Andy Cohen’s essentials for hosting a fabulous holiday party | CNN Underscored

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Every year, Andy Cohen throws a holiday party, and no, we’re not talking about the New Year’s Eve event on CNN that he hosts with his best pal Anderson Cooper — though he does enjoy that one, as you may have seen on TV. We’re talking about the annual shindig he hosts for his friends at his apartment. One of his best tips for throwing a successful party? Making sure you have the right mix of people.

“That’s super important,” he says of the guest list. “You want fun people, you want people who are going to contribute, and if you’re looking for drama, invite a couple of people that hate each other and see how it goes. I enjoy that too.

“Surprise guests are also really fun. Invite a couple of people that your other friends aren’t expecting to see, and don’t tell them,” he adds. “Because friends these days are always like, ‘Who’s coming, who’s coming?’ So leave a couple of names off the list so there’s the element of surprise. They’ll be saying, ‘You won’t believe what happened at Andy’s party, guess who showed up!’ It’s very exciting.”

Below, he lets us in on a few other secret essentials for having the most festive fête.

Host Andy Cohen’s must-have holiday party essentials

“The key to having a great holiday party is the vibe, and for me, that includes having a disco ball,” Cohen says. “I own a big gold one. I always have a disco ball, and I’ve had one in every apartment I’ve lived in.”  

“Nosh is really important, but what you serve depends on what time your party is called for,” Cohen says. “If it’s called for 6 o’clock, you need to feed your guests real substantial food. Mine would be for 9 o’clock. I’m a late-night guy, and I want to throw a late-night party. I want people to go out to dinner and feed themselves before they come over.” He adds, “I’m not going to have a big old ham; I’m not having a roast beef. I don’t want to see your dirty plates and gross forks and napkins all over my apartment. What I’m going to do is get you drunk around 9 p.m., and I’m going to have tons of nosh: I’m going to have cheese and crackers, I’m going to have guac, I’m going to have chips. And I’m not going to overthink it. Those are the snacks that everyone wants when they’re drinking at a holiday party.” 

• Related: Nina Dobrev and Julianne Hough share their holiday hosting must-haves

Simplicity is key. Cohen uses his Alexa Echo to customize his holiday routine, with his music and smart plugs both connected to the device. “I have a whole routine that sets the vibe up, and it’s all hooked up to it,” he says of his Alexa. “It’s as simple as me saying, ‘Alexa, let’s get lit,’ and the Christmas tree lights and music come on.” (A digital fireplace also pops up on his Fire TV.) “Thank you, dramatic vibe!” he says. “Now I just need my bar and a little nosh, and I’m good to go.”  

“I’m a candle guy too,” he says, noting that he likes Diptyque’s Baies scent. But he can’t have a party without tons of twinkly lights, like this string light curtain that works both indoors and out. “I think lighting is super important for every party,” he says. “I have dimmers on every light switch in every room in my home, including in Ben’s room. But you have to have twinkly lights for a party. I have tons of them.”

When it comes to stocking the bar, Cohen says he always has to have tequila and vodka on hand. To simplify things, he also has cans of pre-mixed drinks handy. “I love Fresca Mixed, which is either Fresca and tequila or Fresca and vodka mixed together,” he says. “Those are the type of cocktails I would be making myself, but a premixed version is always great and easy to serve at a holiday party.”  

“I’m a fake Christmas tree guy all the way,” Cohen says. “Mine is pretty big and it has tons of lights built into it. It’s all you need, really. Plus, it’s good for the environment, and simple to just put it up year after year.” He adds that he’s never in a rush to tear it down either. “I keep mine up through mid-January — I just think it’s super festive.” 

• Related: 25 artificial trees that actually look like the real thing

Cohen is all about dressing for the occasion. “I think striped sweaters are always super holiday-ish,” he says. He’s also a fan of tartan pants like these tuxedo pants from Brooks Brothers. “I have a pair of tartan pants that I wear to parties, and they’re great. They scream holidays, and they make my ass look good. They’re my party pants!”

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