preserves (thissuburbanlife.typepad.com)
- Peach Bellinis to Crumble Bars: 15 Reasons to Buy a Pound of Peaches – Recipe Roundup (thekitchn.com)
- Ode To The Peach (roostblog.com)
- Peach Season and California Peaches (voodoodr06.wordpress.com)
- My Peach (workingsandbox.com)
- The Perfect 3-Ingredient Summer Salad (simplystated.realsimple.com)
- Peachy Keen…Hope You Enjoy! (prideinphotos.com)
- Recipe: Peach Tomato and Mozzarella Crostini (sweetnicks.com)