Few occasions require multitasking like a holiday party. No matter how far in advance I prepare, when the time comes, I always find myself up to my neck in last-minute affairs, whether it’s the chicken coming out of the oven, a relative asking if the eggnog is spiked, or the whipped cream disappearing before pie is served (culprit: The same relative’s kid is eating it in the corner).
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Among the hubbub, beverages are usually the first to be neglected. Which is unfortunate, because hot, mulled drinks are pretty much a requisite for any holiday party. But no host wants to monitor the stovetop all night to keep things hot or risk the drinks going cold in an hour.
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From there, set out festive mugs and toppings on the side, and let guests choose their own adventure. For mulled wine, cider, and hot toddies, I like supplying cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, or whole cranberries as garnishes. If serving hot chocolate, whipped cream, candy canes (swirl in the mug for peppermint hot chocolate), and marshmallows are always a hit. If desired, set out bottles of festive liquor like spiced rum, bourbon, or Bailey’s, so guests can add a splash to their drinks.
Stir the mixture occasionally to make sure ingredients are well-combined. From there, the beverage station pretty much runs itself. You have one less task to do, guests are happy playing with drink combinations, and everyone wins. Now you have a moment to sip a warm drink and enjoy your hard-earned holiday party too.