I absolutely love a good cocktail party and think we should all be throwing them a lot more often. It's less pressure than hosting a full-on dinner party, you get to invite more people to stand in clusters around your apartment's tiny living room, and you still get to pull out your high heels. Plus, cocktail appetizers are the best. When else do you get to eat half a dozen bacon-wrapped potato bites with well-shaken Manhattan and call it dinner?
The Gold Rush Cocktail
I tend to view cocktail parties as a "come one, come all" affair. Invite the neighbors, invite your co-workers, invite that new person you met at yoga the other day. All are welcome to mingle and imbibe. Start with the standing capacity of your living room and make a guest list from there.
Cheesy Chicken and Mozzarella Meatball Sliders
I feel that one of the keys to a successful cocktail party is setting up stations of food and drink throughout the room. This spreads people out (avoiding a mob at the appetizer table) and encourages mingling among people who may not know each other very well. I like to have one or two hot dishes along with several more make-ahead cold dishes, and one or two pitcher cocktails to give people something new to try.
Transforming your living room from it's everyday function to a cocktail hour venue can feel a bit daunting. I fall back on Faith's tips for creating atmosphere at a party, namely: dim the lights, add some candles, bring in some flowers, and set the appetizer tables with linens. A good party soundtrack seals the deal.
What about prepping all the food and drink?! All of these recipes can be made ahead and arranged on serving trays at the last minute. The meatballs can even be made months ahead, frozen, and re-heated straight from the freezer! To make your life even easier, you could warm the meatballs in a slow cooker and set this at its own station along with the burger buns and other fixings. The bacon-wrapped bites are do well if prepped right up to the point of cooking, then refrigerate until ready to bake.
I try to get into a rhythm when I'm throwing a cocktail party: have a few appetizers out and ready for the first guests, mingle, go back in the kitchen for more apps, mingle some more, back in the kitchen, and repeat as necessary, hopefully all while sipping a cocktail of my own! I'll switch between the hot apps, first heating a try of one and then the other.
If balancing the hostess duty with the cooking duty feels too much for you, cut down on the number of recipes you make and aim to have everything out and ready by the time the first guests come. That way, all of your kitchen work is done ahead of time and you can focus on your guests once they arrive.
Do you love cocktail parties?! What are your best tips and recipes?
Related: Cocktail Party Strategy: Make A Lot of a Few Dishes
(Images: See linked recipes for full image credits)