Everything You Need to Host One Damn Fancy Evening This Season
Let’s celebrate indulgently this year.
The “vibe” for most holiday gatherings tends to be pretty chill: maybe you’ll wear a festive flannel, hang on the couch with the fam, and dig into your aunt’s famous sweet potato casserole. While there is certainly a special place for traditions like these, we’re here to advocate for something a little more… indulgent. Luxurious. Sophisticated. Absolutely Damn Fancy. The holidays are a time to be a little extra, which is why we’re suggesting you pour yourself a gin martini, pop on your pumps, and party — like we all deserve this season. How do you pull off an evening such as this? Read on and find out.
Establish a dress code
Forget the ugly holiday sweaters, put the leggings away. After chilling in loungewear so long that doing so literally became a fashion statement, many of us are looking for any excuse to pull on a party dress or snazzy bowtie — but don’t want to feel overdressed at a friendly gathering. So, make the dress code clear: call it cocktail attire, smart casual, or even “semi-formal” and send that information along with the initial invites. Everyone looking their best will go a long ways towards setting the mood.
Turn the bar cart into a DIY martini bar
Few drinks exude luxurious sophistication like a martini at a party. And while martinis are absolutely fabulous, they are also surprisingly simple to mix up. Because martini lovers usually have a particular way they like theirs best —dirty, extra dirty, or absolutely filthy, for example— elevate the evening by creating a DIY martini bar so that guests can mix their own. Just put out dry vermouth, olive brine, olives, twists of citrus, grapefruit juice, and a high-quality gin, so that guests can stir theirs as dirty as they please or with their favorite twist. Gin is the key ingredient in a martini, so our choice is Tanqueray No. TEN, as it was originally crafted to make the perfect martini, thanks to its unique flavor profile. Besides the spirits and mixers, keep the ice stocked and the glasses chilled on a dedicated shelf in the freezer, because martinis are at their best when they’re practically icy. If you want to give guests a little inspiration, just put out this straightforward recipe:
Tanqueray Perfect Ten
1.5 ounces Tanqueray No. TEN
.25 ounce dry vermouth
Pour 1.5 ounces Tanqueray No. TEN into a shaker with ice, and add .25 ounce of dry vermouth. Stir until perfectly mixed using a bar or tea spoon. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a twist of grapefruit peel.
Set the scene
Nothing says “I am an adult who has my life together” like greeting guests with a set table at your dinner party, so plan to put out a place setting for each of your party-goers. Even if not everything matches, a set table will feel polished, put together, and (depending on your assortment of cups and glasses) eclectic! If you’re in search of inexpensive serving ware and dinner sets, check your local vintage or second-hand shops, where you’re likely to find plenty of funky, mid-century pieces that will look great for the holidays. (Don’t forget to have the correct barware for your drinks, too!) The key to this presentation, though, is a centerpiece: shop your home for a variety of candles, jars, or vases that may be looking dull on a shelf or in the bedroom, then forage some flowers, fall grasses, or branches, and gather everyone around the table.
If you’ve got the cash, hire a bit of help
Hosting isn’t exactly easy, and that’s especially true when hosting a soiree as elevated as a “damn fancy” evening. Someone to pass apps, keep drinks refilled, or even just an extra set of hands to help with clean up will keep you sane while you make guests feel especially pampered. If you’re not sure where to look, there are websites that can set you up with a professional mixologist or waiter for the event, or you can use community groups to see if anyone is available to make a little extra cash.
Work extra fancy items into appetizers
Let’s be real: groceries are not exactly cheap right now. And that goes double for notoriously expensive items like oysters, truffles, and fancy cheeses. Because no “damn fancy” night is complete without some luxurious indulgences, though, you can work small quantities of these items into appetizers without blowing your budget. Drizzle truffle oil over some toasted crostini with ricotta cheese, spoon a pearl or two of salmon roe as a garnish on your deviled eggs, or shuck a dozen oysters and set them on ice. (Trust us, it’s not as hard as you think.) Of course, a fancy appetizer is not complete without a fancy cocktail to pair with it, like this festive Tanqueray No. TEN 50/50 Martini, made with dry vermouth, orange bitters, and an expressed grapefruit twist. The herbal flavor profile of a classic martini, with the citrus notes of this cocktail, are perfect for pairing with richly flavored appetizers like these.
Keep salads and sides especially colorful
During the holidays, we usually opt for comfort food classics — which can read very “brown” when set on a table. To make an evening feel more like an affair than your family’s potluck, you’ll want each dish to feel like it’s pretty enough to snap a pic of and post to your stories. In salads, work in colorful beets, roast squash, and chiffonade kale or hearty greens so the leaves are neat and consistent sizes. When it comes to those brown side dishes, like stuffing, garnish the dish with fresh herbs to brighten it up and swirl a bit of melted butter, flaky sea salt, fresh black pepper, and parsley on top of mashed potatoes.
Go big with a roast
While going miniature with high-end items is ideal for the appetizer course, bigger is better for the main event. Classic holiday roasts can feel especially intimidating — but it’s mostly in your head. Can you remember to give a bulky cut of meat enough time to defrost? Preheat an oven? Season it with salt and pepper, and maybe rub some garlic and rosemary on it? Set a timer? Well, my friend, you can make a roast. The secret to most big cuts of meat is checking on its temp to regularly make sure it’s cooked. If you want to do something showstopping, lean into a crown-roast: you can ask your butcher to tie it up for you if doing it yourself sounds intimidating, then make sure to get it to room temp before you put it in the oven.
Make a small cut extra luxe
If you’re short on time or hosting a smaller get-together, smaller cuts of meat can still be impactful. Rather than doing an entire turkey for a party of four and eating leftovers for far longer than you’d like, a turkey breast can be butterflied, smothered with fresh herbs, and wrapped in bacon before setting it in the oven. And of course, you can always do a steak night — and even dry age them yourself.
Make a dessert spread with unique, seasonal fruits
Truth be told, most of us are a bit pumpkin-ed out by the time Thanksgiving rolls around. So when it comes to the dessert table, think beyond the traditional seasonal pies and cranberry flavors. More luxe, seasonal options like persimmons and figs are delicious in simple-to-bake desserts, while bright purple ube can be the center of a photo-worthy cake. Pomegranates are also in season, and make for a festive sorbet, too. If dessert is not your thing though, this fruity, grapefruit-driven martini will be a sweet finish to one damn fancy soiree.
1.5 ounces Tanqueray No. TEN
1/4 fresh pink grapefruit
.5 ounce sugar syrup (1:1)
Muddle grapefruit in a cocktail shaker. Add the Tanqueray No. TEN, sugar syrup, and ice and shake. Double strain into a chilled martini glass.