In the 17th century, employees of the British East India Company discovered punch, a beguiling combination of spirits, water, lemon, sugar, and spices that became synonymous with good cheer and festive celebrations all over Europe. Here, pomegranate and lemon sharpen the sunny New World flavor of cranberries.
This easy punch can be made right before serving. To keep the bees from buzzing around the punch pitcher, tiny water balloons anchor a cloth cover: Clip them to the corners of a handkerchief; hang larger ones along the tablecloth to keep it from blowing away.
Why not try a new take on the old cocktail party? By stocking the pantry and making hors d'oeuvres ahead of time, you can pull off a festive affair in only an hour or two. This easy-for-the-hostess menu is ideal for an impromptu after-work party with friends in the midst of busy holiday preparations. Start with one idea, such as a signature drink, and build on it. Cheese balls are a retro nod as well; one base recipe and some add-ins later, you have three enticing variations. We've updated bacon-wrapped dates with tart apricots and salty pistachios, and stirred up a beautiful orange punch. Savory lemon-parsley gougeres and crisp radishes with salt and olive oil for dipping round out the flavor-texture canvas. Have best-quality breadsticks, olives, and nuts ready to supplement the menu in case your guest list grows at the last minute.