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5 tips for seamless Christmas holiday entertaining

December 14, 2019

You too can throw a party where nobody can stop smiling, if you follow these tips.
You too can throw a party where nobody can stop smiling, if you follow these tips.

By Erin Henderson

As a die-hard lover of the holidays, I could never let anyone in on my secret shame: Christmas used to stress me out.

There was so much to do: shop, cook, decorate, clean, plan, organize… are you feeling me?

Here’s what Einstein said (probably not about Christmas specifically): “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

Trust me, holidays at my house were insane. And this would happen season after season — until I finally got wise and started doing things differently.

And what do you know? I started getting much better results.

No Fail Pairings

Last week I recommended a some interesting and uncommon wines to go with turkey. But what I didn’t tell you was trying to find the one perfect pairing for your holiday feast is a fool’s errand. Your Christmas dinner is a smorgasbord of flavours and textures, so to try and wrangle down the best wine will only make you crazy. So don’t do it. Instead opt for a selection of crowd friendly, food friendly wines that will go reasonably well with most of everything on your menu. These five are a great place to start:

  • Sparkling wine
  • Dry Riesling
  • Rosé
  • Pinot Noir
  • Chianti Classico

Chill Out

I hate red wine that’s too warm (and it is, most of the time) and white wine that’s been chilled to within an inch of its life. (Tip: If you pour a white wine into a glass and it immediately fogs, it’s too cold.) I’ve written entire blogs on the proper chilling temperatures for wine, but realistically, you’re not going to whip out a thermometer in the middle of dinner. So just remember this: take white out of the fridge 10 minutes before serving and put reds in the fridge 15 minutes before serving. Or, if you’ve got an unfinished basement, keep your wines there (but far from the furnace) and serve at cellar temp.

Quick and festive cocktail recipe

I like greeting guests with a cocktail. Maybe I’ve watched too much Mad Men, but I think a proper cocktail is a classy way to get the party started. I understand that all the shaking, stirring, mixing and measuring can make a few party mavens sweat, but rest assured: I’ve got some festive recipes that are as easy to make as they are tasty.

French 75


.5 oz fresh lemon juice

.5 oz simple syrup

.5 oz gin (or white rum if you prefer)

Sparkling wine


In a shaker filled with ice, add syrup, lemon juice and gin. Shake vigorously and strain into a Champagne flute. Top with bubbles and garnish with a lemon twist.



2 oz bourbon or rye

1 oz sweet vermouth

Angostura bitters

cherry or orange bitters (optional)

brandied cherries (good quality like Luxardo, they are worth the price)


Add all ingredients to a mixing glass filled with ice and stir for 30 seconds or so. Strain and pour into a coup. Garnish with brandied cherries. (Henderson family tip: My dad adds a teaspoon of cherry juice to mix, and it’s delish.)

Buy in bulk

If you retain nothing else in this article, retain this: Go to the wine store now. A friendly reminder: Christmas is on the 25th and New Year’s Eve is on the 31st. And unless you’re a sadist who has a lot of extra time on your hands, you don’t want to be anywhere near a liquor store in the 48-72 hours leading up to these big holidays. Get yourself to the shop pronto and buy a case of red, white and sparkling, along with a few bottles of your favourite spirits, and then smugly sit back with a tasty beverage and watch the daily retail mayhem reports on the news.


If you are entertaining a large crowd, rent your glassware. It’s inexpensive (about 50 cents to $1 per glass), includes delivery and pick up, and you don’t have to wash it. If you’re hosting a smaller group and have enough glassware, then be sure to give it all a good polish (do this a couple days ahead) so it’s all dust-free and sparkling clean come show time. Plan on one glass per person every two to three hours, meaning for a six-hour dinner party Aunt Shirley will use two to three glasses all by herself.

Feeling festive? Join us for a little holiday tipple Sunday, Dec. 15 at 3:30 p.m. as we put a special seasonal spin on our Day Drinking Tour. But hurry tickets are limited!