We’re a month into 2017 and winter has well and truly arrived… along with the temptation to simply hibernate for the next few months, spending our evenings avoiding the cold (and all social interaction) in favour of Netflix and steaming hot mugs of hot chocolate. Social activities tend to go out the window during this time of the year, as we scurry from work to the comfort of our warm homes, batting away social invitations with the excuse of terrible flu (an affliction synonymous with the January blues).

While copious amounts of TV and tea are justified during these long months, some time and effort is required to make sure our relationships survive the winter, and we still have friends around by the time those long summer days roll around. In order to avoid total social isolation, hosting a dinner party seems like the perfect compromise and solution to keeping your friendships alive… and keeping warm.

We’ve come up with a guide to throwing the most inviting winter dinner party: from cosy décor, to the perfect warming boozy cocktails, here are five tips to hosting the perfect winter evening.

Set the scene and create the perfect inviting glow

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Welcome your guests in from the chill to the perfect intimate, cosy atmosphere, created by dotting plenty of candles around the house. Anyone will tell you that lighting is absolutely key to creating the right mood for a dinner party, and no more is this true than in the winter. While the snow/rain/sleet/whatever other miserable precipitation falls outside, feel the glow and kit your home out with a few of Elle’s favourite winter candles.

There is nothing cosier than the sound of a fire crackling in the grate in winter. However, not all of us can afford the luxury… The answer? Fake it ‘til you make it and recreate the sound with a WoodWick candle. These candles make a crackling sound as they burn that perfectly mimics the distinctive sound of a wood fire. Choose from one of their delicious smelling scents here.

Create a menu full of warm, inviting, comfort food

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Winter means warm comfort food, and nothing says warm or comforting quite like a slow-cooker. Food that is cooked in this manner is jam-packed with flavour as it has been left to develop for hours. It is both delicious and incredibly easy! Just choose a recipe and pop your ingredients in the cooker in the morning, set your timer, and come home to a meal that is ready to go. This type of food keeps things casual and easy and requires minimum effort from you.

While there are a huge number of slow-cooker recipes out there to choose from, we’re a huge fan of Half-Baked Harvest’s list of the twenty best crockpot dishes for winter – these recipes cover loads of cuisines, are both healthy and delicious, as well as easy to make. Check them out here.

Don’t have a slow cooker? Make an investment you won’t regret and choose one of these suggested brands.

Get guests roaring with laughter with a game of Jibber Jabber/Speak Out

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If you spent any time on social media over the festive period, chances are you saw at least one photo of someone with a huge, ridiculous grin with tears of laughter streaming down their face. This is Jibber Jabber or Speak Out, a game in which each player takes turns inserting a mouthpiece and attempting to read a series of words off a card. Team mates are then expected to try and discern what the speaker is saying, an almost impossible task with hilarious failed interpretations. This game is an absolute must, and is guaranteed to have everyone in stitches. After all, who doesn’t enjoy watching their friends making an absolute spectacle of themselves!? The game can be purchased on Amazon here.

Finish off with the perfect warming after dinner cocktail

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Once your meal is done, finish off the evening with one (or three) of these scrumptious-looking warming cocktails and send your friends off into the cold with a warm buzz guaranteed to last them all the way home and into bed. Take the easy road and make one of the sweeter hot chocolates, guaranteed to curb your guests sweet tooth and avoid making a dessert.

Most importantly, keep the atmosphere relaxed and comfortable

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Our top tip to ensure you and your guests have the perfect winter evening is to make sure the atmosphere is relaxed and easy. When guests have braced the freezing cold, the best thing you can do is make them feel comfortable and at home.

You can help do this by:

Making guests feel involved by welcoming their help in the kitchen. Make this room a social space by setting out snacks on the counters. This will encourage guests to wander in for a chat and offer a hand while you cook.

Setting up a mini bar in the living room for guests to mix their own drinks. This way you won’t have to run in and out of the kitchen all night filling glasses.

Making food that can be served in large dishes on the table. This will help to create a feeling of community and sharing, as well as keep things easy for you as guests help themselves.

Nothing kills the vibe faster than a stressed-out host, so make life easier for yourself and create an informal mood where everyone feels welcome and relaxed. This is sure to create a warm glow and ensure everyone, including yourself, has the best evening.