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How to Ho-Ho-Host a Holiday Party

Entertaining Tips For The Holidays

Article by Sommelier Jillian Fontana

Photography by Jennie Carr at Lounsbury House

Originally published in Ridgefield Lifestyle

It’s that wondrous time of year, and if hosting a holiday soirée, we’ve got some pro tips to ensure your gathering is sensational. Regardless of which holiday you celebrate, warm and welcoming surroundings are the basis of any extraordinary event.

Entertaining expert Jenifer Johnson of Sweet Bean Events seamlessly blends chic and cozy, glam and rustic into a timeless surrounding that welcomes all, expertly integrating natural elements with luxe, like swaths of rich, red fabrics with glinty metallics on a holiday mantle. 

“For a fun and festive tablescape, start with playful runners as a base,” Johnson suggests. “Next, layer with texture and patterns, finishing with greenery and pops of color from berries, ornaments or seasonal fruits and florals, which add depth and give a finished final look.”

For an impressive sit-down dinner, Johnson recommends to “get playful with your place settings by combining different prints and patterns in your dining ware,” adding that “touches of dried herbs and berries and small, floral bunches give the setting a thoughtful and colorful touch.”

Throughout the space, she advises to keep it personal by incorporating your own heirlooms and keepsakes in your decor, as these special pieces not only add to the festive spirit of the space, but also make for a great conversation starter.

As for key elements that must be in place for the perfect ambiance, Johnson emphasizes that lighting plays "a big role in creating a mood," encouraging hosts to play around with lighting as you set the tone for your event. "Candles, a roaring fireplace, or even twinkle lights incorporated into the decor can completely change a space and create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere."

Johnson notes that having signature cocktails and mocktails prepared in advance to greet your guests is a great way to start off the celebration. "Festive glassware and garnishing your drinks with sprigs of dried herbs and fresh, seasonal fruit are a great addition to any celebratory cocktail."

After setting the tone for the event, it's time to think about food and beverage, both equally important. 

Paula Alonso, Co-Founder of Sommlike and creator of Sunset Wine Party adds her perspective on wine and entertaining:

“The most important thing when picking wines for the holiday table is to balance variety,” she states. “Offer a red, white and a sparkling option for that festive toast. I’d definitely throw in a rosé option for fun as well. You’ll be surprised at how many appetizers it pairs beautifully with!”

Wine can be intimidating for some with all the confusing labels and huge range in price. Sommlike helps hosts choose wines that have been vetted by sommeliers so they can feel confident going out on a limb, and as Alonso explains, “The holidays are a great time to try new wines and expand your palate. Don’t be afraid to explore and discover new favorites.”

The holidays are also a time to splurge, and a proper wine service really makes an impression. This season of celebration often includes rich, indulgent fare, and certain wines are recommended. 

Sparkling wine like Champagne, crémants, cava or Prosecco provides much more than an excuse to cheers. These options are extremely versatile and provide a pleasing contrast with their bright acidity and ebullient bubbles. 

As for pairing with holiday dishes, there is often times more cream or butter in these home cooked meals. When choosing a white wine, go for a richer option like an elegantly styled chardonnay, chenin blanc or viognier. These wines are excellent options that won’t get overpowered by a truffled potato au gratin, for example.

And, since the holiday table often includes a roasted meat, select a spicy and bold red with more tannic structure to bring out the robust flavor of chicken or steak. Opt for a reserve-level Rioja made of tempranillo, or a hearty Italian wine from the Aglianico grape.