David Burtka is Here to Save Halloween… For Kids AND Adults

David Burtka and Neil Patrick Harris

The event guru gave us some tips on how to throw a super spooky, socially distanced Halloween gathering. 

David Burtka certainly knows how to throw a Halloween party. Burtka, along with his husband Neil Patrick Harris and their twins, Harper and Gideon, are lauded year after year for “winning Halloween” with their creative family costumes. With Covid-19 disrupting the family’s normal trick-or-treating routine and Harris stuck in Berlin working on the new Matrix film, we spoke with Burtka about how he plans to make Halloween special this year, despite the strange circumstances. The event guru and author of Life Is A Party also gave us some fantastic tips and tricks on how to throw a super spooky last minute socially distanced Halloween gathering for ghoulfriends and boofriends of any age.

David Burtka’s ‘Life Is a Party’ is out now.

Wake-Up Call: Sadly for a lot of kids, trick-or-treating is going to be canceled this year. How can parents make sure Halloween is still fun and exciting? 

David Burtka: You can trick or treat at home! Turn each room of your house into a trick-or-treat room, so the kids can still go from place to place. Dress up, and be goofy, and do all the things that you would normally do at Halloween. We’re really good friends with Mariska Hargitay and Peter Hermann, and they’ve got kids the same age as my kids and they’re super close. We consider them almost like family, so we’ll be hanging out with them. We’ll do some Halloween crafts like pumpkin carving, and maybe some cake ball or cookie decorating. There are ways to make it feel special without the trick-or-treating. 

If you live in a two-bedroom apartment, it’s going to be a pretty short trick-or-treat route, so you could plan a scavenger hunt for the kids. With every clue they get, they get a little prize. Instead of just hiding mini candy bars, you can hide fun activities, so even if the experience is a bit shorter there’s something fun to do at the end. Depending on how old your kids are, something like a slime-making kit or a caramel apple-making kit could be really fun.

If we’re not focusing on candy, do you have any fun snack suggestions for the kiddos?

You can’t go wrong with a banana ghost! You just take a banana, cut it in half, dip it in yogurt and then stick a popsicle stick in the bottom and freeze. You can even put little eyeballs on them, either with candy, or raisins. They’re delicious! 

Another super easy and healthy snack for kids is the clementine pumpkin. Just peel clementines and then stick a little piece of celery on top. They look just like mini pumpkins, and are so easy to make.

And for the adults… while you might not be able to have a full-on Halloween party, how can you make a small social gathering feel especially spooky?

If you’re serving dinner, my favorite thing is to serve spaghetti and eyeballs. You just take regular old meatballs, and stick a small mozzarella ball on each, and then cut an olive in half and place it on top. Serve two side by side on each plate, of course! 

If you’re looking to get creative without as much work, there are lots of really great molds. You can get brain molds, or skeleton molds. If your party is a little more high end, you can fill the mold with raw spicy tuna, then layer it with avocado and another layer of tuna. Then just put it in the mold, and voila! Serve it with chips. 

For something a little more snackable, you can’t lose with Halloween dumplings. Just make regular dumplings, but when you’re folding them, don’t make them pretty, squish them up a little. They’ll shrink when they cook, and then you can serve them with Sichuan sauce or sriracha sauce, and they look like little bloody brains. You can even serve them in little beakers if you want.

Then I think it’s always fun to use dry ice in your centerpiece. It’s kind of a pain in the butt to keep filling, but it makes things a little more spooky. 

Any suggestions for adult beverages?

I love the Ta-KILL-Ya Martini. You don’t actually have to use tequila, you can use vodka or any sort of viscous alcohol. Then you take blueberries, and put them into the center of lychees, so they look like little blue eyes. Then you freeze the lychees with a little bit of grenadine. When you’re ready to serve the drink, pop those lychees in and drop a bit of grenadine on top, so it sort of looks like there are seeping bloody eyeballs in your martini glass. Super creepy, but very delicious.

This interview has been edited and condensed.