Relax, the secret to throwing a no-fuss holiday party is simple: Stick to a theme. Here's how
The theme: Desert-Mex fiesta
Why: Bright colors, easy food everyone loves, and a surprising alternative to eggnog.
Red and fuchsia are a bold new take on a holiday color combo. A little of each goes a long way.
Set out masses of flower market-fresh carnations (right; about $7 per bunch).
Hang flirty papel picado (perforated-paper banners pictured; from $13 each; mexevents.com).
Save yourself from mixing drinks through your whole party by sticking to one cocktail for everyone.
Plan for three to four drinks per person for a two- to three-hour party, and offer pitchers of chilled water garnished with fresh citrus slices, basil, or mint, as an alternative.
Recipe: Cranberry Margaritas
Stick to large quantities of just a few snack items. Trust us: No one’s going to miss a thing once you bring out a platter
of taquitos and sides.
Recipe: Bean and Chicken Taquitos
Put out a few dips and nibbles to go with your main dish. For this fiesta, guests will love guacamole, salsas, jicama strips with lime and cayenne, spicy toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), and jalapeño-stuffed olives.
Match activity and favors with your theme. Give santo candles (below; $2.95 each; mexgrocer.com).
Get in a festive state of mind by cracking open some piñatas from Rainbow Custom Made (above; from $40; 415/642-8606).
Stuff piñatas full of nostalgic candy (The Candy Store, 415/921-8000) to shower your guests with sweets.
Great dish + simple sides Naked Shrimp and Chive Dumplings, rice, and a variety of store-bought Asian dipping sauces
Cool cocktail Lager-style beers (try Session from Full Sail Brewing Co., in Hood River, Oregon) or extra pale ales (try Steelhead from Mad River Brewing Co., in Humboldt County, CA)
Color scheme + decor idea Blue and yellow + drumsticks (Craspedia globosa) in tea tins
Fun activity Follow tree-trimming with a mah-jongg marathon
Thoughtful favor Personalized fortune cookies (from 41 cents each; personalized-fortune-cookies.com)
Great dish + simple sides Cheese plate (set out a handful of cheeses in a range of styles and milk choices). Sunset loves Pondhopper semisoft goat cheese ($26 for 16 oz.; tumalofarms.com), Edam-style Tulare Cannonball ($14 for 14 oz.; bravofarms.com), and Crater Lake Blue ($25 for 16 oz.; roguecreamery.com). Add breads, crackers, fruit, and a variety of chocolates
Cool cocktail Sparkling wine. Try a classic brut style―a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, such as Iron Horse Classic Vintage Brut 2004 (Green Valley of Russian River Valley; $33)
Color scheme + decor idea Red and brown + tissue-paper flowers (fan-fold tissue paper and secure with pipe cleaner “stems”)
Fun activity Compare notes during cheese and chocolate tastings
Thoughtful favor Decorative notebooks for guests to record their favorite flavors
Great dish + simple side Spiced beef pockets and sesame yogurt sauce
Cool cocktail Tangerini (martini made with tangerine or blood orange juice)
Color scheme + decor idea Turquoise and gold + metal lanterns with piercework details (from $7.99; worldmarket.com)
Fun activity Shimmy the night away with a belly-dancing instructor (or how-to DVD)
Thoughtful favor Gift box of dried fruit and nuts