Nick Jonas and John Varvatos reveal their holiday party hosting checklist

Cool things happen when you’re a celebrity who mingles at a fancy dinner party. Take the one in New York City in 2017, during which singer/actor Nick Jonas met famed designer John Varvatos. “We really hit it off and ended up talking to each other about fashion and music for most of the night,” Jonas recalls. “We realized we shared so many common interests and goals and started figuring out ways to work together.” The instant friends soon collaborated on a menswear campaign and fragrance line.

They’d often end long days with a drink of tequila. So, perhaps it was inevitable that in 2019 they decided to toast to a brand-new business venture.

With Villa One tequila, the two have created an alcohol that blends agave from both the highlight and lowland regions of Jalisco, Mexico. “We wanted something that’s the best in class but not insanely expensive,” Varvatos explains, adding that the two spent months developing the taste with distiller Arturo Fuentes to give it a “distinct and rounded profile.” Adds Jonas, “we’re both very hands-on with the brand and detail-oriented with quality top of mind.”

Their drink, they add, proves especially handy during the holiday season. “I love how entertaining around the holidays brings people together,” Jonas says. “It’s a special time where everybody can slow down from their crazy schedules and spend some quality time. Being able to welcome people into our home with good food and drinks just puts me in the holiday spirit.”

This year, he and his wife, actress Priyanka Chopra, are planning a low-key holiday “spending time with family and loved ones.” (No, Jonas didn’t mention if that mix includes a few of his famous brothers.) Varvatos, meanwhile, raves that his family’s lake house was “designed for entertaining, which is amplified during the holidays.” That means a smorgasbord of food as well as a full bar always at the ready. “My wife, Joyce, always feels part of the party because of our open kitchen,” he says. He also plans on taking his friends to Empire Farm in Copake, New York, because “It’s picture-postcard perfect and a true winter wonderland.”

Though they’ll be apart for the season, they still collaborated on their list of holiday hosting musts for CNN Underscored.

Jonas will take his drink on the rocks with a splash of soda water and an orange slice, thank you. “This is great to serve to guests as a post-dinner nightcap,” he says. “It’s aged in American oak barrels for six months, so it has a flavor that’s both sweet and smoky.” Varvatos likes to serve margaritas by mixing the Reposado with fresh lime, jalapeno and a splash of orange juice. His mocktail choice? Ginger ale with a dash of bitters and a splash of OJ.

“I’m partial to vintage mid-century cutlery, plates and glasses,” Varvatos says. “Having everything with a similar vibe makes for an eclectic dinner table.” Many pre-used retro cutlery items are currently available on eBay and Etsy; this made-in-Italy vintage flatware set from Pottery Barn is crafted from stainless steel.

No big deal, but Jonas started playing this UK board game while he was on vacation with his wife and Mick Jagger. The setup is simple: Each player picks a card with a seemingly random assortment of words and must figure out how they all connect. The first person or team that spells out the word “Linkee” with all the correct cards wins. “It can get pretty competitive and everyone I introduce it to ends up loving it,” he says. In fact, Jonas just launched his own curated version of the game.

The stylish fashion designer has no go-to wardrobe when he’s in hosting mode. But still. “You can’t go wrong with a fabulous sweater,” he shares. He’s particularly fond of this plush cashmere-wool blend from his new brand, OTD. But Varvatos does advise that hosts and guests observe a specific style rule: “Dress a bit more festive over the holidays and save your elegant black for New Year’s Eve!”

A kernel of truth: Jonas always keeps this salty snack nearby. “It’s full of flavor and has really become a staple for me,” he says. On the sweet side, he and the missus have also started a tradition of decorating holiday cookies for his guests. Over at the Varvatos party, guests enjoy chips and dip. After all, he says, “How can you go wrong with it?”

For party music, both Varvatos and Jonas queue up the classic sound from Detroit. “I love listening to pretty much every Motown artist!” says Varvatos, who digs into his vinyl collection to spin his favorite records on retro turntables. (He also likes holiday music from Willie Nelson!) Jonas notes that he “personally loves some good classics from Stevie Wonder” and dances in the street (er, living room) to Prince and the Bee Gees.

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