Planning a Cocktail Party - Everyday Delicious Kitchen


Planning a Cocktail Party

Great parties don’t just happen do they? Even the simplest occasion requires some forethought by the host and hostess. Today many of the more formal occasions and celebrations have moved away from the traditional sit down meal to a cocktail party.

The cocktail party can of course vary between an elegant formal function, requiring the little black cocktail dress and black tie for the boys, to a bright and breezy informal affair with lively music and brightly coloured drinks in the safety of your own backyard! Whatever the occasion the cocktail party is a popular and modern way to entertain.

The first step is to decide what type of party it will be. Is it a special occasion to celebrate a milestone, or a get together to celebrate the springtime or festive season? Consider what sort of decorations will suit the occasion and what sort of music and lighting will be appropriate as well to provide just the right ambiance. Next of course you must decide the when and where. Will it be outside on a balmy night or inside with the fire ablaze! Be practical when you look at the space and consider the number of people the space provided will hold.

The trick to conquering the cocktail party and hosting a successful event is being organised. Start planning early as well as ordering and shopping early for any non perishable items including alcohol. Working in advance means there is less left to the last minute…….reducing stress levels for the host/hostess. You should be able to enjoy the evening yourself and not be a slave to the kitchen or bar!

Now for the food!

The number and types of finger food you serve all depend on the event you are hosting. For a cocktail party, finger food will be the focus, so be sure you have plenty to go around!

Type of Event Number of Appetizers
Cocktail Party: 4 hours 10-12 pieces per person
*You may like to include an extra 1 or 2 sweet offerings if serving coffee.
Dinner Party: Pre dinner 4 to 5 pieces per person for an early meal
6 per person for a later meal
Variety: 8 different varieties if 50+ people
4 to 5 different varieties for 20+ people
3 different varieties for small gatherings

Some Tips and Shortcuts

Hot or Cold

In my opinion, people prefer hot over cold food at the best of times. I suggest 60/40 in favour of hot food. In the cooler months you may need to add some extra hot food too, a warming soup in little china cups can really hit the spot!

Don’t attempt to make all the food from scratch. Be kind to yourself and take advantage of some of the good quality finger food, fresh and frozen available in supermarkets and specialty stores. There are some great dips and antipasto items available, these can be included as part of the cold items. Don’t be afraid to have a combination of simple favourites like little pies or pizzas intermingled with the more exotic like rice paper rolls. Remember in a larger crowd tastes can be varied. Don’t forget how important it is to keep tummies full, especially where alcohol is served for obvious reasons!

Cook ahead

Being organised and ahead of yourself means cooking and freezing where you can. Remember though to allow foods to thaw in the refrigerator and not on the kitchen bench.

Get some help!

Don’t attempt to do it all yourself on the night, otherwise you will miss out on all the fun. In fact enlist a mate to help you, or pay someone to take charge of the kitchen on the night. Make a detailed list of all food to be served and accompaniments, the serving platters and the time the food is required. You may also need to consider staff for serving the food as well as someone to man the bar.

Keep Cool

When catering, refrigerator space can be at a premium. The week of the party remove all non essential items from the fridge to allow for an influx of party food. For a larger function consider borrowing a friend’s beer fridge as a back up or maybe even hire a small portable cool room.

Never forget the Food Safety Principles:

For food that is to be served hot, heat the cold food as quickly as possible to 75°C then hold above 60°C. For food to be served cold, ensure the food remains under 5°C.