Stocking The Bar: Entertaining For The Holidays

It's the time of year when friends gather and the alcohol is always flowing. Before you host your next cocktail or dinner party, you'll inventory your bar.

For advice on how to stock a festive bar for the holiday season, we turned to well-known cocktail enthusiast, and Company Mixologist with William Grant & Sons USA, Charlotte Voisey. Recently recognized by the James Beard Foundationfor her contributions to mixology, Charlotte's innovative approach to creating cocktails is sure to inspire some festive imbibing.


The Basics

First, make sure you have plenty of the basics — rum, gin, vodka, red and white wine — and that any near-empty bottles have replacement readily available.

You don't have to bring out the fine crystal, but you'll want lots of wine glasses, highballs, and lowballs washed and on-hand.

Also, assess your tools. Do you know where your beer bottle opener and corkscrew are? Be sure to have lots of ice, and a place to keep it where it won't leak and damage your linens or floors.


Festive Garnishes

Dress up your basic cocktail with plenty of fun, festive garnishes. Charlotte suggests cutting up a variety of bright, thin-skinned fruits like kumquats, key limes, Meyer lemons, tangerines, and blood oranges for guests to garnish their cocktails, whether it be a simple gin and tonic or a Blood Orange, Ginger Beer, and Tequila Cocktail.

Seasonal berries, like raspberries and cranberries, are perfect for floating in a glass of champagne or another bubbly cocktail. "Pomegranate seeds and fresh mint make for pretty, aromatic garnishes," while "edible gold and silver are perfect for adding a holiday sparkle," Charlotte says. Serving eggnog? Grating fresh whole nutmeg is de rigueur. According to Charlotte, it "makes all the difference in the world."


Open House Drinks

If you're hosting a holiday open house or any other large gathering, think about serving a seasonal drink in a large format. Not only does serving a punch, mulled wine, or batch of eggnog make getting a drink easy for any guest, it also enables you to make something more elaborate ahead of time (instead of mixing and re-mixing, the same cocktail all the night).

If you opt to serve one of these drinks, Charlotte warns, "don't forget to add a punchbowl and ladle, and tea cups for any hot beverages, to your list." She also suggests freezing a large block of ice (using filtered water in a Tupperware container), to put in your punch so that it doesn't get watered down too fast.


Pre-Dinner Aperitifs 

If you're hosting a holiday dinner party, however, a large-format drink may not be the best pre-dinner cocktail. "As you will likely be having wine with dinner," Charlotte instructs, "choosing something low in alcohol to start is a good idea." Some of her favorites? Lillet Blanc over ice with a slice of orange, or fresh fruit bellinis with a nice, dry sparkling wine. These will "set the mood just right for a special occasion, but not overpower the palate with alcohol before a lovely meal and hopefully a long night to follow..."


The New Year's Bar

And, of course, for New Year's, "add a touch of sparkle to everything you do," Charlotte suggests. Add Champagne to your favorite cocktails, or use edible gold and silver flakes for a sparkly finish to any drink. You can never have too much fun — or be too creative — when creating festive cocktails during the holidays.


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