Yes, I made that title up and bestowed upon myself. But, my 6+ years of event planning means I've amassed a great deal of knowledge and experience with how to plan a party menu. Here are a few tips for throwing a successful cocktail party that will definitely 'wow' your guests!
Always Have a Signature Cocktail
It's a cocktail party after all, right? I'm a big fan of having a bar with options for your guests. Stock one type of beer, a white wine, and a signature cocktail. Now this doesn't mean you're going to be embarking on complex mixology, just have an interesting option for guests and make it easy on yourself. Pre-make a spiked punch that guests can self serve, or print a cute cocktail recipe for guests to mix up the drink on their own. In the spring and summer I love limoncello and will use my big drink dispenser, fill it with limoncello, vodka, and lemonade. Toss in some fresh cut lemons and you've got the perfect refreshment.
Consider It's Eatbility
Did I just make up a new word? Not sure. But what I mean by this is always consider how easy it is to eat the items on your menu. Pinterest is a great source for ideas for oh so cute appetizers, but so often I see things that would just be damn near impossible to eat and carry on a conversation. If the food requires you to deconstruct it before being able to take a bite, it's not a good idea.
Show Them The Trash
No, I don't mean parade them through your kitchen and proudly present your garbage can. Some finger foods will require things like tooth picks. Place a small bowl or plate next to this dish so there is a place for discarded tooth picks. The one step most people over look? You need to show your guests what to do. Put a couple tooth picks in the bowl so they'll know exactly what it's there for and follow the lead.
Don't Repeat Ingredients
This one might be a little obvious, but it's an important one. Try to not have the same ingredient across many dishes. This helps create a balance spread and makes sure there is a little something for everyone. If you have a super cheesy dip, pair that with a crudite platter or cucumber dill sandwiches. Make sure to have some meatless options. If you're serving a chicken dinner, don't have a chicken-based appetizer.
Hot and Cold
It's always a good idea to have a mix of hot and cold apps. This will also help to balance your spread and have a nice assortment of snacks.
Feed the Eyes
The presentation of your spread is just as important as the menu. Use a mix of different types of bowls and platters and have displays of different heights. Tiered displays or pedestals not only add dimension to your spread but they also help you fit more onto your table. A beautifully designed spread will entice your guests to indulge and keep them coming back for more.
The After Party
I'm a big fan of this one, but this isn't going to be needed at every party. If you're planning a get together that you think is going to go into the after hours, be ready with that much needed late night snack. This can be super simple, I'm talking popcorn, chips or cheese and crackers. But when everyone is having that one last signature cocktail who doesn't want to be snacking on a little something?
So as you're planning for your next cocktail party make sure you get this on the menu. This cheesy corn and red pepper dip is one of my favorites for so many reason. First, I love that this isn't a cream cheese based dip. Nope, no cream cheese here! Eliminating that heaviness really helps the flavors of the corn, cheese, and red peppers shine through. Second, this is a really versatile dip and you can add more fixins like bacon or jalapeno. Last, this is easy! Who doesn't love that?!
-2 cups corn (I used thawed frozen but you can also used canned or fresh)
-1/2 cup diced white onion
-1/4 cup red bell pepper, diced
-1 clove garlic
-1/4 cup mayo
-1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
-1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
-1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
-salt, pepper, cayenne pepper to taste
1. Heat oven to 350.
2. In a pan over medium high heat, heat the EVOO then add the red pepper and onions. Sauté 3-5 minutes. Using a zester, zest in the garlic clove and add the corn and saute another 5-7 minutes, letting the corn become browned. Remove from heat.
3. Pour the corn mixture into a bowl and add the mayo, cheeses, and garlic powder. Salt and pepper to taste, and a dash of cayenne pepper. Go very light on the cayenne to start, it's very powerful and a little goes a very very long way. Pour into a baking dish.
4. Bake for 20 minutes, then place under the broiler for 1 minute to get the cheese browned and bubbly. Serve with assorted chips and crackers.
Source: Closet Cooking