A cocktail party or a mixer, receptions catered exclusively with bite-sized morsels, are an excellent solution for hosting many people at a time. Since everyone eats standing up, they’re free to mingle and serve themselves at their convenience, leaving the host to relax … assuming they planned ahead! In this vein, here are some tips to help you successfully plan your next party.
Plan for 12 to 15 hors d’oeuvres per person, including small sweets. Variety is very important. For a group of 10 to 20 guests, expect to serve 5 to 6 types of different appetisers. For 20 to 40, plan for 7 to 8 bites.
For organisation, prepare several dishes the night before, especially if you work on the day of the cocktail party. For example, think of dips that can be paired with carrot sticks, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, etc. Tzatziki sauce, tartar sauce, and hummus are quick and easy to prepare (and can be bought ready-made). You can also offer cheese cubes and sausage, which require very little preparation. I always have a lot of success with Italian Spring Rolls.
You can also prepare meat appetisers in advance, which can then be reheated right before serving, for example Swedish Meatballs. They can then be placed on a platter with toothpicks.
Dishes requiring only a little bit of work should be saved for the day of the party, for example, canapés or crostini. For the latter, grill slices of baguette in the oven. Then you’re ready for assembly: chevre, Parma ham, tapenade, etc. Even simpler, wrap prosciutto around grissini and voila!
No need to complicate life: serve wine, red and white, calculating about a half a bottle per person. Beer can also be on offer (about 2 bottles per person). As a general rule, expect four drinks per person. If you offer cocktails, don’t forget ice, because nothing is worse than a cocktail at room temperature. If it’s a special occasion, consider offering champagne or a good quality sparkling wine, calculating a half a bottle per person. Don’t forget water – regular and sparkling – fruit juices, and coffee and tea for dessert.
Make sure you have enough room to house all of your guests’ outerwear somewhere near the entrance. In the bathroom, add some extra towels.
In the living room, move plants and other objects that might restrict movement or get in the way. Think ahead and add tables or surfaces where your guests can put down their plates or glasses. Don’t skimp on the number of paper napkins.
For ambiance, think about selecting your music in advance.
Find some volunteers and delegate specific tasks: service, drinks, dishes or picking up plates, music, etc. For a party with more than 20 people, consider the possibility of hiring professionals for the kitchen and food service.
You’re finally ready to host your friends for a cocktail dinner: relax and enjoy the party!