Popular Topics

BACK TO Holiday & Entertaining Cocktail Party
Entertaining Tips

Cocktail Party

The perfect cocktail party is a unique blend of tasty food, great drinks and good company.

Let the following ideas inspire you to create a casual, relaxed party that celebrates fun times with friends.

A Taste of Tuscany

Visit the Tuscan countryside with a menu of classic Italian appetizers and cocktails. And since the Tuscan “vibe” is casual and comfortable, there’s no formality to the presentation—big platters of simply arranged food is the name of the game. Here are some ways to envision your menu:

  • Antipasto platter: Italian for “before the meal,” this is an arrangement of cold cuts, cheeses and vegetables. It’s possible to create a fantastic platter with just one trip to a well-stocked deli or Italian specialty market for meats like prosciutto, salami and cappocola; cheeses such as Gorgonzola and fresh mozzarella; and an assortment of marinated artichoke hearts, olives and roasted red peppers. Grilled or roasted vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, etc.) could also be included along withPepperidge Farm® crackers and breads, as well as easy-to-make finger foods such as rosemary Romano ribbons. Arrange everything on the largest platter you have, keeping the look casual and informal.
  • Bruschetta [broos-KEHT-tah] is a simple appetizer option: Toast or grill slices of baguette then rub one side of each piece with a peeled clove of garlic. Top the bread with a simple mixture of chopped tomatoes, fresh basil and a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a classic Tuscan nibble. Or try other toppings like a mixture of drained, rinsed canned white beans, chopped tomatoes, fresh basil and olives drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Other finger food options: Make a rustic tart and cut into two-inch squares for a delicious bite-size appetizer. Or combine sweet and savory flavors with innovative puff pastry “ravioli” filled with figs and cheese. Wrap cubes or wedges of ripe fresh cantaloupe, honeydew or peaches with thinly sliced prosciutto and a leaf of fresh basil then secure with a toothpick.
  • For cocktails, Italian style, serve Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine—turn it into a bellini with the addition of a splash of peach juice! (For a different twist on a bellini, float a small scoop of peach sorbetto in each champagne flute.) Wines such as Pinot Grigio and Chianti are delightful, as are Italian beers (i.e., Peroni). For non-alcoholic options, serve sparkling water (San Pelligrino) or an assortment of imported Italian sodas.

Do you know your Crème fraîche from your chorizo? Read: Glossary

Taste & Travel

Why not host a party inspired by the world’s cuisines? The menu options are virtually endless, and with more imported beers and wines available, you can capture the flavor of different countries easily and deliciously!

  • As you map out the menu, really think globally for the most fun and variety. Everyone loves Mexican-inspired foods like taquitos and bite-sized tacos, but expand your guests’ horizons a bit with other finger foods such as Indian-style samosas or Greek turnovers. Think French by serving a few cheeses (Roquefort, Camembert, Gruyère or make fondue and serve with crusty bread and vegetables.
  • Dips like Italian caponata and Mexican-inspired Spicy Chipotle Dip are great (and simple) menu options that can be made ahead for easy execution on party day. The caponata is delicious on toasted or grilled bread with a sliver of Parmesan cheese on top; serve the chipotle dip with a variety of fresh veggies and assorted Pepperidge Farm® crackers.
  • For an Asian-themed party, try dim sum! Loosely translated, it means “to touch the heart” and includes a variety of small appetizer-sized dishes like egg rolls and steamed dumplings. You could also offer types of “street foods” popular in Asian countries such as skewers or lettuce wraps, or order sushi from a local shop to add to your buffet.
  • Seek out drinks related to the country of origin to match the menu items. Many liquor and specialty stores carry all kinds of interesting choices that can add a twist to the usual offerings. Pitchers of sangria and margaritas also make refreshing choices, and bottles of Italian or Mexican sodas are terrific non-alcoholic options.
Beach Chic

Whether you throw this party poolside during the summer or inside during cooler months, the mood is always fun and everyone is bound to have a terrific time. Try these menu and drink options to transport your guests to the tropics!

  • If it’s grilling season, serve an assortment of kabobs or skewers to nibble on during the course of the evening. Beef, chicken and shrimp are great options and please a variety of people. The skewers themselves can be prepared up to a day ahead as well, making it easy on the host. And if your party takes place during the not-so-beachy winter months, cook the skewers in a stovetop grill pan or run them under the broiler.
  • Include a few fish and seafood appetizers to highlight the beach theme even more. Crab cakes are always a hit, and can be mixed and shaped up to a day ahead. Also good are puff pastry napoleons, salmon skewers and pastry-wrapped shrimp.
  • Offer a few lighter options, such as chicken or shrimp lettuce rolls, hummus with fresh vegetables and fruit skewers (try fresh mango, pineapple chunks and strawberries) with lime yogurt for dipping. You might also think about serving gazpacho (cold tomato soup) in shot glasses—for great presentation, dangle a poached shrimp off the side of the glass. These light options are perfect when temperatures are warm, but are also delicious options for anyone who’s watching what they eat.
  • Serve refreshing mojitos, Mai Tais, piña coladas or daiquiris. In addition to the usual non-alcoholic options, you could also include special iced tea or sparkling lemonade (mix lemonade concentrate with cold sparkling water or club soda instead of tap water). Big sprigs of fresh herbs, like mint, or skewers of fresh fruit make gorgeous cocktail garnishes.
After-Event Gathering

Here are some ideas for getting folks together after an event, say a kids’ music recital or PTA meeting. It’s a relaxed, no-pressure way to unwind and enjoy each other’s company a little bit longer over nibbles and a glass of wine or cup of coffee.

  • Since it’s likely your guests will have had dinner prior to the event, you don’t need a lot of food; three or four options are plenty. Start with a platter of cheeses (try a wedge of blue cheese, a mild goat cheese and creamy Gouda), fresh fruit (grapes, apples, pears) and crackers or sliced baguette. It makes a gorgeous centerpiece and, better yet, can be assembled ahead of time so it’s ready when the gathering gets going.
  • Don’t be afraid to combine sweet and savory flavors, as with these pastry purses and dumplings. Baked brie is also terrific as is this savory cheesecake. The great thing about these dishes is that they can be assembled and baked before the party then rewarmed briefly in the oven.
  • No matter the occasion, chocolate is always a great dessert option. Keep it simple with chocolate fondue, fresh fruit (strawberries, pineapple and bananas) and cookies or pastries for dipping. Or make individual tarts or napoleons. Bite-size desserts allow guests to indulge in a couple of different options and the variety of shapes and sizes makes the dessert tray or platter look pretty.
  • Since the festivities will likely occur a little later in the evening, cocktails shouldn’t be complicated. Of course, sparkling wine or Champagne is always perfect, as is port (especially good with blue cheeses), but your favorite white and red wine options are fine, too. Coffee drinks (i.e. Irish coffee) or sweet martinis are other avenues to explore. If the party is during cold-weather months, offer a warm drink. And have one or two non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic options available too.