Whether you are planning for the office or gathering friends and (cough) family, it's incredibly satisfying to host the perfect cocktail party. Wonderful food, great company, and—most importantly—excellent drinks are good any time, but throw in the fact that it's winter time and you really have the recipe for a festive evening. Patrón Tequila offers these helpful tips—and delicious drink recipes—for planning your ultimate party and, if you're not one to do all the work yourself, enter for your chance to win an incredible cocktail party.trackingdot.jpg

The Menu

A cocktail party menu requires different planning from a dinner party. Two important things to do: Keep items small and keep them silverware-free. You don't want your guests falling asleep after a giant piece of brisket, nor do you want them carrying around a plate of food where they'll need sit down to saw it in their lap.

2012_11_salmonapp.jpg Serve dishes that can be picked up and eaten in one or two bites. Crostini, shrimp cocktail, and cheese trays are cocktail party staples for a reason.

It's also a terrific opportunity to serve something a little more interesting than cheddar cubes and cold shrimp. Experiment with interesting or classic seasonal flavors like rosemary, brussels sprouts, winter squash, apple, or cloves.

Set out snacks like maple-rosemary bourbon pecans, small latkes with spiced applesauce, and toasted pita with a dip of puréed white bean and fresh mint.

Crostini with ricotta and prosciutto is a classic combination, but you can keep it vegetarian and sub a drizzle of honey (or black truffle honey if you are splurging) for the prosciutto. Roasted peppers (red and green) are always easy and can be served with cheese on a toothpick or paired with mozzarella on toast (don't forget to drizzle a little balsamic if serving on toast).

Cocktail Time

Since you're going all out for your party, it's a great excuse to try your hand at developing drinks that complement the flavors of what you're serving. Patrón has an array of cocktail recipes (click through the above images to see them) with a seasonal twist that are the perfect jumping off point.

Silver Bells with Patrón Citrónge and sparkling white wine helps cut the salt and richness of meat like roast chicken or charcuterie. And since you should definitely be serving desserts, make sure to pair them to your cocktails as well. Rugelach is a natural complement to Naughty and Nice's vanilla-banana-coffee combination and this chili-cinnamon chocolate bark would combine perfectly with the Rosemary Holiday Cup's chile-vanilla notes. The Citrónge Spark's orange bitters and pomegranate juice match up with both savory and sweet dishes. Try pairing it with poultry to play off its fruitiness or serve with a dark chocolate dessert to take advantage of its bittersweet qualities.

Plan Carefully

Now that the food and drink are out of the way, it's time to tackle of some more general party planning. Preparing ahead as much as possible will make things easier on you and keep you free to actually enjoy your party. Choose cocktails that are conducive to mixing up the day before so you can just pour them for your guests when they're ready for a refill.

holiday_drinks.jpg Each of these four Patrón cocktails can easily be mixed the day before, and will even develop their flavors after a night in the fridge. Since the Silver Bells and Citrónge Spark are served with sparkling wine, mix the rest of the ingredients the night before and top off with the bubbly when you serve. No one wants to drink flat brut!

Speaking of refills: a good rule of thumb is 1-2 drinks per hour, per guest. Mixers like tonic, seltzer, cola, lemonade, and ginger ale are necessary, especially for those who don't want to indulge in anything alcoholic. Don't forget to keep guests hydrated; pouring water into a nice vase with mint creates the perfect seasonal touch.

If this all sounds too daunting but you still aspire to throw the party of the season, head over to The Patrón Happiness Experiment, answer a few questions about what kind of holiday gifts you like to receive, and you'll be entered to win a cocktail party hosted by Patrón. It'll feature signature Patrón cocktails like those above and be a great way to entertain your friends and family for the holidays.