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Times of the Islands Magazine

Throwing the Ultimate Holiday Cocktail Party

Nov 16, 2022 01:41PM ● By Gina Birch

Cocktail parties are a big part of the holiday season. The name alone, cocktail party, has a sophisticated, grown-up air, and throwing one can seem intimidating—especially with the pressures of the holiday season.

With a little planning, you can put together the ultimate holiday cocktail (or mocktail) party, and still manage to enjoy it rather than work it the entire time.

Pamela Beckman has been throwing parties for a living since 1988, from over the top and extravagant, to simple and sophisticated, to laid back and let your hair down. The founder of BonSoiree in Fort Myers, Beckman has become one of Southwest Florida’s go-to party and event planners.

To help you during the holiday season, and year-round, she graciously shares some insider tips on how to plan and execute a gathering that will leave guests talking about how much fun they had, for years to come.


It’s not sexy, but budget is one of the first things Beckman considers, and it’s a good place for you to start. Even if the sky is the limit, the question remains: How much are you willing to spend?

“When you don’t have unlimited resources, look for ways to make that money go further,” Beckman says. She suggests finding one thing that might surprise your guests—something unique that they may not have seen before or that could leave an impression. Perhaps it’s as simple as a beautiful garnish for your cocktails.


Creativity is the fun part of party planning, according to Beckman. She compares it to cooking: “Brainstorming ideas is like putting all of the pieces in a big stockpot and boiling them down. At first, it’s haphazard and awful. But when you boil it all down, you have something refined and focused and exciting.”


From here, pick a jumping-off point and build around it. Beckman asks, “What are you celebrating? Christmas? The season? Friends and fellowship? Do you want to reflect a certain style, color, or even country?”

An example she cites: If you want to decorate in gold, float a gold leaf in one of your cocktails. Or choose white for a theme, as in “Let it snow,” using snow cones as the base for cocktails, mocktails, and even desserts.

“If you’re known for making the best martinis or sangria, or a particular dish, make that the focal point and wrap everything around it, instead of trying to do a little bit of everything,” she says.


Look at your party like a project manager would when, say, remodeling a house. “If you tackle the party like a project, you are better off,” advises Beckman. “You are less likely to forget things.”


Perfection is elusive, no matter how good of a project manager you are. “We put too much pressure on ourselves with social media and Martha Stewart comparisons,” Beckman says.  “Forgive yourself (if things aren’t perfect or don’t go as planned) and allow yourself to be in the moment. Remember why you’re getting together. Is it for fellowship or to be in a magazine?”


Sometimes parties spring out of a random conversation or meeting. You suddenly find yourself hosting a gathering with little notice. First thing, remember forgiveness. Next thing, “Let others pitch in. That is often overlooked,” recommends Beckman. “There is nothing wrong with a potluck approach when parties are last minute.”

No Alcohol, No Problem

If alcohol is not permitted at your soiree, or if you don’t drink, creating a mocktail or two is an easy way to elevate the experience. Tea, soda, and water are nice, and perhaps necessary, but boring. This is the holidays we’re talking about. There are some amazing mocktail recipes, many of which can please even the biggest cocktail snob.

Hired Help

Whether you are serving cocktails, mocktails, or perhaps some of both, if you’re going to splurge on one thing, that thing should be hired help, according to Beckman. Turn to professionals like BonSoiree, or perhaps you know a college student who needs some extra cash. The extra set of eyes and hands for the little things like filling the ice, clearing plates, and taking out the trash can make all the difference in the world. 

Beckman explains, “When the doorbell rings and people walk in, if you have someone helping you, you can actually enjoy your party, and that is the best thing ever.”

With some focus, planning, and a side of realistic expectations, you are set for entertaining success this holiday season. Cheers.

Gina Birch is a regular contributor. A lover of good food, good drinks, good finds, and a fun time, she is a well-known media personality in Southwest Florida. She is the morning-show host on Sunny 106.3.


Looking for some unique cocktail ideas? Here are a few to ignite your creativity.

Sparkling Cocktails

Sparkling cocktails are a slam dunk for the holidays, and many are easy to make. Add a splash of Chambord to a Champagne flute, top with sparkling wine, float some raspberries, and you have a Kir Royale. It really can’t get any easier.

But for a sparkling cocktail that will get guests talking, try incorporating a lesser-known spirit or liqueur such as Sorel, a hibiscus liqueur that tastes like the holidays. It’s sweet and exotic with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and clove, and it’s fun to play with. It would even work with club soda—just add an artful garnish or use a vintage glass.

Sorel Spritzer

Combine 2 ounces sparkling wine and 1 ounce Sorel in a Champagne flute and garnish with an edible hibiscus flower. 

Sweet Cocktails

Sweet treats are a big part of the holidays. Try a dessert cocktail and double the fun.

Mozart Dessert Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake

4 ounces Mozart Pumpkin Spice Liqueur
1 ounce maple syrup (plus more for rim garnish)
6 teaspoons yogurt

Cookie crumbles

Roasted and chopped pumpkin seeds

Ground nutmeg

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice.

Rim garnish: Mix cookie crumbles and pumpkin seeds on a small plate. Add a small amount of syrup to a shallow bowl. Dip the rim of a shot glass into the syrup, and then the cookie topping. Top with ground nutmeg. Strain the “choctail” into the glass. Yields four drinks.

No Alcohol

It’s always wise to have nonalcoholic options for guests. In addition, this one can easily accommodate those who like a splash of spirits as well. The key is using superior juices such as those from Fresh Victor, and this one with pomegranate has the holidays written all over it.

Fresh Victor Pom Paloma

3 ounces Fresh Victor Cactus Pear & Pomegranate

3 ounces grapefruit soda or grapefruit seltzer such as Q Spectacular Grapefruit or Spindrift Grapefruit (or substitute with 1 ounce each fresh grapefruit juice and soda water)

Pinch of salt

Squeeze of lime wedge (1/8 of a lime / 1/8 ounce of lime juice)

In a tall glass full of ice, add all ingredients, stir gently, garnish with squeezed lime wedge and serve.

This is also super easy to doctor up for those who enjoy tequila. Just cut the juices by 1 ounce each, and add 1½ ounces of blanco or reposado tequila.

Mixologist’s notes: The addition of cactus pear and pomegranate flavors to the classic paloma cocktail provides a complementary juiciness to the grapefruit that is exceptional. A drier style of grapefruit soda or a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water/seltzer provides the best balance.