Hosting a holiday party in an NYC apartment is not for the faint of heart. Between small countertops, little to no room for a dining room table and guests, and hot stoves that infiltrate the nonventilated air, it’s no wonder people opt to “host” holiday parties at restaurants, bars, or literally anywhere else. But what if we told you that a little elf — ahem, a Broadway actor who just so happens to be playing Aaron Burr on a little show called Hamilton — informed us that there is a way to host a holiday party in your apartment without calling and crying to your mom by the end of the night. Scroll below to see what actor and chef Daniel Breaker does before, during, and after his holiday parties to make sure they go off without a hitch.
[I’m] Daniel Breaker. I’m an actor by profession, but cooking and hosting [have] been in my veins since childhood. The melting pot of cultures in this city has transformed my love of hosting into an obsession.
When it comes to prepping for a party:
PLAN AHEAD. Stock up on the non-perishable items as early as you can. Paper plates, napkins, booze, wine, etc. That also includes homemade foods that may be components [of] a dish. Berbere-spiced pecans are a staple in my home. Also, pickled items are great to have on hand. Right now my fridge holds pickled mustard seeds (to add to roasted Brussels sprouts), pickled shiitake mushrooms (great on tuna tartare), and preserved Meyer lemons (great on anything, throw on a beet salad or lamb meatballs).
How do you figure out what dishes and cocktails you’re going to make for the party?
I like to see what’s thriving in the markets to spark ideas for the menu. I’m fortunate to live in a city with an abundance of quality produce. Oysters, bay scallops, pears, apples, pomegranate, citrus, yams, parsnips, Brussels sprouts are all ripe for the picking this month.
Do you decorate your home for holiday parties? If so, is there a theme you think of? What are some places you prefer to shop for decorations?
The food I make is pretty involved, so often I like to keep the decorating minimal with candles and simple floral arrangements in different rooms, especially the bathrooms. My favorite florist is GRDN in Brooklyn.
Any favorite go-to recipes or cocktails to serve at holiday parties?
Punch, punch, punch! A big bowl or pitcher of punch makes the first leg of a party very easy. I like to make my drinks complex and fun, but a simple drink is also a winner. (Try whiskey, lemon juice, and maple syrup, then add things like cinnamon sticks and sliced blood oranges. Be creative!)
What are some ways you make sure your guests feel comfortable in your home during the holiday party? Are there any tips or tricks you use to keep them entertained?
I like to keep the music playlist full of fun and whimsy [songs] to keep the folks relaxed. Also, a diverse guest list is mandatory. A house full of partygoers from various professions and cultural backgrounds is guaranteed to keep the conversation flowing.
What would you say is the best way to serve food and drinks to your guest. Buffet style or traditional service?
Start with a few small bites. People like to nibble at the start. Since guests will most likely be holding a drink, keep the appetizers easy to pick up and eat.
It can sometimes feel cramped to entertained in an NYC apartment, what are some tricks you’ve learned along the way to go around this issue?
Space is always a challenge, so use your imagination. If you’re low on counter space, do your slicing and chopping as early as possible. Buy a good cooler for extra fridge space (also doubles as a chair). Make friends with your neighbors and use their oven and/or fridge. And of course, in the wintertime, fire escapes are excellent for cold storage.
What are some ways you successfully close out the night of a holiday party?
After the guests have had their third round of dessert and conversation, the GOOD GOOD whiskey comes out along with fresh popcorn and a bowl of dark chocolate. The leftovers are placed in little Ziploc bags for guests as they leave.
After when drinks and food have been served, how do you maintain clean up so the house doesn’t feel chaotic or messy?
Find loyal friends and kind guests who are willing to bust some suds. If you’re hosting a large party, ask friends to help out at various stages of the evening. And if you’re in a real bind (and can afford it) hire a little help. The night before my last holiday soirée, the dishwasher broke. Thanks to some speedy texting, I found a college student that was home for winter break to do some dishwashing. It was a gamble but she turned out to be a savior.
What do you feel is the one thing everyone should have at their holiday party?
FUN. Holiday gatherings are a chance for us to break [away] from our daily routine. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your friends and loved ones. Enjoy meeting new people. Enjoy the brilliant chaos that is the holiday season.
Written by Raven Ishak
Photography via Preethi Rajaguru