Cocktail parties are fun, laid-back and very social celebrations — perfect for everything from a holiday-season event to toasting a momentous life occasion.
Since the drinks will be the stars of the party, offer a selection: beer, wine, cocktails and some prosecco or champagne if you're feeling extra celebratory. Choose both a red and white wine, as well as a beer that will pair well with what you're serving. For cocktails, skip the hassle of multiple bottles and mixers and make pitchers of one or two premixed cocktails — anything from simple martinis to warm spiked cider will do.
Plan out your drink shopping list ahead of time by assuming that each person will have 2 drinks in the first hour and 1 drink each hour after that. For ice, 8 ounces per person will be plenty for chilling and serving. Remember to have some nonalcoholic drinks on hand, too.
Each guest will eat about 12 bites total throughout the night, more if your party is running through dinner. Unless your party has an overall theme, let the cocktail of the evening inspire your food choices and have the two complement each other. Don't serve margaritas with dumplings (unless you're going for an around-the-world theme); serve a tropical rum punch with coconut shrimp and cheesy fried plantains, or Spanish sangria with mini tortillas españolas and chorizo bites.
It's okay to rely on the store for some of your snacks; you don't have to make everything yourself. Pick up ready-to-eat foods such as marinated olives, cheeses and precut vegetables and dip.
Pick something that can be assembled the day of with no cooking required:
• Ham and Cheese Plate
• No-Bake Canapes
• Pecorino and Honey Dip
• Taleggio and Honey Crostini
Choose another dish that can be cooked or assembled in advance and reheated if necessary:
• Spiced Nuts
• Chorizo Bites with Pesto
• Soup Served as Shooters
• Chevre and Walnut Tartlets
Do as much in advance as possible. Cut the lemons and limes, set out plenty of napkins, plates and glasses, select the music for the evening and make sure all of your ice is handy. Begin chilling drinks two hours before the party begins and set up all of your food that will be served at room temperature. An hour before the party, begin reheating food to be served hot in a 175 degree F oven, and put the finishing touches on your table. Most importantly, relax and have fun!