We all know this year's vacation will be a little different. But that doesn't mean you still can't celebrate with your loved ones! All you need to make your intimate family reunion more fun and safer for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa is a little creativity.
Host a recipe exchange
Can't imagine a holiday meal without your uncle's famous turkey and vinaigrette or your cousin's coconut pound cake? Host a recipe swap so everyone can always enjoy their favorite family meals! Have everyone send you their favorite holiday recipe, then send it to the whole family. You can make it as easy as compiling them into a group email, or go all out and put the recipes together in a family cookbook using CreateMyCookbook, Heritage recipe book, or Butterfly. It's a great holiday gift and a great way to make sure traditional family recipes don't get lost over time (or your grandma's bad handwriting).
Host a Holiday Happy Hour
If you're meeting in person, whip up a batch of party cocktails to keep the family entertained while you wait for the main course. But what if you are scattered across the country - or even the world? You can still enjoy a holiday happy hour through Zoom, Google Hangouts, Houseparty, or one of the many other video chat services. Toast with whatever you have on hand, or increase the stakes by giving a holiday-themed cocktail class! Pick a drink that you think will be popular with the crowd (preferably an equally delicious non-alcoholic drink for non-drinkers), send everyone a list of ingredients a week or two in advance, practice your presentation, then jump in line and show everyone how to mix it up. If you need drink ideas, check out our recent roundup of seasonal cocktails.
Eat a meal together, even from afar
Preparing a big holiday meal can be complicated and hectic. So we recommend that you keep your eyes on the cutting board and preparing your meals offline. (Although it's always a good idea to have the head of the family on the speed dial.) But when the food is ready, gather around the table with in-person and virtual friends and family!
Ibotta Saver tip: Don't forget to dress for dinner! Even a virtual holiday meal is a great excuse to break out of the loungewear you've been living in. Or, go in the opposite direction and have everyone wear their favorite vacation themed pajamas or lousy sweaters! Regardless of the dress code, you'll make money buying fashion items from retailers like Kohls.com, Banana Republic, Gap, ModCloth, Belk and more with the Ibotta mobile app or the extension of Ibotta browser for Chrome.
Enjoy the fun and the festivities
There are plenty of after-dinner activities you can do in person or online. If your family has a favorite vacation poem or story, choose someone to read it aloud. (You can even save it for posterity.) For Thanksgiving, we love the centuries-old tradition of sharing what each person is thankful for. Or, if you're celebrating in December, each person could get ready to share their New Year's resolution! There are also lots of games you can play together online, from classics like BINGO and Pictionary to newcomers like Codenames and Quiplash. When you're all out, share the screen of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade or a favorite holiday movie. Above all, don't forget to allow time for a nap! You have earned it.
A little time put into preparation makes for an enjoyable evening. Drinking cocktails should be a fun and relaxing experience, so take a while to think about ingredients in advance, to avoid any rushing around last minute.
One of the foundations of many cocktails is sugar syrup. This can be prepared in advance. Here’s my tip for easy to prepare simple syrup : Add 200 gm white sugar to 200 ml boiling water. Stir till sugar is dissolved, and liquid is clear. Allow to cool then bottle
If you mix lemon juice 50 : 50 with simple syrup, you should have a solid mid-line sweet-sour balance. But remember, every palate is different. to find your own point of balance, mix 15ml fresh lemon juice with 15ml simple syrup, and then dilute the mix with up to 90ml water. Congratulations, you’ve just made fresh lemonade ! If this tastes too sweet or too sour, adjust by adding a little more citrus or syrup. Using this method of calibration, you can adjust any petit cocktail recipe to suit your own palate.
Ice is the single most over-looked ingredient at any home bar - you’ll be surprised how much you can go through. Cocktails need ice like baking needs ovens. If popping to the shops for ice isn’t an option right now, keeping a freezer bag topped up with ice will ensure you don’t run out unexpectedly. For best quality home-made ice, try using a silicone ice tray with a lid, to prevent your ice from absorbing unpleasant odours. And wash your ice tray after each use.
Where possible always go for premium spirits, the freshest herbs, and the best juices you can get your hands on. For instance, the taste difference between cheap juice and pressed juice is more than worth the small extra expense.
Try to use glassware appropriate to your drinks. It’s entirely possible to drink a martini from an old coffee mug, but that misses the point of drinking a martini !
If you can make a Whiskey Sour, you can make a Daiquiri. If you make a mean Negroni, you can riff on a Boulevardier. Once you’ve mastered the Manhattan, have some fun in Brooklyn on your way to Martinez. Cocktails exist in family trees. Once you are comfortable the basics of each category the world is your oyster !
You can pre-mix punches in advance - an old trick from the godfathers of bartending in the 19th century. You can bottle punch and store it in the fridge, ready to use on the day, or later that week. If done properly, quality and consistency are assured. If your punch has a fizzy ingredient, such as champagne, only add this your glass just before serving.
If you follow the Punch Ratio, you can’t go far wrong : 1 part sour ( citrus ) 2 parts sweet ( simple syrup ) 3 parts strong ( spirit ) 4 parts weak ( juices etc ) And don’t shy away from warm spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and mace, to make that punch really sing. Don’t have those spices to hand ? No problem, a few dashes of Angostura bitters will do the trick.
We all have a few unloved ingredients lying around that need using up. For instance, that last bit of red wine in the bottle ? Try drizzling it over your Whisky Sour, and voila, you’ve got yourself a delicious New York Sour ! Do you have some nice but neglected spice mix in the kitchen ? Try mixing a teaspoon or two into your simple syrup as it cools to give your next petit cocktail an added dimension. Seasonal fresh herbs make a wonderful aromatic petit cocktail garnish.
So now, you’ve hit your stride and you’re getting creative in your home bar. Great ! Our top tip for petit cocktail creation ? Write down the exact specifications as you are making it. It’s not always easy to perfectly recall the recipe for that killer cocktail the next day !
If all this sounds like a bit of a chore, then keep an eye open for delivery services available from many local cocktail bars. After all, with the finer things in life, it’s nice to sit back, relax and let the professionals do all the work.