Nothing makes me happier then hosting a party.
I truly am a host at heart and love the entire process of creating a guest list, brainstorming a theme and preparing a menu. Those of you who share my love for hospitality will probably agree that Christmas is the most exciting time of the year to throw a soiree. Everyone loves a holiday party which typically features fantastic cocktails, sweet snacks, smiles and memorable storytelling.
My mother had a tradition of hosting Holiday Sweet Swaps with her best friends and family when I was growing up. Some of my earliest memories of my childhood are deeply rooted in these cookie and square centric feasts. I will never forget standing on my tip toes with my nose perched on a corner of the dining room table as what seemed like hundred of plates piled with sweets stood before me.
As children we become familiar with our own families culinary traditions. We call our favorites “comfort foods.” As an adventurous eater with a penchant for sweet teeth I always looked forward to sampling the creations brought to our home from the creative kitchens of my parents friends. My family is famous around the holidays for our lemon squares, shortbread cookies, peanut butter balls and cheese cookies. When you think about your childhood what Christmas flavours and aromas first come to mind?
This past Fall I had a strong urge to introduce this holiday tradition to my friends in Toronto. I chatted with Mike about the concept and he smiled with a twinkle in his eyes. No party is really noteworthy without a few celebratory and festive cocktails. This year I decided to feature two cocktails featuring Disaronno, my favorite liquer from Italy.
I have been a fan of Disaronno ever since I first started sipping on spirits. During my University years I would pour a shot of Disaronno over ice and top with cranberry juice, dash of prosecco and spritz of lemon. I not-so-fondly remember coming home after exams, brain totally fried and creating this cocktail in the kitchen. Such therapy. I’d then blast Nat King Cole Christmas tunes over the loud speakers while laying on the couch, staring at the Christmas tree twinkle in our living room.
Disaronno is the number one Amaretto in the world, an infusion of apricot kernel oil, with absolute alcohol, burnt sugar and the pure essence of seventeen selected herbs and fruits. There is a misconception that amaretto is made of almonds. While the aroma and flavour can often be described as “nutty” the liqueur contains no almonds and is nut-free. A perfect liquer to enjoy around the holidays its nutty nature pairs exceptionally well with the essence of tart and sour offered up by lemon, grapefruit and cranberry.
I arrived at Mike and Darryl’s house at 1pm to set up our bar station where we would be featuring two classic cocktails for guests throughout the afternoon and evening. We blasted Christmas tunes while juicing lemons and dusting champagne flutes.
1 oz Disaronno
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 lemon squeezed
1 oz Disaronno
3 oz prosecco
As guests arrived they plated their sweets before I took a portrait inspired by their baking. Mike the bartender started off everyone with a welcome, wink and Disoaronno Sour.
Once everyone had arrived and the dining room table was properly set with the finest festive desserts I properly thanked everyone for coming. I shared my love for Disaronno, holiday sweet swap family traditions and asked each guest to share their own personal story behind why they brought each dessert. Joaquin made a flan which his Spanish grandmother used to make for him Christmas as a wee boy. Sarah shared her mothers famous holiday cranberry coffee cake and Jonathan brought a plate of sugar cookies which celebrated his Christmas and Hanukkah roots (dreidel and snowman decorated sugar cookies).
Once the speeches had finished guests grabbed Disaronno Sparkling flutes and piled their plates with cake, squares and cookies. We raised our glasses in cheers to friendship, good health, the holidays, sweet treats and Italy’s finest amaretto which perfumed the air with the fiz of prosecco.
The Sweet Swap
Yours Truly serving Oatmeal Chocolate Toffee Walnut Cookies
Tabitha’s Shorbread with Cardamom and Vanilla Bean
Sarah’s Cranberry Coffee Cake
Jonathan’s Christmas and Hanukkah Sugar Cookies
Mike’s Cornflake Cookies
Darryl’s Chocolate Macaroons
Jordan’s Mondelbroit and Moon Cookies
Paul’s Cheesecake Bites
Tyson’s Choco-peanut Drops
Kaitlin and Brodie’s Ginger Snaps and Linzer Cookies
Mariana and David’s Churros
Melly’s Peanut Butter Balls