Cocktail Party in Less than Two Hours
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!