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Cocktail Party in Less than Two Hours

Updated on March 6, 2015
stephhicks68 profile image

Stephanie has published many articles on inviting home décor, entertaining ideas and recipes

Throw Together a Quick Cocktail Party

No need to plan and prepare a party for weeks. When the urge strikes you on Saturday afternoon (or maybe mid-week?) call a few friends and you can have an impressive party pulled together in no time. In fact, my philosophy is that when you have friends over on the spur of the moment, its much more enjoyable. No time to stress, just time to get the basics done and then have fun.

I'll bet that they won't even notice stray dust bunnies under the couch!

I've gathered a few of my favorite appetizer and drink recipes, and added some tidy-up-the-house tips, so that you can focus on hosting your friends and not slaving away in the kitchen.

Have fun!

Prepare at the last minute for a cocktail party
Prepare at the last minute for a cocktail party

How to Put Together a Cocktail Party in Less than 2 Hours

  • First - call your friends. Say, "Hey? How about drinks at my house tonight?" In response to their shock at your calm and composure, assure them, "No really, its not too much trouble - I'll see you in a couple of hours!" And you're off.....
  • Second, plan your appetizers. Mixed nuts and chips are easy, but standard and oh-so-boring. Below, I recommend several popular, but easy and somewhat filling appetizers instead, or in addition to, these stand-bys. The shopping list for these is not too long, so you won't waste precious time at the grocery store.
  • Next, check your liquor supplies. If you're going to serve martinis, make sure you have adequate vodka or gin, vermouth and any garnishes (certainly don't forget the olives!)
  • Make a quick list for the store. At the top of the list, put bottled water, or another alcohol-free alternative to have handy. Next, write down flowers. A fresh bouquet in a vase will brighten up your countertop and help set the party mood. Depending on what else you have in your cupboards and fridge, fill out the rest of the list with the necessities for the appetizers and drinks. Elapsed time: 20 minutes
  • Off to the store you go! If you live in certain states in the northwest part of the United States, you'll have to make a separate stop at a liquor store. This could be the most time consuming part of the entire endeavor, but if the fates are smiling on you and the shopping cart filled to the brim with an exhausted mom and three whiny kids goes to the next aisle for checkout, I'm going to estimate that you could make it back in 40 minutes, or less.

Its a race to the finish!  Stay focused on the things you need!
Its a race to the finish! Stay focused on the things you need!

Quickly Clean House to Prepare for Party Guests

You have an hour to go.... what first? Tidy things up, or start right in on the appetizers?

I suggest putting together the artichoke dip first, and while it is in the oven, use the 20 minutes of baking time to do a quick clean of public areas.

I'll get back to the recipes in just a moment, but here is the quick and dirty on getting your house clean in a jiffy for guests that are expected on short order:

(1) Bathroom: Wipe counter and mirror with glass cleaner; wipe off toilet seat and lid; put a fresh roll of toilet paper out; light a scented candle. (2) Kitchen: Wipe counters with all purpose cleaner (or glass cleaner); sweep; if you light candles in the kitchen, use unscented! (3) living areas: If guests will be going into other areas of your house/apartment, fluff pillows on your sofa and use a lint brush to remove pet hair, if you have a pet; unless there is visible dirt on the carpet, don't bother vacuuming; for hardwoods or other hard flooring - sweep.

That's it! Should take no more than 15-20 minutes. Let it go.... your friends will be focusing on the great time they are having and not on the dust bunnies that may be hidden in the corner.

Hot Artichoke Dip
Hot Artichoke Dip

Suggested Recipes for a Cocktail Party

Now, to the food. I'm not necessarily against mixed nuts, but you can do so much better. Put out some really nice cheese and crackers, as well. But it requires little effort (which is good), but looks as such (which is not so good).

These recipes are super quick and easy, and will make your friends wonder how you pulled it all together so quickly. That's our little secret....

1. Hot Artichoke Dip:

You may have had this one before, but there are several variations, including one with crab meat and another with roasted red peppers. Either way, the recipe takes only about 5 minutes to mix up and another 20 or so to bake.

  • 1/2 c. mayonnaise (not light and certainly not Miracle Whip)
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese (again, not light)
  • 1 c. grated parmesan cheese (I recommend the kind in the shaker for the dip)
  • 1 13 oz. can artichoke hearts

Chop the artichoke hearts and then mix all the ingredients together by hand. Place in a 12 inch round baking dish. Lightly sprinkle additional parmesan cheese on top. Fresh chopped parsley is a nice garnish and adds some flavor while baking.

Bake at 375 for 20 minutes. Serve with fresh vegetables (mini carrots, sliced cucumber, broccoli, etc.) or crackers.

Additions to this recipe , if you desire: Add to the mixture before baking 1/2 pound fresh crab (not imitation). And/or add to the mixture before baking 1 can roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped. These are generally found in the grocery store near the artichoke hearts.

Olive Crostini

Olive Crostini
Olive Crostini

More Cocktail Party Recipes

2. Olive Crostini:

I can't recall where I first found this recipe - maybe the Junior League's famous cookbook. Anyway, though I can't give proper credit, I can say that its really delicious. Because its bread-based, I recommend serving the artichoke dip with veggies, instead of crackers.

  • 1/3 c. black olives
  • 1/2 c. green olives with pimento
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
  • 4 T. butter
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 c. grated monterey jack cheese
  • 1/4 parsley, chopped
  • 1 baguette- sliced

So, you have some overlap with the Parmesan cheese and parsley with the artichoke dip recipe. This makes things a bit easier at the grocery store.

