Easy Cocktail Party Menu

Need an easy cocktail party menu for your next girls night in? I’ve got you. I love to host parties. I can remember the many dinner parties my parents had when I was kid and how I’d always push to stay up late and hang out with the adults while they played games and drank wine. (looking back, I can’t believe they were so nice and accommodating to a kid who I’m sure was bugging them and should have been in bed)

Girls Night In
To this day, my parents regularly throw fun dinner parties and if there is one thing I’ve learned from my mom over the years, its to keep it as simple, yet elegant as possible. (she was doing “semi-homemade” before that was even a thing)
wine table friends
I often have these grand ideas about the intricate appetizers and desserts I’m going to make for my guests, and while I will on occasion try something new, the reality is that stressing yourself out about having people over takes all of the fun out of it. If I was home all day and the time to make all of the gourmet meals I pinned on Pinterest I would, but I don’t. And you probably don’t either. Like me, most of my friends work and many have little kids so we’re all just happy to be able to find the time to get together for a few hours to get caught-up.
girls night in
Over the years I’ve found that there are a few key things to serve at cocktail parties that are quick and easy to pull together that guests will enjoy.
cheese plate 33
One of the most important things is to keep whatever it is that you’re serving bite-sized. Nobody likes having to juggle a glass of wine, a cocktail napkin and a plate while trying to cut through something with a plastic knife. Your menu should be made up of snacks that are easy to eat with one hand so your guests don’t have to struggle to eat, drink and mingle all at the same time…
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Here are my tips for what to serve for a stress-free, hassle-free cocktail party with friends.
 
TIPS

Note about booze.

  • Keep a couple of bottles of wine open  for your guests. Nobody wants to have to ask their hostess or go looking for another drink. If you aren’t able to pour it for them because you’re running around chatting, make a drink station for them to help themselves. Make sure that you leave a corkscrew and plenty of glasses.
  • What drink you serve is up to you- you  know what your friends like to drink, so keep that in mind. If you are going to serve liquor, keep mixers close by and a bucket of ice. I love the novelty of having a “specialty” cocktail on hand, and sometimes I do serve them in a fun pitcher, but more often than not I just have some red, white and sparkling wine. If you have good friends, they’ll contribute to this 🙂
  • It’s always a good idea to have some Perrier or soda on hand for those who are driving, pregnant (if you’re in my crew) or not a drinker. (need an idea for a fun cocktail? Try this, this, or this.)

A meat and cheese platter.

  • I serve this every. single. time. Its by far the most popular thing on the table (at least with my friends) and its easy to “dress up” to look fancy. Here’s what you need:
  • Cheese– I usually do a hard, a soft and a blue. Get small blocks of good quality cheese.
  • A variety of nice crackers– Carr’s water crackers, multigrain, thin flatbreads are all good choices, but there are so many options. Go to the gourmet section of your grocery store and grab a box of something other than Triscuits.
  • Meat– salami, prosciutto, sopressata. Just make sure it’s already cut up/sliced. If you don’t slice it ahead of time, nobody will touch it. Trust me on this.
  • The fun part– lay them all out on a pretty platter or cutting board with little forks and/or cheese knives. I like to serve with grapes and little bowls of spicy pecans, marcona almonds, olives, cornichons, fig jam, and dried apricots. Place the grapes and accoutrement amongst the meat, cheese and crackers and you’ll look like you stepped right out of Food and Wine magazine.
  • To really kick it up a notch, place some sprigs of fresh rosemary around the plate and drizzle some honey over the blue cheese. Voila, you’re a rock star. As far as I’m concerned, that’s dinner.

 Veggies and Fruit.

  • Even though your friends are probably going to drink their calories and munch on plenty of cheese and prosciutto, they want to feel like they have some healthier options. Enter sliced veggies and fruit. You can buy whole and slice yourself, that’s perfectly acceptable and probably the cheapest and freshest way to go, but it you want to save yourself some time and energy, look for pre-made/pre-cut produce that is served in little platters at your grocery store.
  • Transfer to a pretty dish and nobody will know- we promise not to tell. While you’re at it, grab a container of hummus.

 Sushi.

  • I tried to make sushi rolls once and let me tell you, I’ll never do it again. (this was one of those elaborate dinner parties I was attempting per my earlier comment) It took forever and they looked terrible. Leave this to someone who knows what they’re doing. Call in take-out or delivery, or pick it up from the grocery store if yours sells it. 3-4 basic tuna/salmon/shrimp/crab rolls will do.
  • Separate each piece from the roll and place on a platter with a small bowl of soy sauce. Guests always comment on what a good idea it is and the small pieces fit with the “bite-sized” rule perfectly.

Salad.

  • While it never gets demolished like the cheese plate does, most people will put a little on their plate and it helps to balance out the heavy meat and cheese.
  • Don’t put big chunks of veggies in there, dice everything fairly small. A basic tomato and avocado salad like this works well

Something Sweet.

  • I almost always serve Trader Joe’s macarons because they are pretty, delicious and very affordable. (they’re in the freezer section at TJ’s) Place them on a delicate dish and I promise your guests will think you are the bees knees. 😉
  • Chocolate covered almonds, brownie bites, mini cupcakes, anything small is perfect. I once served a cake that I’d slaved over and hardly anyone touched it. Nobody wants an entire piece and they will just end up steering clear of it.

Something Salty

  • There is nothing fancy about chips or pretzels, I know. I was actually embarrassed to be putting them out at my last holiday party. But it never fails- the bowl is always (always) empty when I go to clean-up. Even my cleanest-eating, marathon-running girlfriends can be caught with Cheetos in their hands after that 3rd glass of pinot 😉 It’s a party after all.

7 comments

  1. Sushi is such a great idea! Never thought about that.

    By the way, I think something is wrong with your comments. I had to post 3 times to get this to show up and my last one isn’t appearing. Just wanted to let you know!

  2. Love your holiday party selection every year! You really do make it look amazing & I do not leave the cheese display most of the night…except to refill the wine;)

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