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Raising the Bar while Toasting the Holiday Entertaining Season

Entertaining season is in full swing, so let’s elevate your festive fête and RAISE THE BAR by throwing a retro rad inspired cocktail party. Chef Emily Ellyn is here to give you the guide to the basic barware you will need, the essential liquors and mixers to stock, and inspire a vintage-modern spin on your holiday appetizer spread!


First, start by putting yourself in your guests’ heels..err…shoes!  When your guests walk through the door they should immediately feel welcome.  Treat holiday guests to a beautifully stocked bar where they can serve themselves champagne, wine, or a pre-batched cocktail inspired by the party!



Setting the Bar

Ensure you have all of the tools, glassware, mixers, alcohol, non-alcoholic options, and ice guests need to help themselves.

Things to remember:

Pitcher or dispenser for water

Container for ice

Wine & Beer Opener

Cocktail Napkins



Make the Drinks:

My favorite holiday go-to is “Rudolph’s Jingle Juice”. This Holiday Gin Cocktail that looks and tastes like Christmas! A refreshing combination of gin, filled with orange, citrus, and fresh rosemary syrup.

Pre-made batch cocktails are also a great option! Like my Spiced Apple Cider Sangria Spritzer.


Raise the Bar but Keep the Basics:

A home bar doesn’t have to be a headache: Invest in basic equipment, stock up on essential liquors, and you can have a spread that will impress amateurs — and even make professionals nod in quiet approval.

Remember…For cocktail parties, allow for a pound of ice for each guest, as well as three drinks, three glasses, and a small plate full of food per person for a two-hour party.


Stock the Cheer:

Liquor will keep for a long time, particularly in a cool place away from direct sunlight. The lower the liquid level, though, the more quickly you should consume the liquor, as the air in the bottle will leach out the flavors. Vermouth, however, is a wine and should be refrigerated and drunk fairly quickly.

To make fantastic, creative cocktails, there’s no need to stock your bar with 12 brands of expensive vodka and a rainbow’s worth of brightly colored liqueurs. A half-dozen base spirits and a few mixers will not only allow you to turn out a surprising number of cocktail classics but also give you enough to tinker with to come up with some cool drinks of your own.

For sidecars, brandy milk punches, daisies, and smashes.

White Rum
For daiquiris and mojitos.

For martinis, gin and tonics, Tom Collinses, etc.

For Manhattans, old fashioned, and whiskey sours.

Vodka is the workhorse of the liquor cabinet, used in basic drinks such as vodka tonics,


A bar essential — clean, full of natural orange flavor, and not too sweet.

For Manhattans.

White Vermouth
Essential for truly sublime martinis.

Bitters are used not to make the drink taste bitter but to help other flavors blend.


Stock the Barware:

The equipment needed to mix a cocktail is simple to master, and you don’t need a lot of it.

Ice Bucket
Bar Spoon
Cocktail shaker
Ice cube trays
For more tips on tools and tumblers,

With all of that set, feel free to add standard bar tools, such as cocktail shakers, jiggers, spoons, and wine openers. Put yourself in guests’ shoes and think about what they’ll need. Then, stock those things in the bar cart or somewhere nearby so you won’t have to hunt anything down while entertaining.


Glassware Must-Have:

**For everyday use in your home bar, you only need six or eight of each of these three basic types: a short glass, a tall glass, and a stem.

If you plan to serve wine at your parties, invest in eight to 12 basic stemmed wine glasses, either a single shape that is appropriate for both red and white or separate sets of glasses for each.


Non-alcoholic Offerings:

O Tennenbaum-totaler

No one should feel ashamed for passing up a cocktail, but if plain soda and canned juice are the only alternatives, an abstainer is likely to wind up pouting in the corner. 

Fortunately, there are enough flavorful nonalcoholic beverages to fill an entire bar and bring cheer to the soberest of souls. Mix fresh-squeezed orange or grapefruit juice with a splash of seltzer to make a light cocktail. Also, try sweetened, diluted lime and lemon juice served over crushed ice, or whip fresh or frozen berries in a blender with ice and a dash of lime.

Or, pre-batch this “O Tennenbaum-totaler” a non-alcoholic holiday cocktail crafted with hints of Pear, Hawthorn, Douglas Fir, and a bright hint of acid from the Icewine Aceto and lemonade.


Bar Food Must-Serve:

Small bites that are easily prepared, especially that can be done in advance, are key to keeping a good party going. Here are a couple of my festive favorites.

Feta and Pomegranate Crostini:

Apple and Blue Cheese Pinwheels:

Deviled Egg Canapes: 

Gingersnap Cheesecake Dip: 


Finally, it’s time to set the tone with holiday decor and festive music!







Gold Confetti Glassware & Decanter
High-End Disposable Drinkware
Cute Cocktail Napkins
Bar Plates
Citrus Juicer
Gold Confetti Ice Bucket
Specialty Ice Cube Molds
Barware Set
Pineapple Drink Dispenser
Reusable Straws
Gold Glitter Swizzle Sticks
Garnish/Bar Snack Bowls
Gold Bar Cart
“Sip Sip Hooray” Banner
Black Sequin Table Runner
Chic Gold Serving Tray