Chop olives coarsely in food processor. Transfer to medium bowl. With machine running, drop garlic through feed tube and mince (or buy pre-minced garlic - you will need 2 Tablespoons). Add Parmesan cheese, butter and olive oil, process into a paste. Add butter mixture to bowl with olives. Fold in monterey jack cheese and parsley. Mix well. This should take no more than 8 minutes .

Cut baguette into thin slices. Spread each slice with olive mixture. Cook under broiler under bubbly and lightly browned. Watch carefully so they do not burn! Now is not the time to change your clothes for the party. I suggest that you do that BEFORE putting the crostini into the oven!

3. Strawberry Dip:

This is so easy, its criminal. Set aside 3 minutes tops . Maybe an extra 3 minutes to wash the strawberries and put everything out.

  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream
  • 6 oz. cream cheese

Mix thoroughly with an electric mixer. Serve with strawberries or other fruit in season. Sprinkle cinnamon lightly on top and garnish with a mint leaf, if desired.

Depending on the size of your party, or the season, you can certainly do more, or less in the appetizer category. There are endless recipes out there that you could use, as well. I am only suggesting a few of my favorites, and the ones that I know I can throw together quickly for a party on the fly.

Extra Tip: Garnishes will make your appetizers look extra special and like something your guests might order at a restaurant. Put a few leaves of lettuce down under your platter of strawberries. Use fresh herbs to liven up the edges of a dip. A very little bit of extra effort looks more polished and festive.

Nah - you don't have time!
Nah - you don't have time!

Get Yourself Ready

Finally, its time for you - do a quick change of clothes before putting the Crostini in the oven (see tip above). Something simple and easy, like black slacks and a nice sweater should work. Refresh makeup and/or cologne. If you're a man, don't bother shaving - the 5:00 shadow look is in! Don't take more than 5-7 minutes! Its almost party time!

By my calculations, you may have as much as 10 minutes to spare! Start pulling out the stuff for your drinks. Relax and pull everything else together in the kitchen.

Mixing Drinks

Its safe to say that the easiest way to throw a party on short notice may be just to serve wine and beer. But we're not going to take the easy way out. There's no need for shortcuts here. Mixing drinks need not be difficult or daunting. If you want to keep it simple, pick one or two drinks to mix. Otherwise, you'll be spending too much time as bartender, and not enough time having fun!

Very simple drinks include a martini (gin or vodka) or Manhattan (bourbon). Minimal mixers and garnish are required. You just need to have quality liquor. This means you'll have to splurge a little. But no need to ruin good quality alcohol with too many mixers - i.e, apple martini, etc. Not to say that those drinks aren't wonderful (and they are), but use the less expensive stuff on the shelf, please.

Instead of my trying to walk you through the steps of shaking (not stirring) the perfect martini, I found a great video instead:

How to Mix the Perfect Martini

Have Fun at your Cocktail Party

A party should be a celebratory event, and not something to stress over. I find that the events that are the most fun are those that are not planned. So, go for it this weekend, or whenever the fancy strikes you.

You can have a great time without too much work or effort.

Let me know how it goes - or send me an invitation!

© 2008 Stephanie Hicks


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    • nancynurse profile image

      Nancy McClintock 

      7 years ago from Southeast USA

      I love inviting friends over. Thanks so much for your tips. I especially liked the ideas on not stressing over the house.

    • Julie-Ann Amos profile image

      Julie-Ann Amos 

      10 years ago from Gloucestershire, UK

      great hub thanks! I'm linking to it from my hub on bar tools

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is really great info!

    • Blogger Mom profile image

      Blogger Mom 

      11 years ago from Northeast, US

      Great hub! I think I'll try the artichoke dip! =)

    • erinlis profile image


      11 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      I'm a sucker for anything with marshmallow cream! Great advice and well layed out, makes it so easy!

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks! I've even inspired myself. We are way overdue for a housewarming party and I think I'll throw one together the weekend after this one. Can't compete with Super Bowl, you know....

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 

      11 years ago from Georgia

      I'm bookmarking this page for future reference! It's a really good hub. :-)

    • Princessa profile image

      Wendy Iturrizaga 

      11 years ago from France

      It is a great idea. I always have snacks ready (crisps, torrilla chips, olives, chorizos, bread sticks, and all sorts of nuts) as friends seem to pop in quite often for the 'apertitif'. Maybe they know that my door is always open and my bar always well assorted? lol It seems to be quite relax around here... and I love it!

      I will be trying your cocktail recipes ;-) cheers!

    • compu-smart profile image

      Tony T 

      11 years ago from London UK

      Cocktail Party in Less than Two Hours!? Im on my way!! ehehe..

      Nice hub;)

    • amy jane profile image

      amy jane 

      11 years ago from Connecticut

      Great Hub! I usually plan things for way too long and get myself all stressed out about it in the process. Doing it all last minute sounds like way more fun!

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 

      11 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Sounds delicious. When and where? Thanks, Good hub.

    • stephhicks68 profile imageAUTHOR

      Stephanie Hicks 

      11 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you! Sometimes being a last minute person can be fun! :-)


    • livelonger profile image

      Jason Menayan 

      11 years ago from San Francisco

      Agreed - this is great advice. I've been in this sort of time crunch far more often than I'd care to admit to!

    • Alexis Froehlich profile image

      Alexis Froehlich 

      11 years ago

      This is a great Hub! I'm ready to call everyone over it's only Tuesday night! :) Love how you gave easy directions to follow, from invite to party time. Recipes look yummy too!

      Cocktails anyone? :)


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