Photo by Susie Geissler.

As a person who hails from the American Siberia that is wintertime in Illinois, getting into the holiday spirit when it’s 82 degrees outside can be a struggle. It’s been more than a decade since I loaded up a mint-condition electric blue IROC-Z and said, “Sayonara, seasonal affective disorder weather. I’m heading for sunshine.” The Camaro was inevitably stolen out of a West Vickery Boulevard parking lot a few years later, and my naturally voluminous Tawny Kitaen-like writhing-on-the-hood-of-a-car hair has been searching for its vehicular soulmate ever since. 

Despite a grand theft auto hiccup and weather confusion, making Fort Worth my permanent home was a perfect choice. Traveling back to Chicago for Christmas means risking the possibly of having to sleep on the floor of O’Hare Airport during a blizzard. So over the years, I’ve glued together a solid extended family of non-blood relations for celebrations. It also helps that I’m a gal who bears the genetic predisposition of my Italian and German relatives to overfeed and overwater everyone I meet, which means I fit in with most Texans just fine. 

Holiday hosting became challenging when my former small bungalow in Fairmount needed stretchy pants, lest it burst at the seams from all the guests. So, in the spirit of the upcoming days, here are five tips to help you manage big parties in a way that will make the editors at any pinkies-out publications clutch their pearls in horror. 

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1.) Use your laundry room as the bar. Tile or linoleum floors come in handy for your ham-fisted friend who wants to play mixologist, uses a shaker incorrectly, and coats everything, including the dog, in simple syrup. Also, if you run out of cooler space, fill your top-load washing machine up with cold water, dump in the ice, and you now have a perfect place for beer cans. Be sure to unplug it from the wall so no one puts your brews on spin cycle. The next day, just unload the leftovers, plug it back in, and drain the makeshift cooler. 

2.) Get all of the food assembled beforehand and only reheat it on the day of the party. It’s impossible to keep socially awkward friends out of a kitchen. Even if you have sweat dripping from your brow like you just ran the Turkey Trot before they got there, they will remain melted to you like hot glue on a gingerbread house. 

3.) Crank the air conditioning down to sub-arctic levels before the party starts. Texans still want to get some mileage out of those sweaters and will come dressed like Clark Griswold even if it’s skinny-dipping weather outside.

4.) My favorite fruit, besides Elton John, is the clementine, and that sweet juiciness in mimosas will make your Yuletide extra gay. If you run low on champagne, swap it out for vodka and sparkling water to make faux-mosas.

And 5.) never throw a party without making a punch you can’t serve by the gallon. For my version, I infuse Fort Worth’s own Acre Distilling bourbon with real cinnamon to make a punch my guests will talk about until next season rolls around. Cheers, my dears.

  • Bourbon Punch
  • 8 toasted cinnamon sticks 
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) Acre Distilling Longhair Jim Straight Bourbon Whisky 
  • 8 oz brown sugar
  • 4 oz each of ginger juice, lemon juice, and unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 6 oz Malmsey Madeira fortified wine
  • 24 oz sparkling water
  • fresh ground nutmeg
  • fresh mint springs and cranberries to garnish

Let the cinnamon sticks sit in bourbon overnight, then strain. Stir brown sugar into the juices until it’s completely dissolved. Pour the juice, sugar blend, Madeira, and bourbon into a punch bowl and stir. Top with sparkling water and stir again. Grate 1/4 of a whole nutmeg on top. Serve it over ice in a punch cup and garnish with cranberry and mint.