Holiday Entertaining with a Tropical Twist



As part of our partnership with Carnival, Jaime will be on a Caribbean cruise over Thanksgiving break. For the rest of us, I’ve come up with a few holiday recipes and entertaining tips inspired by the tropics. I’m not suggesting you hire a steel drum band, although that’s fine too, I’m simply infusing the traditional fete with some Caribbean color and spice influenced by my own recent travels.

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As my sister, an event director and master mixologist, and I island hopped from Puerto Rico to St. Thomas to Barbados to St. Lucia to St. Kitt to St. Maarten and back to Puerto Rico, she would dissect each tasty drink that we were served. Meanwhile, I was diligently taking notes so I could recreate the tasty concoctions at home. This is where I would insert a ridiculous photo of us dancing in a conga line clearly not dissecting or doing anything diligently, but there is a pact of secrecy so those photos will never be shared.


Read on for the perfect island-inspired nibbles and libations for your holiday guests…Just as you start off any tropical cruise with a rum punch, let’s start our party with the same.


Sparkling Rum Punch

Add to glass in order:

2 TBS Guava Juice (or nectar)

2 TBS Mango Juice (or nectar)

A splash of dark rum

Fill with champagne or any sparkling wine

Add a sprinkle of Hibiscus Flower Crystals (optional)

Garnish with edible flowers either on a toothpick or floating right in the drink…

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this exotic cocktail pairs well with a simple Tuna Tartare


Tuna Tartare



  • 1/8 cup EVOO
  • 1 TBS sesame oil
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder or 1 teaspoon wasabi sauce
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha hot pepper sauce
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
  •  1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1/2 pound sushi grade Tuna cut in 1/4″ dice

1/4 cup minced chives (or green onions)

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño

1 small avocado cut in 1/4″ dice

1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)


Whisk all sauce ingredients and pour over tuna

Add chives and Jalapeno and mix all

Carefully mix in diced avocado

Add in the sesame seeds or use a garnish.

Present in store-bought Filo cups, prepared in a mold, on crackers, or in spoons

Note: This dish can be made a few hours ahead. The longer it marinates, the tuna will “cook” in the lime juice and become more of a civiché which is also delicious.

We added a small wedge of dried Meyer Lemon, inspired by the Tuna Tartare we were served in Scarlett’s Steakhouse on the cruise.


Let’s move on to the cheese course, my favorite course!


I always love to serve cheese at my parties. It’s a fun communal experience and it’s so easy to prepare. Unwrap cheese. Place cheese on plate. It also keeps the non-sweet-lovers at the table while everyone else eats dessert. I will almost always pick cheese over sweets! While I have traditionally put out a large cheese board for everyone to share, I love this idea I discovered on the cruise of serving individual cheese plates. This way the bites are organized from most mild to most strong and there is no awkward reaching. It might also encourage your more timid guests to try something new! These torte crackers that I found at Central Market make the perfect “plate.”


Yum! Add some of my award-winning (not really but they should be) Pickled Cranberries. They are addicting, you’ve been warned.


For inexpensive cheese markers, turn picks into flowing flags with copy paper and a glue dot.


And if the weather outside is frightful, warm things up with a Dark & Stormy, or in this case a Darker & Stormier…


Darker & Stormier

Pour a jigger of black rum (like Gosling’s) over ice and fill with Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Repeat. Call Uber.

For a less boozy version, try the traditional Dark & Stormy by mixing regular Ginger Beer, which also blends well with vodka or whiskey. So I’ve, ehem, heard.

Wishing y’all smooth sailing in all of your holiday entertaining. Cheers!

This post was created as part of my collaboration with Carnival. As always, all of the opinions, thoughts, and ideas in this post are my own.



Nancy Saccoccio

Looks delightful and delicious! Did I miss a mention of the flower garnish on the tuna tartar?
They are so pretty.


Thanks! They are edible flowers that came in a mixed pack from Central Market (a store like Whole Foods) I’m not sure what kind. With that said, I don’t suggest actually eating them, they are a little prickly in textures. : )


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