Eat, drink and be merry

Gaby Dalkin, SpiceIslands.comDecember 26, 2012 

New Year's Eve is the most unforgettable night of the year. It's a time to commemorate the past year and celebrate what's to come. On such an extraordinary night, hosts want their party menus to follow suit by serving appetizers and cocktails that are anything but ordinary. If you're playing host to your own bash this year, try adding unique touches to your appetizer and cocktail menu that your guests will be talking about until next year.

Create festive homemade cocktail ingredients

To add extra flavor to holiday drinks, drop half of a vanilla bean into a bottle of vodka or bourbon, and let it sit three days to infuse the flavor for a rich, delicious cocktail base. (See Vanilla Bourbon Smash recipe, below.) You can also create your own infused syrups, like a rosemary-infused simple syrup with just a few pinches of rosemary, water and sugar.

B.Y.O.B. (or, Be Your Own Bartender)

Party hosts can free up time for mingling with guests and add an element of fun by setting up a do-it-yourself drink table or bar. Provide all bar necessities, including an assortment of glassware, swizzle sticks, garnishes and mixers, allowing guests to create unique cocktails to their liking.

Punch up the flavor

Appetizers provide the chance for amateur chefs to test out new and interesting flavor combinations. If you usually serve a chip dip, try adding cumin, smoked paprika or cayenne pepper for an updated take on a classic favorite. If you have a go-to snack mix, combine sweet and spicy flavors like cinnamon and chipotle chili powder. Guests will wonder what your secret ingredient is.

Personalized appetizers

Allow guests to create appetizers according to their own tastes with a build-your-own crostini station. Provide slices of toasted bread and an array of cheeses, spreads, meats, vegetables and garnishes so guests can pile their crostini high with their favorite toppings. You also can give your cheeses and spreads a signature touch by making your own unique flavor combinations. Try adding a combination of spices like thyme, rosemary and crushed garlic whipped into some goat cheese for a zesty topping.

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