Friday and Saturday are great times to unwind with friends and enjoy a few drinks and snacks. Food for a cocktail party can be quickly thrown together so you’re not spending the night in the kitchen. Being a good hostess includes spending time with your guests, after all. Here are a few tips to help your next party run smoothly:
You need to create a relaxed, fun atmosphere. An easy way to do this is with lighting. If you have a dimmer switch, turn the lights down low and light a bunch of candles. If you don’t have a dimmer, get some lamps. If you have to take them from the bedroom, do it. Again, light a ton of candles. No one wants harsh lighting at a cocktail party. Not only will this give a romantic atmosphere, but no one will notice the bags under your eyes or that stain on the sofa. As well, drinking with the lights on kind of makes you feel like an alcoholic drinking at 10:30am.
Nothing too loud, nothing too quiet. You don’t want your guests screaming at each other to be heard, but you don’t want them straining to hear the music, either. I usually leave the music up to Grant, but I have been known to put together some good tunes. Get an iPod, fill it up with songs and put it on shuffle. Then forget about it for the rest of the night. Just make sure you have enough of a variety of music. This is not a time for death metal or gangsta rap. I try to put on about 2-3 hours worth or tunes. No one wants to hear “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” 3 times in a row, so mix it up a little.
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, I do enjoy tipples. But I don’t enjoy playing bartender all night. Keep some beer and wine on hand and if you want to have mixed drinks, pick one drink that can be made in advance in a pitcher, then mix it in a shaker with ice as needed. This works great for cosmos, sidecars and sangria (you don’t really need to mix it, just keep it cold). You can make most mixed drinks in advance, just don’t add any carbonated beverages as they’ll get flat and gross, just like my hair the next morning.
Everyone wants a little nibble at a cocktail party. But you should keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t serve food that requires a fork or knife to eat. People usually have a drink in one hand and it’s a pain in the ass to balance a little plate on your lap with your drink between your knees, struggling with a knife and fork all while trying to look cute in your dress. It is also difficult to do this without flashing the rest of the room.
- People like to pick. Some olives in a bowl, an antipasto platter, a cheese plate or some crudite and dip are all easy “picky” foods that usually go over well. And you can usually buy some of these (I am a stickler about making my own dips, though), which definitely helps the host. No one wants to be seen wolfing down a plate of food. This is not very dainty, even if you do it with your pinky raised.
- Keep a balance of flavours. If you serve some spicy satays and peanut sauce, make sure you balance that with something cooling, like summer rolls. As well, a variety of hot and cold nibbles is nice, as well.
- Don’t try to do too much. I serve, at the most, 4 different nibbles for my guests. Usually I buy at least one, as opposed to making everything myself. An example of one of my cocktail menus would be asparagus wrapped in proscuitto and baked until crispy, some great olives, figs stuffed with gorgonzola and topped with toasted pinenuts that has been broiled for a minute to melt the cheese, and some antipasto. That’s it and, really, I only made two things. The rest I buy and plate it so that it looks really pretty. Sprinkle some chopped parsley and you look like a goddess.
That’s basically it. A few good friends is all you need to complete the picture. Cocktail parties are the new dinner parties. Have one this weekend! Party hats are optional! Leave the dishes for the next morning. They aren’t burning a hole into the counter. If they are burning a hole into the counter, congratulations! You’ve had one hell of a party!