You did it, you found time to have a cocktail party with your girlfriends. It’s more difficult than ever with them being badass ladies balancing their family, career, and yoga schedules. But it’s happening! And before you think, “Oh shit! Why did I agree to host this?” rest assured that you can organize a great party with minimal stress.
The Weekend Before
Text your friends to confirm they are coming. Yes, last minute cancellations and additions happen and while you may think this sounds pushy, for your purposes you need to make sure you have enough food, glassware, and room in your place.
Figure out at least three dishes you will serve and pick up the food. Especially if this is happening during the week you don’t want to stress yourself by having to grocery shop during the work week. For food, I always try to have finger foods and dips. It’s a cocktail party, after all, so full out dinner isn’t necessary. Four of my favorite quick dishes are:
Cheese and Good Crackers with Jam – You can get away with pretty affordable cheese if you have good accoutrements. Whole Foods sells an amazing cracker, Raincoast Crisps, that are stuffed with figs, olives, and happiness. But they can be a bit pricey. Trader Joes has a similar cracker (though not quite as good) for a fraction of the price. Be sure to buy some fig or raspberry jam. While fresh fruit is great, you can just pour the jam into a bowl and it’s ready to go.
Black Bean and Corn Salad/Dip – This can be served as a salad but I like it much better as a dip with tortilla chips. Plus it’s so easy. I find this is a great dump and pour option. It’s also a great vegan option.
Meatballs and Marinara Sauce – This one seems a little Superbowl party over cocktail party but I made this for a New Year’s Eve party and once the meatballs were gone, people were dipping the sauce out with leftover tortilla chips. You just need frozen, pre-made meatballs, your favorite canned marinara sauce, and Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes to taste. Throw the ingredients into a crockpot during the day – four hours on high or six hours on low. I personally like the crock pot because you can take the top off and keep it on warm during the party. It’s a crowd pleaser and can be served with small buns for sliders or completely on its own. Plus it gives the carnivores something to eat.
Cucumbers and Hummus – Take a few cucumbers and cut into 3/4 inch discs. Then take your store bought hummus and put into a plastic baggie, snipping the end off. Pipe this onto the cucumbers and sprinkle some crumbled feta cheese and diced red peppers over top. Looks super impressive but takes just a few minutes. This is a good vegetarian option, plus if you leave the cheese off it’s a good vegan option.
Whatever you choose, remember, you can mix food genres when it comes to cocktail parties. I think the more simple the better, especially when the party is held in your home. I personally never do a dessert but if you feel something sweet is needed, set out some good chocolate bites around the drinks.
The weekend before also grab any beer, wine, or alcohol you need and get ice if your freezer is big enough to store it for a few days. Instead of doing a crazy alcohol spread, I would do a punch. Remember, this is a girls’ cocktail party and while I can drink whiskey with the best of them, I won’t say no to a pink drink. Tis the season for cranberry and orange flavored punches so I would try this or this from the Cookie Rookie. For vodka punches, don’t be afraid to use a more reasonably priced vodka and just more… in general.
Finally, pick up plates, cups, napkins, and utensils if you aren’t using your own. While there are great options available right now, white/clear will look nice and be the most reasonably priced.
The Day Before
Prep your layout, whether that be using wrapping paper as a table runner (a la my Holiday Brunch post) or just using what you already have, make sure your serving platters, crock pot, etc. fit where you want them placed. With the exception of the hot food, I would try to split up all other food into equal platters and put them on opposite sides of the room. You want to make sure everybody gets enough. Plus we all know if light weight Monica doesn’t eat, she will be sleeping on your couch that night.
Also, set out napkins, plates, and utensils and set up your drink cups and any wine that doesn’t need to be chilled.
Cut up the cheese and cucumbers and put into plastic baggies. Make the bean and corn dip and put into an airtight container. Put the hummus in a plastic baggie and set in the fridge. Small dice half of a red pepper and put into an airtight container.
Take two equal size soup bowls and fill them 3/4 full with water. These will act as giant ice cubes for your punch without watering it down.
Put your white wine and beer in the fridge and go to bed. You’re going to need some sleep!
The Morning Of
Put meatballs in the crockpot with marinara and the desired amount of Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes. Set on low until you get home from work or whatever you have planned that day.
1 Hour Before
Remove the hummus baggie from the fridge. Arrange and set out the cheese plate and the corn and bean dip. Move the crock pot to the serving station, keeping it on warm. Get out the cucumbers and pat dry with a paper towel then pipe on the hummus and sprinkle with feta and red peppers.
Transfer beer and white wine into a tub or bucket and fill with ice (check out my Holiday Brunch post for a hack) and set on the drink station.
Pour all punch ingredients into a big pitcher or bowl for the punch. (Pro Tip – do this wherever the drink station is if you’re using a bowl so you don’t spill.) Then take the two ice bowls in the freezer and run a little hot water on the bottom. The ice will pop right out and it can go directly into the punch.
Do a final sweep to make sure everything is out (including serving utensils for the food).
Pour yourself a drink! Put on some turn-of-the-century jams and enjoy!
Thanks to my favorite Connecticut friend for this question!
Wondering how to organize your pantry to fit all the leftover beer and wine? I can answer that question and more… send it to me at…
What are your favorite girl’s night party tips? Comment below!