Ringing in the New Year has never felt so important, yet nearly all of us won't get to celebrate in the ways we would like. Whether our typical New Year's celebrations involve a boisterous and festive cocktail party, a swanky Swiss chalet celebration, or a night at a favorite local haunt, we will have to get creative this year to make the joyous occasion of welcoming 2021, well, joyous.
Thankfully, interior designer and tastemaker Sasha Bikoff and plant stylist and author Hilton Carter have some fabulous tips for hosting a snazzy New Year's holiday at home, this year inspired by the 1920s and major art movements of the era. Plus, Earlecia Richelle, North American Ambassador for St. Germain, shares three fabulously festive cocktail recipes to zhush up the occasion.
It feels more important than ever to celebrate the New Year, but it’s going to be difficult to do so the way we'd like. How can we go “all out” when ringing in the New Year while staying safe?
HC: Zoom meetings are the way to stay safe but still bring the New Year in right. Like most, I've spent the last nine months using Zoom as the main way to stay in touch with loved ones. Why not call up one of your DJ friends, have them play the music, have everyone get dressed up, make your favorite cocktails, and go all out?
SB: I think that there is a certain sense of joy and confidence when it comes to putting ourselves together, so I would suggest hosting a virtual Zoom party with friends, taking time to do your makeup and get your hair done, put on a pretty dress, and make yourself feel good. Get the lighting right, get yourself a cocktail, put on some background music, and have a party with your friends virtually! That’s the best we can do right now. We can still put our best foot forward.
Where do you find inspiration for your next great party?
HC: I find my inspiration in art. Just like we pulled inspiration from the Art Deco, Surrealism, and Cubism movements, there is plenty of inspiration out there to create a themed party around. It's perfect because it gives you direction and gives your guests something exciting to look forward to. Traditional parties are a thing of the past. I think 2021 will be all about themes and taking the fun to the next level.
SB: I find inspiration in so many different places—nature, art, architecture, travel, fashion, film, TV shows, etc. In order to really get to a place of being inspired, you have to feel a connection and be visually open and observant to all things around you. For instance, I’m in Miami right now and am going to be hosting a small but glamorous New Year’s Eve gathering inspired by the Frank Sinatra-1950s-rat-pack era of Florida. If you really dig deep into your inspiration, you’ll find a lot of different motifs and ideas that revolve around it. For example, my New Year’s gathering will include hints of Cuban flavor, a bit of Art Deco flavor, and touches of tropical accents.
For those of us opting for a Zoom celebration, how can we curate a beautiful party space à la the 1920s?
HC: Like we did for Salon St-Germain (a virtual event Carter, Bikoff, and Richelle co-hosted earlier this month), it’s important to start with a theme or concept when preparing to entertain during the holidays—even if it’s virtual. If you want to curate a beautiful 1920s-inspired place, I suggest drawing inspiration from some of the iconic art movements that flourished in the Parisian neighborhood of Saint-Germain-des-Pres during that time period, focusing on either Art Deco, Cubism, or Surrealism (or all three).
From a plant perspective, you can incorporate whimsical greenery by bringing in juniper topiaries that would normally be outdoor plants. Picking out different geometric vases to display your plants in is an easy way to incorporate a Cubist vibe.
SB: Even if your guest list is virtual, I suggest going all out. If you’re working with a 1920s-inspired theme, I suggest going for a bold, maximalist look with touches of surrealism, Art Deco, and Cubism-inspired elements like we did for the Salon St-Germain series kickoff. Have fun with the decor pieces you choose. From multicolored pillar candle sets to Cubist-inspired glassware, there’s no such thing as overdoing the details. Each virtual guest can set their own table, coordinate dinner and cocktail menus, and share a meal and drinks together over Zoom.
For those of us hosting an intimate celebration, what are your best decorating tips?
HC: Well, if you're going to be taking it to Zoom, it’s all about creating the perfect Zoom background. I'd take some juniper spiral topiaries, place them on both sides of my Zoom frame, sprinkle them with some silver confetti, and hang up a 'Happy New Year' sign.
SB: It starts with realizing a theme or an inspiration for what you want the party vibe to be. It could be inspired by fashion, art, travel—really anything that is bringing you inspiration in the moment. I’d suggest being fearless with whatever theme you choose. If you want, you can even mash up two different themes to create a whole new world in itself, and they can be two totally opposing ideas. It’s about being unique and original and not confining yourself to traditional holiday decor. In order to create drama and theater for your party, you need to do something a little bit more whimsical and different that also infuses your personal vision and aesthetic.
Hilton, do you have any advice for choosing a few new houseplants that feel festive and a perfect accompaniment to a sleek and glitzy soiree?
If you're not going to go with juniper topiaries, I'd suggest bringing in an olive tree or an Audrey ficus. Both are beautiful trees that can replace the typical holiday tree. Plus, that olive tree goes perfect with your martini.
And Sasha, Richelle created three incredible libations for your virtual gathering last week. How does your cocktail selection have an impact on a gathering, and how would you serve the following cocktails throughout the evening?
The idea behind Salon St-Germain is to bring together unexpected pairings of creatives—like Hilton, Earlecia and myself–to collaborate on an inspiring experience surrounding the elevated at-home cocktail moment. We took it a step further by creating themes for the Salons, based off of iconic art movements that rose to popularity on the 1920s: Art Deco, Surrealist, and Cubism.
For the welcome moment, Earlecia created the Deco Martini, which I recommend serving in Deco-inspired glassware for the full effect when guests arrive.
Then comes the dinner food and cocktail pairing with the St-Germain Spritz. It’s a perfectly balanced drink that works with all types of food, no matter what you’re serving. Serve it in Cubist-inspired glassware, and the table setting is complete.
And lastly, one of my favorite moments, the night cap. Earlecia’s Smoke and Petals cocktail is a surrealist-twist on a traditional Old-Fashioned to bring the evening to a fashionable close. Serving it in a delightful tea set adds to the whole experience in an unexpected way.
What are a few go-to menu items that never fail at an intimate gathering?
HC: I always have a few different cocktails on hand because they never disappoint. I think of the classics when it comes to holiday and New Year’s Eve celebrations: an old-fashioned, Manhattan, martini, or even a twist on the French Spritz. My favorite right now is the St-Germain Spritz, a simple yet elevated cocktail with only three ingredients: St-Germain, sparkling wine, and sparkling water. The flavor profiles are delicate and easy-drinking, so you can enjoy it with all types of food, and you really please everybody.
SB: If you want to splurge and go all out, I would suggest caviar. It’s decadent and excites people as a delicacy. And there are different price points for caviar so you don’t have to break the bank when you’re buying it. There’s something about a whole presentation with caviar, crème fraîche, and a bellini that brings about a very joyful entertaining vibe. With holiday menu items, taste is just as important as the presentation, because at parties, we’re eating with our eyes. Any menu item that you offer should be presented in an artful and beautiful way because entertaining is about taking your guests to another place. Think about the colors, textures, and the combination of the colors and moods together and how they work on your table.
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