Serious Entertaining: New Year's Eve Party Tips from Event Planner Linnea Johansson

Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.


[Partygoers toasting image from Shutterstock]

By New Years Eve, I've thrown and attended more than my fair share of holiday parties. I'll admit I'm a little worn out (can you get carpal tunnel from canapés?) and my wallet is feeling noticeably lighter. So to get amped for one last holiday hurrah in 2011, I turned to Linnea Johansson, a celebrity event planner, Elle contributor, chef, and author of Perfect Parties. New Year's is one of Linnea's favorite holidays, and I'm grateful for her enthusiasm and the little reminder that, oh yeah, hosts can have fun too. My New Year's resolution? Start all events with cocktails. You're welcome, friends.

Linnea, what are your top tips for throwing a great New Year's party?


[Photograph: Linnea Johansson]

1. Party it up! As a host, you need to make sure your guests are being entertained, so...get out of the kitchen! In order to be the hostess with the mostess, you need to make sure at least 80 percent of your menu items are prepared beforehand. I like to make these smokey deviled eggs, which get a spicy kick from Spanish pimentón. Another great choice is black truffle & Parmesan popcorn. It's casual with just enough decadence for a party.

2. Ice it—keep your drinks cool, vintage style! Freeze a large ice block in a Tupperware container and then simply use an ice pick (basic instinct style) to cut out large ice cubes to serve to your guests. It's a fun little trick that will surprise your guests! But be careful after enjoying a few cocktails, ice picks can be sharp!!!


[Photograph: Carrie Vasios]

3. Look to Mother Nature! A great way to save on a centerpiece for your dinner party table is to go for a walk. Hand collected pine cones and holly leaves are a great substitute for summer flowers during the chilly winter months. To add some extra flair, throw in a couple of cinnamon sticks and clove-laden oranges. This fabulous center piece also doubles as a delicious smelling air freshener.

4. When guests arrive, the first thing you want to do is to put a drink in their hands, since it makes everyone relaxed.

5. Once all guests have arrived, a welcoming toast is the way to go, because it sets the mood for the evening and sets the start of the event.


[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Ah, toasts. You've come to my favorite part of New Year's Eve. Champagne, Cava, Prosecco—what will you be picking up this year?

This year, I want to ditch the French Champagne in favor of some lively Prosecco! This Italian sparkling wine works as a great alternative because it's slightly dryer and more refreshing than your typical brut champagne. Prosecco can definitely be served by itself in a flute, but it also works well in many sparkling cocktails. I like this Prosecco cocktail made with rose water. It adds an unexpected, lively flowery note.