When it comes to a holiday party, there is just something about the cookie swap.

The treats are versatile, relatively easy to make, with manageable cleanup making it arguably the best way to get together with friends while still abiding by COVID-19 precautions.

Cookie swaps are “a chance for everyone to share their creativity,” says Vallery Lomas, author of the cookbook Life is What You Bake It and the Season 3 winner of the Great American Baking Show. She suggests creating a menu of cookies with different flavors, textures, and shapes, such as a thumbprint, biscotti, and rolled cookies, or even a savory offering like parmesan shortbread. “It gives all of us a chance to bake, even those who are new to it.”

Below, we lay out the steps for a safe and fun cookie swap. Get those baking sheets out, it’s time to make some treats.

Accommodate dietary restrictions

Be mindful of your guests’ allergies and diets. Ask attendees to label the cookies they are bringing, listing all of the ingredients. Be sure to have at least two cookies that are plant-based, nut-free, or gluten-free. Jesse Szewczyk, author of Cookies: The New Classics, suggests including meringues, which are usually gluten-free. “They are easy to make, taste great, and can be flavored with just about anything you can imagine,” he says. “Chocolate meringues, cinnamon-spice meringues, and fruity versions are all great options.”

Store your cookies properly

Lomas advises preparing the cookie dough in advance but wait until the day of the swap to actually do the baking. Once cooled, store the cookies at room temperature in an airtight container. That’s an important point, says Szewczyk. “Some cookies just aren’t good when served piping hot,” he says, noting that shortbread cookies can be baked in advance and, if stored properly, will taste just as delicious a week later.

Include a variety of flavors and textures

Lomas says her red velvet thumbprints have a bright festive color but “no flavor is off limits.” She suggests making chocolate-mint moon pies for a holiday-candy cane vibe. “You can even add a little crushed candy cane.”

Szewczyk says marbled chocolate sugar cookies will be a crowd-pleaser. “It’s a great option for a cookie swap because it has a striking appearance that will stand out among all the other cookies.” He also likes making cookies with strong spice profiles like five spice, ras el hanout, and pumpkin spice. You also can opt for other sweets. Bars, anyone?

Serve festive drinks

You’re going to want to wash the cookies down with hot chocolate tea, coffee, and, of course, milk. For an extra kick, serve cocktails, such as negronis or coquito. “A cookie with lots of brown sugar would go wonderfully with a rum-based cocktail to double down on the caramel notes,” Szewczyk says. “A dark chocolate cookie would go great with red wine, bourbon, or even tequila.” Lomas’ go-to is a nice Champagne. “It’s so festive and pairs great with buttery shortbread cookies or the sugar cookie cutouts, which are also perfect for decorating,” she says.

Take safety precautions

COVID-19 remains a concern, so you’ll want to be careful when organizing a cookie swap. Follow the CDC’s guidance on small gatherings before you plan your event. Keep the guest list to a minimum (perhaps six guests in total, or limit to those in your pandemic pod, with each person bringing one kind of cookie), or gather outdoors. To mitigate risk, include only vaccinated guests. Set clear expectations about safety in your invites. Ask everyone to wear gloves when baking and to wear masks indoors during the event. Make sure there are enough plates and cups for everyone, and that each tray of cookies includes serving utensils in order to avoid hand-touching. You can also ask bakers to individually wrap their cookies.

Offer to-go boxes

Have take-home containers ready for guests to use. Lomas opts for cookie tins, as “you don’t want people’s cookies getting smashed on the way home.” Other options include plastic bags, package sleeves, and simple carton boxes.