holiday cocktails

A Modern Twist on the Traditional Holiday Party

Refine the classics and harness your creativity for a more upscale event

A typical holiday party usually includes some staples: the glass punch bowl of eggnog, a few poinsettias and a fruitcake that no one ends up eating. As the holidays approach, it’s time to start planning a holiday party that gets people talking. Elevate your holiday party with just a few simple steps from a seasoned pro.

Donna Pecci, founder of Crush Consulting Group, an event consulting, entertaining and experience company based in Chicago, has more than 15 years of experience planning upscale private and company events and urges people to think outside the box this holiday season.

Eat, drink and be merry -- on a budget.

One of the primary budget-busters when planning a holiday party is the bar tab. Pecci suggests creating two signature cocktails and serving beer and wine.

“Pick a crowd-pleaser and one festive, fun cocktail using tequila or vodka,” Pecci said. “That way, you still have a really fun selection of drinks for people to choose from, but you aren’t spending a lot of money on spirits that people don’t drink much of, like gin and rum.


In terms of food, the more interactive, the better, according to Pecci.

“Think about a make-your-own taco bar or something that requires people to build their own plates and customize their own toppings,” she said. “Getting people involved and off the couch is a great way to improve the atmosphere of a party.”

Put some effort into the music.

Pecci cautions, “If you’re not able to have live music for your event, don’t just put on a premade Spotify playlist.” She suggests curating a personal playlist that sets the tone for the party.

“Make sure to include holiday songs that everyone knows and loves, but you don’t want five hours of straight holiday music. Pepper in some other genres of music for a nice, festive mix, and create the playlist based on when it will play. Start out a little more low key during cocktail hour and then the music should become more high energy as the night goes on.”

Arrange the room creatively.

Even in a small space, Pecci encourages party throwers to think about how the room is laid out and consider moving furniture to encourage people to mingle.

“You want to create areas where people can stand and areas where people can sit,” said Pecci. “Put the drinks on one side of the room and the food on the other, so people will get up and mingle and not just sit in one spot the entire night.”

Don’t go overboard on holiday decor.

Instead of covering your home in Santas, snowmen and reindeer, focus on one or two statement pieces. Create a photo wall or backdrop near the food that people can take pictures in front of, Pecci suggests, adding, “If it’s not on social media, the party didn’t happen, right?”

This year, putting in a little extra effort and a few thoughtful details to create a signature event will help your holiday party stand out from all the rest. But don’t forget the mistletoe!