The Ultimate Cocktail Party Planning Guide

The Ultimate Dinner Party Planning Guide

Daunted by the idea of throwing a cocktail party? I’m sharing my secrets for hosting sans the stress. My formula for successful entertaining? Snappy cocktails, tasty food, great music and colorful people- in equal quantities!

Drink Hour:

  • Keep in mind hors d’oeuvres should be bite-sized and passed on trays or set out on a table for guests to help themselves. 
  • If foods are on skewers or toothpicks, make sure that someone collects them or that there is a receptacle for them. One easy idea is to cut a lemon in half and place it by the food so that guests can stick the used skewers or toothpicks in it. 
  • Avoid tomato or turmeric based dipping sauces if you’re concerned about your furniture. Keep those recipes for outdoors in the summer.
  • Always keep a couple dozen frozen puff pastry sausage rolls or samosas in the freezer for last-minute or unexpected cocktails. 
  • For a group of twenty-four or more: Set up several different food stations in and around the living room, pairing food types with appropriate wines and beverages. 
  • Pair a green and white platter of crudités (raw vegetables) on the coffee table with a sauvignon blanc, or set out a selection of cheese and dried and candied fruit paired with vintage port on the dining table.
  • For something heartier, offer a platter of assorted grilled sausages with a selection of mustards, and give guests their choice of a variety of mismatched red wines from your cellar on a sideboard.

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  • Prepare soups by serving store-bough gazpacho with a lump of crabmeat in a demitasse cup. 
  • In the fall or early winter, serve small coffee cups of risotto with shaved truffles or a big asparagus risotto casserole. Risotto is both chic and a little more substantial.
  • Beef it up by passion medallions of New York steak served on bamboo skewers with Dijon mustard sauce.
  • Add decadence with some butter-mashed potatoes.


  • You’ll score big points for serving crème brûlée, or chocolate pots de crème, or tropical fruit salad with coconut sorbet in espresso cups. 
  • Really pressed for resources? Serve coffee with biscotti and some chocolate truffles. 
  • Frozen, ready-to-bake chocolate chip cookie dough is another fantastic option for a last-minute flourish.


  • As for music, the first choice and easiest Is a fabulous playlist of your favorite foot-tapping music from any genre. You need energetic music or upbeat jazz at a cocktail party.

 -Colin Cowie

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