Bon Vivant: Easy Does It

A few years ago, one of our neighbors suggested a progressive dinner party for our building-wide holiday gathering. One person or couple wouldn’t have too much responsibility or labor. It was a brilliant idea. We did cocktails at my place; the neighbor across from us served appetizers; one upstairs neighbor provided the entrée with sides; and finally we went across the hall for dessert. The beauty, beyond less work, is that the party gains natural rhythm with each course and corresponding change of location. It would be easy to coordinate in a neighborhood setting or for Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or any celebration, as long as each house was no more than a block or so away.

Our group kept the evening casual, opting to forego a food or decorative theme. However, it would be simple to transform it into a more formal affair with holiday-inspired cocktails, menu items and attire. Consider picking a style of cuisine, such as French, Creole, Cajun or Italian, in keeping to the region; go retro with martinis, fondue, cheese log or ball, pineapple glazed ham with all of the trimmings and a gelatin mold or baked Alaska for dessert; or plan a feast of seven fishes dinner, with seafood appetizers and entrées and a light, coastal-inspired sweet treat, such as seasonal fruit tartlets or a citrus-based pie. Anything goes, so get creative.

For most, if not all of our gatherings, I’m fond of starting either with champagne or champagne cocktails. Recently, I was given a complimentary sample bottle of Singani 63, a new Bolivian liquor by director Steven Soderbergh. (Fun Fact: Soderbergh’s father was dean at LSU. During high school, Soderbergh lived in Baton Rouge and attended the LSU Laboratory School before eventually heading to Hollywood.) According to, “Singani is a spirit that has been produced since 1530 … it can only be produced in the Bolivian Andes, using muscat of Alexandria grapes … planted at a minimum of 5,250 feet … As Singani is not recognized as its own spirit category in most of the world, it can only be described as a brandy.” (Get it at Spirit Wines and Rouses Market on Tchoupitoulas.) As lovers of the French 75 cocktail, we decided to experiment with the Bolivian 63, from It is similar to the French 75, but uses the Singani 63 in place of gin or cognac. The drink packs just as much punch as its inspiration however, so plan on only one for you and your guests, especially if this is your opening cocktail for the evening, then move to champagne.   

How ever you decide to coordinate your progressive dinner party, don’t be surprised if this becomes the preferred way of entertaining for your family, friends and neighbors. Who doesn’t want a little simplification during the holidays? Cheers!


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