Planning a Holiday Cocktail Party

You're throwing a cocktail party! Here are some Food Network suggestions that will take you through the entire planning process from the drinks to the snacks to the theme.

154207855

154207855

Champagne and Christmas Lights

Photo by: pilipphoto

pilipphoto

Champagne and Christmas Lights

Let's start with the most important thing: the drinks. Say you're serving wine, beer and cocktails. Go with a white, a red, a sparkling if you're feeling super-festive (prosecco and cava are great options for affordable bubbles for a crowd), a beer that works nicely with most food (a crisp pilsner does well here) and a signature cocktail or two for the night, ideally something that's easy to mix up in quantity (martinis or manhattans are a good place to start).

Plan on two drinks (of any kind) per person in the first hour, then one drink per hour thereafter. Don't forget to provide nonalcoholic drinks, as well.

Now, let's talk food. There are a couple of categories of cocktail party food — pick a few from each category, and remember you'll probably need about 12 total bites per person (more if your party is during a mealtime). These are, of course, not the only options by a long shot.

If your party's not themed, your best bet is to let the signature cocktail determine the style of the food. Martinis? Think '50s chic, with olives, cheese straws and smoked salmon bruschetta. Whiskey Sours? Try down-home, with pulled-pork sliders and mac 'n' cheese baked in mini muffin tins. Margaritas? Go festive with guacamole and 2-bite tacos.

Take it easy on yourself; there's no need to make everything. Supply at least one store-bought snack:

  • Olives
  • Nuts
  • Cheese
  • Mini-quiches

Dishes that can be cooked in advance and kept warm or served at room temperature:

Dishes that can be assembled ahead of time:

Cook as much as you can in advance. Cut limes, lemons and any other drink garnishes, stock your fridge with ice (8 ounces ice per person is a generous amount for making cocktails and chilling beer and wine) and set up the bar. The bar is best placed at the opposite side of the room from the food to keep people flowing around and eliminate traffic jams.

Two hours out, start chilling white wine and beer, and pull anything to-be-served-at-room-temp out of the fridge. An hour before the party, make the last-minute food items and warm the hot foods in a 175 degree F. oven.

Half an hour before the party starts, pour yourself a drink, stock the bar with ice and put music on. During the party, make the occasional round to replenish ice, hot food and drink garnishes. And don't forget to relax and enjoy your party!

Keep Reading

Next Up

Holiday Brunch Buffet Game Plan

Throwing a brunch buffet? We'll take you through the play-by-play for getting it all to the table.

Feast of the Seven Fishes

Call it the ultimate holiday potluck: Seven chefs bring seven great dishes to the table for an old Italian Christmas Eve tradition.

Fun Holiday Wreaths

Put your favorite foods on display with these homemade holiday wreaths.

50 No-Bake Treat Recipes

Whip up a few of these simple sweets from Food Network Magazine for the holidays.

50 Gingerbread Treats

Make some fun sweets with this favorite holiday flavor.

Healthy Holiday Parties

What to eat (and stay away from) while entertaining over the holidays.

50 Holiday Drinks

Get in the spirit with cocktails, punch, cocoa and more.

How to Prevent Common Holiday Baking Mistakes

An unexpected outcome can happen to even the best of bakers. Most of the time, dessert is still going to be delicious (even if it didn't come out as planned). Here are some common mishaps—and the best ways to avoid and fix them.

On the Road Eats: Holiday Cocktails

Sip on the best holiday cocktails across the country, from fruity fizzes to hot buttered rum.

Holiday Treats: 50 Cookies

Turn your kitchen into Santa's workshop with dozens of recipes from Food Network Magazine.

Get Cooking