Some really cool hosting hacks for your holiday party

Photo: Shopify Photos/Burst

Family Features - Entertaining friends and loved ones during the holidays offers an opportunity to slow down from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and make lasting memories. The key is getting ahead of hosting duties so you can be present with family and friends.

Make this season's holiday hosting effortless and enjoyable with these tips:

1. Stick with a simple menu

There's no need to create an elaborate menu with complex dishes that take hours to prepare. Instead, build your menu around easy crowd-pleasers. Save the experimenting with new recipes and ingredients for another time when you're less likely to feel the pressure. Be sure to consider your guests' likes and dislikes and be conscious of potential dietary restrictions.

2. Serve beverages with festive flair

A beverage station is a fun and unexpected way to infuse some extra holiday cheer into your event. Offer cozy options like hot chocolate and coffee, along with an array of seasonal mix-ins and flavors. Convenient and tasty options to have on-hand for the holidays are Starbucks creamers, featuring flavors inspired by cafe beverages like Caramel Macchiato, White Chocolate Mocha and Cinnamon Dolce Latte, all which are now available in limited-time red holiday packaging online and at your local grocery store.

Give your guests some festive drink inspiration to start with, such as this delicious holiday-themed recipe for Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee that is sure to become a favorite. For added fun, provide an array of toppings such as marshmallows, peppermint sticks and chocolate candies wrapped in colorful holiday wrappers.

3. Plan for entertainment

When a well-acquainted group gathers, the party has a way of taking on a life of its own. In case of a slow start, or if you're entertaining different groups of friends who don't know each other well, it's a good idea to prepare some options to get guests mingling and engaged. A playlist of holiday music creates a festive atmosphere and planning a few interactive games ahead of time can help break the ice.

4. Pace your preparations

Make a conscious effort to spread your party prep over the days and weeks leading up to your event. Saving all the cooking and cleaning until the day of the party only leaves hosts exhausted before guests even arrive. Instead, make a list of everything you need to accomplish around the house and tackle a few chores each night. Do your shopping a few days ahead so ingredients are still fresh but you aren't left scrambling. Prepare any dishes that can be refrigerated or frozen ahead of time.

5. Anticipate guests' needs

The secret to great hosting isn't really a secret at all; it's simply making sure your guests feel welcome and comfortable. Providing a secure spot for coats and handbags, offering a drink when they arrive and making sure they can find essentials like the restroom may seem obvious, but they're easily overlooked basics. If you worry you'll be too busy in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on the meal, recruit a friend or family member to act in your place.

Find more inspiration and other holiday-worthy recipes at athome.starbucks.com.


Iced Gingerbread Caramel Coffee

Prep time: 3 minutes
Yield: 16 ounces

Drink:
1 cup ice
4 tablespoons Starbucks Gingerbread Naturally Flavored Ground Coffee for double strength
6 ounces water
1 ounce Starbucks Caramel Macchiato Flavored Creamer

Toppings: whipped cream
homemade or store-bought caramel sauce
1 pinch nutmeg

Place ice in 16-ounce glass.

Brew gingerbread coffee with water and pour into glass.

Add caramel creamer. Stir.

Top with whipped cream, drizzle of caramel sauce and nutmeg.



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