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[Photographs: Carrie Vasios]

Ugly sweater shindigs? Love them. Classy cocktail soiree? I'm the first to arrive. In my opinion, holiday parties are the best. Sure, they're essentially just theme parties for adults, but there is indisputably a little extra care taken with hospitality at this time of year. Bubbles are bought. Decorations are hung. And, after a summer of wonderfully simple dinner parties, hors d'oeuvres come out in full swing.

The best party nibbles are a bit salty, pair well with drinks, and are easy to eat while standing, mingling, and juggling eggnog. Here are three of my favorites.

Spicy Cocktail Meatballs

Meatballs on a stick can be a surprisingly classy little hors d'oeuvre. The meatballs are made with a mixture of sweet and spicy sausage, breadcrumbs, egg, and sage, then simmered in a mildly spicy chili sauce. You can certainly up the spice factor, though these are meant to whet your appetite, not blow out your taste buds before the main event. Toothpicks and cocktail napkins ensure that, despite the sauce, these aren't messy or difficult to serve. I like to plate these meatballs next to a bucket of seasonal brews.

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Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Tartlets

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The hardest part of making this tart is waiting patiently while the onions slowly caramelize into sweet, darn brown threads. I promise it's worth the wait; after they've cooked down, the onions are a perfect match for both tangy goat cheese and earthy thyme. By topping puff pastry with just those three ingredients plus a dash of salt and pepper, you have a deliciously savory-sweet tart. Cutting the tart into bite-size pieces makes it easy to eat. I'd recommend a dry white wine for your other hand.

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Mushroom and Gruyère Pinwheels

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To make these savory pinwheels, sautéed mushrooms, Gruyère and thyme are rolled up into puff pastry and cut into rounds. When they bake in the oven, the pinwheels puff up into golden, buttery, cheesy bites. Their salty-earthy flavor makes them a nice accompaniment to bubbles like Cava or Champagne.

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About the author: Carrie Vasios is the Community Manager of Serious Eats and writes the Wake and Bake, Cookie Monster, and Serious Entertaining columns. She likes perusing her large collection of cookbooks while eating jam from the jar.

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