Entertaining expert Carla McDonald shows how to create a warm and festive fall party
Fall is upon us, and it’s not just the leaves that are turning. Thoughts are also turning, from summer soirées, pool parties and beach barbecues to cozy celebrations and Thanksgiving feasts.
Looking for ways to spice up your fall fêtes? Here are 10 easy and heart-warming tips from Carla McDonald, founder of The Salonnière – a popular website dedicated exclusively to the art of entertaining.
CHOOSE A STELLAR DATE Everyone loves an autumn moon, so hold your party on or around an evening when the moon is full and bright. Full moon dates this fall are October 5 and November 4. If it’s not too cool, serve cocktails and dinner outside, and drape throws in seasonal colors over the backs of chairs for those who get chilly.
MIX UP A FESTIVE COCKTAIL Welcome your guests with a drink that puts them in the mood for the cool, crisp days and nights of autumn. Try a delicious Spiced Pear Collins, comprising gin, pear purée and rosemary (see recipe below).
ADD SEASONAL TOUCHES Serve light bites on leaf-shaped platters and choose linens in autumnal shades like gold, rust and pumpkin.
BE INSPIRED BY THE BEACH Decorate your dining table with pieces of driftwood, sea shells and colorful fall leaves.
PREPARE A SEASONAL FEAST Serve warm, earthy nibbles made with squash, pears, fennel, figs, apples and other fall flavors. Butternut squash soup served in shot glasses and garnished with sage is a classic autumnal touch that looks beautiful passed on trays.
GET IN THE FALL VIBE Create a music playlist that reflects the sounds of the season. Songs to consider are “Autumn Leaves” by Nat King Cole, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire and “Forever Autumn” by The Moody Blues.
FLOWER POWER Reflect the bounty of fall with eye- catching floral arrangements that include seasonal vegetables and herbs like chard, beets, fennel blossoms, purple artichokes, rosemary and purple basil.
LIGHT UP THE PARTY Use lots of candles to make everyone look and feel gorgeous. Place votives in clusters on tables to draw people together as though they’re gathering around a hearth.
CHILL OUT Remember to relax and have fun. If you don’t have a good time at your autumn gathering, your guests won’t either.
A FAREWELL TO FALL As each guest leaves the party, thank them for coming and send them home with a warm hug, a thermos filled with cider or a classic caramel apple. Nostalgic touches always make people smile.
FALL DRINK RECIPES
New England Old Fashioned
Makes one drink
1/2 ounce Flag Hill Sugar Maple Liqueur
2-3 dashes a bitters
2 ounces Josiah Bartlett Barrel Aged Apple Brandy
Barely line the bottom of a rocks glass with crushed ice. Add maple liqueur and bitters. Top with brandy and garnish with a slice of green apple spritzed with lemon juice. Enjoy!
Spiced Pear Collins
Makes one drink
1.5 oz. gin
1.5 oz. pear purée (see below)
3/4 oz. lemon juice
Dry sparkling wine or soda water, to top
1 sprig rosemary, to garnish
For the Pear Purée and Rosemary-Clove Simple Syrup
Makes enough purée and syrup for 5 cocktails
2 pears, such as Bosch or Bartlett, peeled and pitted
1.5 oz. lemon juice
1.5 tsp. fresh rosemary
.5 cup sugar
.5 cup water
1 oz. whole cloves
3 sprigs rosemary
Pear purée: Slice the pears and combine with lemon juice and rosemary in a blender. Blend until smooth; gently strain mixture through a fine-mesh sieve and discard any solids. You will have roughly 1 cup of purée. If not using right away, the purée can be frozen in an ice cube tray and then stored in an airtight contained in the freezer to be used for individual cocktails in the future.
Simple syrup: Combine the sugar, water, cloves, and rosemary in a saucepan over low heat. When it reaches a boil, remove from heat and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain into a jar and store in the refrigerator until use.
Cocktail: Combine the purée, syrup, lemon juice, and gin in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Pour into a High Ball or Rocks glass and top with a small splash of sparkling wine or soda water. Garnish with rosemary to serve.
Cranberry & Cinnamon Whiskey Sour
From Baker by Nature
Makes 4 cocktails
2 cups fresh cranberries
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3/4 cup bourbon or whiskey
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup lime juice
Ice cubes & cocktail shaker for mixing
In a medium-sized pot add cranberries, water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks. Heat over a medium flame, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have burst open and can easily be stirred into the syrup, resulting in a smooth consistency. This will take about 10 minutes. Once done, remove syrup from heat. Fit a large bowl with a fine mesh strainer and strain the simple syrup, leaving all of the large chunks and skin behind. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before using.
When ready to make your cocktails, add 3/4 cup simple syrup, whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, lime juice, and a large handful of ice to a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Divide into four glasses and serve at once.
For more entertaining inspiration and advice, visit thesalonniere.com.