The Holiday Coffee Mingle can be your solution to holiday hospitality! Casual and fairly easy to pull together, your guests — and you — will enjoy this relaxed event. Just follow my tips and strategies for success.
This is the time of year when people tend to entertain and visit more, but many of you may feel that hosting a holiday gathering at your home is too much work or simply too intimidating. My solution for that is the coffee mingle. This gathering keeps the focus on what hospitality is all about.
These tips help me keep my holiday gatherings in perspective. And maybe they’ll be a deciding factor in your decision to invite friends or family over to celebrate the new year or other occasion.
#1: Stay Connected
You never know what invitations may come my way. Hosting my own gathering means I’ll have at least one opportunity to celebrate the season with good friends. When making my holiday hospitality plans, I consider the lift I get from my home buzzing with the conversation and laughter of good friends, and think about what I’d be missing if I didn’t make the effort. I also think about how some of my friends might not have the opportunity to enjoy each other’s company if I don’t bring then all together.
#2: Do What’s Manageable for You
I used to throw big open houses, with 50 or 60 guests attending. That kind of big splash event just hasn’t been feasible for me in the past few years. Instead, I’ve switched to a smaller coffee gathering. Somehow I find it even more relaxing to do it on a weekday morning. That means I can’t include the people in my circles who are working, which I’m sorry about, but it’s better to host a manageable event rather than no event. Bottom line: your event has to work for you.
#3: It’s Not All About the Food
Yes, I really said that! You may have noticed I have a thing about food and cooking. But keeping it manageable applies here too. I keep what I’m serving simple. Remember, we each have to define what that means for ourselves. I like to bake, but there’s absolutely no shame in picking up some items — or even everything you serve — at your favourite bakery.
#4: Spend as Much Time as You Can with Your Guests
It’s important to keep in mind that your guests would rather see you enjoying their company than playing the waiter role. And they certainly don’t want to see you stressing out! A secret to holiday hospitality is to use strategies to help ensure you can enjoy your guests’ company as much as possible. For instance, I know I’ll be busy greeting people as they arrive and seeing them off as they go, so I serve the food buffet style. That includes a beverage station where guests can fix their own coffee or tea or pour a glass of juice.
The Holiday Coffee Mingle
I’ve found the holiday coffee mingle to be a low-pressure way for me to have a group of people over. I send the invitations by email two to three weeks ahead. Although I make it known that last-minute drop-ins are fine, I also ask guests to RSVP If they can so I have an idea of the numbers. Here are some of the strategies I follow to make my mingles a success.
- Timing — For a Christmas mingle, I set the date for at least a week after when I normally decorate my home for the season (for a “non-occasion” mingle this wouldn’t be an issue). I don’t want decorating to be part of the party prep!
- Keep the food as non-fussy as possible — Making coffee cakes or tea loaves is less time-consuming than shaping individual cookies. The same can be said for bars (check out this collection of 30 holiday bar recipes from Food Bloggers of Canada!).
- Have at least one gluten-free offering — I find that meringues or macaroons are fairly simple and well received.
- Sugar-free or low-sugar options — Many folks are cutting back on sugar these days. I have bowls of clementines and nuts available for anyone who prefers those options.
- Provide one savoury offering — While not a requirement, a savoury offering is appreciated even at a coffee mingle. I keep gougeres (cheese puffs) in the freezer. For my last mingle I baked off two batches of those once the majority of guests had arrived. They were the only food item that I took around on a serving tray. It was a nice touch that guests enjoyed, and it ensured that I had personal contact with everyone during the party, not just when they arrived and departed.
- Bake ahead — Set aside a day for baking, one or two days ahead. I chose not to freeze my coffee cakes in advance, although I could have. I also like to do some prep work a few weeks in advance. Having raw shaped cookie dough or unbaked gougeres in the freezer means you can offer up fresh-baked cookies or cheese puffs anytime people drop by.
- Include some purchased food — There’s no need to do everything yourself! Maybe your local bakery has a stunning cake or bars or cookies that you love. Why not buy some of those to share with your friends?
- Ask for help — While this post isn’t about a potluck (that would be a different type of event), perhaps you have a friend (or two) who loves to bake. Chances are they’d be thrilled to contribute something to your holiday coffee mingle. After all, it would give them a chance to talk about their favourite holiday recipe!
- Set up buffet style — Serving your offerings buffet style promotes a casual vibe, gives you more time with your guests and allows people to unobtrusively enjoy seconds (or thirds — hey, who’s counting?!)
- Set out as much as you can the night before — I no longer have cats, so I’m able to put out the wrapped cakes and all the plates and cutlery the night ahead. This allows me to be much more relaxed the morning of the mingle!
- Grind the beans in advance — Much as I love the smell of coffee beans ground just now, who wants to hear that noise at a party? And you won’t have time to be hauling out the grinder either. For my last coffee station, I bought a bag of my favourite beans pre-ground, and appreciated the convenience. I also bought a coffee carafe so I could have more brewed coffee on hand. Not everyone likes coffee or tea, so I set out a pitcher of orange juice too.
- Mounds of food aren’t required — After all, if you met your friends at a coffee shop they’d likely have only a single muffin or scone. I was expecting 20 people at my last mingle, so I made two coffee cakes, one loaf cake and a batch of meringue bark. I had the gougeres in the freezer, as well as raw shaped cookie balls that I had made at the beginning of the month for another event. So, I was prepared for more guests than expected. Due to a snowstorm (always the Mother Nature factor!) only 15 people were able to attend that year.
- Don’t forget the music! — I keep my holiday hospitality playlist on low in the background to add ambiance without hindering conversation.
- Be prepared for “to go” — Some friends may only be able to stay a short time, so you might want to send some goodies home with them. Others may want to bring a treat home to their significant other. Or, you may not want to be left with any all-too-tempting leftovers! Be prepared to send food to go with the appropriate containers on hand.
- Relax, have fun, and go with the flow — As the host, I know my attentions will always be divided between visiting with my friends and making sure everything is running smoothly. But I also know that when I enjoy myself, the gathering is more fun for my guests. Last time around, someone told me I looked like I was in my element, so mission accomplished!
My 2016 Holiday Coffee Mingle Menu
- A Winter Favourite ❆ Applesauce Spice Cake
- Pecan Coffee Cake with a Cranberry Pecan Topping ( a variation)
- Cranberry Orange Walnut Loaf
- Pomegranate Coconut Meringue Bark
On standby in the freezer:
- Gougeres Variations ❉ Three New French Cheese Puffs
- Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies
- Sultry Gingersnaps for Leonard
Looking for More About Holiday Hospitality?
- A Casual Holiday Mingle ❄︎ My Top Tips & Recipes
- Tips for A Successful Open House & An Entertaining Giveaway
- Menu for A Holiday Open House
- Urban Cottage Hospitality: Brunch ❦ Sausage & Potato Frittata
- On Hospitality and A Cumin Chickpea Dish
First published 2016 12 30
Republished 2019 11 15