Home for the Holidays...
...with J. McLaughlin and Louise Roe. Los Angeles
Spending time in Hollywood around the holidays is every bit as surreal as you might anticipate. Okay, not Mulholland Drive surreal, but lets just say there's palm trees in place of pine, turquoise blue swimming pools where there should be snow and the twinkling of artificially-whitened teeth rather than decorative tinsel. The year round sunshine and balmy temps might beat slush and sudden onset cases of SAD, but when it comes to the holiday season, there are certain things that are tricky to replicate. We mean, how can you have an ugly Christmas sweater party when it's too stifling for anything heavier than a paper-thin cotton tee?
Lucky for us, we had our host Louise Roe, the requisite English Rose (meaning she knows a thing or two about a traditional Chrimbo) show us exactly how that whole warm n' fuzzy thing can be recreated with the help of two of our favorite things: fashion and alcohol.
Taking over a suite at Hollywood's Redbury Hotel, Roe not only schooled us in her tips and tricks for holiday party dressing and table-setting etiquette (more on that later), but also crafted us a round of the perfect holiday cocktail—a Pink Plymouth Gin & Tonic, festive without being OTT thematic (no saccharine sweet peppermint or candy cane swirls here, kids).
On being both the perfect host & guest:
“[My perfect night in is] a bottle of Malbec, a cheese board, an old movie, a crackling log fire and all my best girl mates laughing like hyenas. I also have this little tradition of wrapping up all my gifts in front of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, by the fire, with a cup of tea. I zone out, I’ve done it for years and I just love slowing down for a few days.
I am obsessed with cocktail carts and trays, I think they make a living room look so inviting, so I wanted that shot to be packed full of interesting bottles, pots and glasses. Every scene is completely different to the last, but the story is conveying a festive 24 hours—from chilling on the couch in the morning, to a beautiful lunch, on to cocktails and then a party.
[When it comes to setting a holiday table], stick to a color scheme. Even if you suddenly see gorgeous flowers, but they won’t match the other items on your table, don’t be tempted. Think outside the box when it comes to what things are traditionally used for. Switch things up—for example, old booze bottles make for great candlesticks. I used gift ribbon for the napkins and a Kate Spade notebook to stand the salt and pepper shakers on, because the gold and white fit perfectly with my décor! Place cards are a nice touch, and also mean you can put together a brilliant seating plan.
“[My perfect night in is] a bottle of Malbec, a cheese board, an old movie, a crackling log fire and all my best girl mates laughing like hyenas."
Crackers are a must in England, so I always track them down at home in California. There’s always a silly paper hat and an even sillier joke inside. The kind of joke your Dad stands up to read and can’t stop guffawing over. The more tipsy you get, the funnier the jokes…”
The perfect holiday party wardrobe
“I like to wear a dress [when I’m hosting a holiday party], because I know I won’t be cold, so I can get away with a cute red or black dress. Heels at first, but they always end up kicked off for dancing. [For a night out during the holidays, I’d wear] leather pants, suede boots and an elegant camel coat. Oh, and always a cashmere beanie too.[I always carry] lip balm, a small can of dry shampoo, my phone, my Smythson calendar (I still write my schedule out by hand) and whichever novel I’m into at the moment.
[Getting dressed today] was easy! I saw so many gorgeous J McLaughlin knits that I was drawn to (the blue printed sweater especially), and I loved the elegance of the cream pants and cream silk shirt. The PJ’s are so cozy too, I’d been looking for a pair just like that.
I had the idea [for my book, Front Roe] years ago, and began making notes, adding to them until I had enough to pitch a publisher. Then boom! I wrote it all this year and I can’t believe it’s finally coming out. Of my whole career, this is the moment I’m most excited about. I realized that both on TV and on social media, I’m asked a lot of questions about fashion, home decor and beauty. I love giving advice and short-cut tips, so I put everything I’ve learned into one place. The book is a mix of my practical tips (how to dress for a first date, what to wear to nail your job interview, how to apply the perfect cat eye without it smudging, making –over your bedroom on a dime, my smoothie to drink for glowing skin), and ideas for boosting self confidence. In talking to a lot of women, I found that we put ourselves last on the priority list in life, and we often don’t rate ourselves as highly as we deserve. So there’s an entire section on practical ways to be kinder to yourself. That was my favorite part to write.
"I wear a red lip more often in winter, and lose the tan. I like a rosy blush on my cheeks rather than a bronzer.”
[During the winter], I amp up the richness of my face cream and apply a face mask more often. I find the cold air and central heat dries out my skin. And I wear a red lip more often in winter, and lose the tan. I like a rosy blush on my cheeks rather than a bronzer.”
“[At a holiday dinner], I’d make extra effort with the cocktails: this is the time of year to add a sprig of rosemary and a splash of juniper syrup to your champagne flutes… make it fancy! For food, [I’d serve] something hearty that can be shared. Jambalaya, spicy beef casserole or Fejoiada, a traditional Brazilian slow-cooked dish full of chorizo and beans, served with black rice (my Mom taught me!) keeps everyone coming up for seconds.
"I’d make extra effort with the cocktails: this is the time of year to add a sprig of rosemary and a splash of juniper syrup to your champagne flutes… make it fancy!"
[Always have stocked] vodka, gin, silver tequila, white wine, red wine, and plenty of mixers. A bowl of limes, and a few fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary and thyme. A tray that freezes gigantic ice cubes too, I love how it looks when the single ice cube fills a glass. I always love a silver tequila on the rocks with five wedges of lime and a splash of soda. It is my equivalent to a Red Bull. I’m dancing for days on these!”
“[My signature cocktail this holiday] is this one. I’m all about the herbs this season – so chic!”
3 ounces gin
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
About 10-12 fresh sage leaves
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
Create a honey sage syrup: combine 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 cup water and 5-6 sage leaves in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and stir until all the honey has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Depending on how sweet you like your cocktails, combine 1/2 to 1 oz of your honey sage syrup with 3 oz of gin and 1/2 oz of lime juice. Stir well.
Add ice and a splash of club soda. Garnish with 2-3 sage leaves. Enjoy!
“[My favorite holiday tradition is] mulled wine with friends and family, at home on Christmas Eve. It doesn’t really exist in America, but in Europe, it’s a lovely tradition of warming red wine (spiking with liquor is optional!), with orange rind, cinnamon sticks and cloves on the stove. Not only does it make the whole house smell of Christmas but it’s the perfect, easy drink to serve guests.”
1 750ML bottle red wine
4 cups apple cider
1/4 cup honey
2 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, zested & juiced
3 star anise
4 oranges, peeled for garnish
Combine the cider, wine, honey, cinnamon sticks, cloves and star anise in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into highball glasses or mugs. Garnish with an orange peel. Enjoy!