Can we all agree that the holidays feel a little different this year? Less travel, smaller gatherings, more celebrating in place. We’re not giving up on holiday traditions, we’re just doing them a little differnently. And different is good!
Some holiday rituals still make us feel merry and bright, no matter the scale of the celebration. We’re loving the idea of laid-back meets fun and festive. Themed cocktails that help create an ambience. Celebrations that don’t drain our energy. Dinners in the kitchen. Candlelight. Extra dessert. A soundtrack of Christmas tunes. Easy cleanup.
Take a look at our ideas for easy holiday entertaining, including a menu for two that will get you through Hanukkah, Christmas or New Year’s Eve in laid-back style.
We’ve always loved a classic British Christmas theme, and even more so when it gets slightly twisted (our favorite!). Our Bisnagar paper placemat goes “modern English” with layers of vintage Blue Willow plates, red tartan napkins and vintage silverplate in a mix of patterns. For a fun touch, add place cards written on antique paper or old letters.
Lots of traditional greenery helps set the Christmas scene. The charger plate is by Jonathan Adler. The silver plate fish knife and cream soup spoon are antiques.
Want a twisted traditional cocktail to fit the theme? Try this warming toddy featuring PIMM’s #1 Cup, the quintessential English summer punch ingredient. It’s unexpected, but just as tasty in winter!
Mulled PIMM’s & Brandy – Makes 4 Cocktails
3 cups of apple juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup honey
1 cinnamon stick (plus one to garnish each cup)
1 vanilla bean (or a drop of vanilla extract)
1/4 cup brandy
1/2 cup of PIMM’s No. 1 Cup
In a small saucepan, bring the apple juice, sugar, honey, vanilla and cinnamon to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the sugar and honey are completely dissolved. Let cool slightly.
While the mixture is cooling, thinly slice the apple, and place slices and additional cinnamon sticks In heat proof cups or glasses.
Stir the brandy and PIMM’s into the warm apple juice, and pour the warm cocktail into your prepared cups. Serve warm.
Who knew paper placemats could feel so formal? Here, mid-century Japanese Imari-style dishes mixed with our Jonathan Adler greek key dinner plates create the ultimate chinoiserie style. (We love these JA plates because they literally go with everything!
If you’re celebrating smaller, why not go all out with your table decor? Traditional blue and white ginger jars look festive paired with our Bisnagar paper placemat. Add an ornament to each place setting to make things extra OTT. Bring items in from other rooms, add some pine branches, ribbon, or other elements. We’re convinced it will help you feel more celebratory! (p.s., we think it’s a great way to elevate your Chinese takeout, too!)
We also love a tall pitcher of drinks, served in the living room or kitchen before dinner. To set the stage, use traditional Asian flavors like ginger and Chinese Five Spice.
5-Spice Pear & Ginger Cocktail – Makes a Large Pitcher
3/4 cup Grey Goose La Poire vodka
1/4 cup Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup DaVinci Cinnamon syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can Jumex pear nectar
1 bottle La Marca Prosecco
Sparkling water to taste
Equal parts Chinese 5 Spice & sugar
A pear, cut into thin cross-sections
Mix the first seven ingredients into a large pitcher, then pour in Prosecco and add sparkling water to taste. Rim cold martini glasses with lemon juice and the five spice and sugar mixture, by dipping the edge of the glass first into a shallow bowl of lime juice and then into a plate of the sugar and spice mixture. Place a thin cross-section of pear into each glass. Pour cocktail into the glass and serve immediately.
A Globally-Inspired Hanukkah Table
Celebrate the diaspora with a global table layered with beaded tassels, ethnic pottery and covered dishes in tin, pewter or old silver. Our Bisnagar paper placemats make a great starting point for coordinating lots of color and pattern.
We love the cheery, laser-cut steel Hanukkah menorah by Tzuki Art. We also love chocolate, especially when it starts with Godiva Chocolate Liqueur! Bring out the dreidel, and debate the meaning of life with this sweet martini inspired by Hanukkah gelt.
Grown Up Gelt (Chocolate Martini)
3 parts Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
2 parts Chopin Potato vodka (you can use any vodka, but we like the nod to latkes!)
4 parts Creme de cacao
2 parts Bailey’s
Torani Dark Chocolate sauce
Using a spoon, drizzle and swirl the dark chocolate sauce in a lacey pattern around the inside of a martini glass, leaving spaces in between, for visual effect. Combine the Godiva, creme de cacao, vodka and Bailey’s in a shaker with ice. Mix, and drain into the prepared glass. Slice a still-wrapped Hanukkah gelt chocolate coin slightly, from one edge, with a sharp knife. Slide the chocolate coin onto the rim of the glass. Serve.
Holiday for Two
Christmas (or Hanukkah, or New Year’s Eve) for two means fewer place settings — and less cleanup — but it doesn’t mean you have to skimp on style.
We’re loving a dressed-up dinner at the kitchen island. Is it just us, or is this a seriously romantic idea? This place setting features SmithHönig’s Medina Arch paper placemats, Jars Vuelta bowls, Moroccan tea glasses and lots of greenery.
All I want for Christmas is two!
The goal? Relax into each other’s company and still feel like you celebrated. With that in mind, we came up with a Super Easy Holiday Menu—with Drink Pairings. Some items require a bit of planning, but most ingredients can be delivered or picked up from your local grocery.
- Start with glasses of chilled Prosecco and a festive, three-ingredient appetizer like smoked salmon, creme fraiche and whole caper berries. The saltiness is perfect with bubbles and despite the simplicity, the plate feels elevated.
- Plan ahead and order a festive meal kit that just needs popping in the oven. We suggest the Beef Wellington kit from Impromptu Gourmet for omnivores or the Hearty Seasonal Bowl from Veestro for vegans. Serve with a celebratory red or rosé.
- Top choices for easy desserts:
- high quality chocolate truffles, served on a small plate
- a good store-bought cheesecake, topped with fresh berries from the fridge
- baked cinnamon apples, served with or without ice cream
- Keep the festivities going. Put out a selection of cheeses and candied pecans for nibbling, and pour glasses of white dessert wine, like a Sauterne or Ice Wine.
- Bring out the gifts, Zoom with the family or kiss under the mistletoe. The rest is up to you!
Another Holiday for Two Idea
Another option for your festive meal for two? Tunisian or other patterned dinnerware plus an unexpected, mismatched color palette of purples, blues, greens and golds. Don’t skimp on color, pattern, greenery—or Christmas music!
SmithHönig’s Neela Purple placemats set the tone here. Paper, and sold in a set of 24, they’re strong enough to reuse, and inexpensive enough to free your creativity. Remember, matching is totally overrated!
We also threw this cocktail together during our photo shoot. We don’t really have a recipe! It doesn’t have a name, either. Any ideas?
To make it yourself, combine the following to suit your personal taste.
Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
Pineapple Apple Ginger Juice from Arden’s Garden (or similar)
Bombay Sapphire Gin
A splash of ginger beer
How are you celebrating this year? Shop SmithHönig’s paper placemats for an inexpensive way to add color and pattern to your table, all year long. And show us your place settings on Instagram, using the hashtag #SetAGlobalTable. We’d love to see how you celebrate.