Ring in the New Year with close friends in the comfort of your own home. Sounds perfect, doesn’t it?
After all, who really wants to be out in the cold jostling with crowds for the chance to glimpse some fireworks or in an overheated bar queueing to spend a small fortune on watered down drinks?
But what do you need in order to throw the best NYE party ever? The right attitude and a little preparation will make the process painless and even enjoyable… and win you ‘best host/hostess’ accolades to carry you through the new year.
Keep it simple, keep it casual
Here’s your party mantra! No point in spending ages in the kitchen preparing food that will keep you away from your guests. Snacks, finger food and cocktails are the way to go on New Year’s Eve – not a heavy sit-down dinner. Sharing good food and enjoying the company of others is what entertaining should be all about.
Find your theme
Although a theme is not strictly necessary, it will make planning the food, music and even decor that much easier! A Mexican fiesta, for example, sets the mood perfectly. Have some margaritas - cranberry ones are nicely festive - ready to get the party started and plenty of guacamole, salsa and nachos to keep everyone going.
Prepare some fillings, like slow-cooked pulled pork, a day in advance of the party to wow everyone at a ‘serve yourself taco station’. Don’t forget to have plenty of ice-cold Mexican beers on standby! As for dessert, some chilli-spiced melted chocolate with fruit and cut-up cake to dip in as an informal fondue will sweeten things up.
If Mexican food isn’t your cup of tea, you can apply the theme idea to Middle Eastern, Spanish, Asian or anything else that captures your fancy. Mezze and tapas-style dishes are party-perfect by nature and, of course, let’s not forget that a lot of these can be store bought (shhh… I won’t tell anyone).
Get others to help you
Instead of shouldering all the cooking duties yourself, organise a potluck party and ask everyone to bring something. Make sure each guest brings something different, catering for both meat lovers and vegetarians, savoury canapés and sweet options. Some of the best parties I have gone to have been potluck affairs - including a very memorable wedding reception!
Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails
If ever there was an occasion to serve cocktails… New Year’s Eve is it! Cocktails look festive, are guaranteed to keep the party lively and guests mingling and can easily be mixed in advance. Any straight spirit cocktail - like Manhattans or Negronis, for example - can be made ahead of time and chilled until needed.
When ready to serve, pour your cocktail mix in glasses, stir with ice, add an appropriate garnish with some flair and show off to your guests.
If straight-up spirits are a bit too hardcore then a punch bowl may be more your style. Pour fresh juice, fruit and a sparkling mixer to a large bowl, stir in vodka or gin and add a ladle. Have a bucket of ice and glasses on the side so your guests can serve themselves.
Ask your guests to bring Champagne, or purse-friendly Prosecco, and create a sparkling cocktail bar by offering easy-to-buy cocktail mixers such as peach purée for Bellinis, Creme de Cassis and Chambord for Kir Royal, and Aperol for Spritzes.
Needless to say, you should offer your guests soft drinks as well as chilled water to avoid sore heads the following day…
Set the mood
You don’t have to go crazy – a few balloons, noisemakers and party poppers are a cheap and easy way to have some silly festive fun. Twinkly lights and candles - chances are you will have plenty of those around from Christmas - will instantly make any room pretty.
Or you can install a disco ball, move the furniture out of the way and get everyone to dance – a sure-fire route to party success. Create some playlists or get someone to DJ and make sure you invite the neighbours!
And finally… keep an eye on that clock
Have everyone’s champagne glasses filled and the poppers handy as the clock strikes 12… and have a Happy New Year!
Lucy Parissi is a London-based designer, food photographer, coffee fanatic and cocktail appreciator. She is also the food-obsessed blogger behind Supergolden Bakes.