Whether you’re hosting an intimate gathering or throwing a come-all-ye-faithful, all-day soiree, your guests are likely expecting a cocktail or in two in exchange for their presence and presents.

Ron Murphy, Spirits Buyer for Fine Wine & Good Spirits, which runs all the liquor sales in Pennsylvania, decides what to sell in which stores — all 608 of them. He talked to us about how to prepare drinks for a holiday party, plus the best cocktails to get you and yours in a festive spirit.

Before the guests arrive
“Do some prep work — make a batch ahead of time, and pour it out as you go,” Murphy says. “The whole point of entertaining is to be there to entertain. You don’t want to spend your whole night mixing drinks for everybody. So if you can get everything ready ahead of time, you’re not worrying about it at the party.”

He suggests a hot spiced sangria (see recipe): “It’s super easy. You have the same idea as a punch, so you can have that ready to go.”

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Mix it up
When you’re playing host, “it’s nice to have a good mix,” Murphy says. “A classic punch works really well. Eggnog always goes over well at parties. Have a brandy or a cognac, and maybe a whiskey. Anytime I entertain, I have not a huge spread, but a nice spread that people can choose from.”

And don’t forget about your dry guests. ”It’s always good to have variety — for the non-alcoholic drinks too,” Murphy says.

Don't panic
Keep a ready-made mixer on hand in case unexpected guests drop by over the holidays, or more people show up for the party than you were planning for. “Have a ‘ready-to-drink’ item, like a [bottle of pre-made] Mudslide or white Russian — they’re perfect for the random drop-ins,” Murphy says. "You can keep them cold, shake them with ice just before you serve, or even blend them, and it only takes minutes.”

Another option is stocking your cabinet with liqueurs. “Have a nice liqueur, like Snap from Art in the Age. It tastes like gingerbread,” he suggests. “Or a Disaronno — it warms you up, but it’s light enough that it doesn’t take away from the ambience and the conversation.”


Three festive cocktails to serve:

1. Hot Spiced Sangria
Ingredients:
2 750 mL bottles Eppa Suprafruta Red Sangria
4 cinnamon sticks
2 oranges, sliced
Directions:
Combine all ingredients in a crock pot and heat to desired temperature.

2. Candy Cane Lane
Ingredients:
2½ oz vodka
1 oz white crème de menthe
½ oz peppermint schnapps
Cream
Splash of grenadine
Directions:
Put a splash of grenadine into the bottom of a chilled martini glass; set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into prepared glass to create a “swirl” effect. Garnish with peppermint candy.

3. Fire Cider
Ingredients:
1½ oz. Fireball Cinnamon Whisky
Apple cider
Heated cinnamon stick
Directions:
Pour whisky into a mug and top with hot apple cider. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.