We have found that people are reluctant to host cocktail parties anymore because of any number of reasons, but we say DO IT! It’s not that hard! Really.
Think of the old adage: KISS. Keep it Simple, Silly! It’s you your friends are coming to see, and maybe your house, but it’s really not for the food and drink. They can get that anywhere. How often do they get to spend an evening with you?
Invitations are simple. Either use a service like Paperless Post where you can customize one of their selections by Kate Spade, J. Crew or the fabulous Oscar de la Renta. If you’re old fashioned, you can pick up cards by Crane and design your own. Get them out at least three weeks before the party and ask for RSVP’s the week before the party.
Drinks… Prosecco or champagne, red wine, flavored seltzer waters, some lemons and limes, plenty of ice, and there you go! Ikea has very inexpensive wine glasses and you can buy them by the half-dozen for less than a decent cup of coffee at Starbucks. You don’t really need a fully-stocked bar, or even a bar-tender. Just point people in the direction of the bar and tell them to help themselves.
Next, the food… With the profusion of great pre-made food, there’s no excuse not to have decent hors d’ouevres, but we’re not even going to be that fancy. Big pieces of good cheese and some small-size crackers. Grapes, both green and red. Some dried figs. An assortment of nuts. Some sliced salami, pepperoni or some prosciutto. Something salty like pretzel bites or the perennial favorite, goldfish. Buy lots, arrange it on platters around a table. Strawberries or raspberries. Not cherries because of the pits.
We know that everyone’s got their food issues, but anyone should be able to eat from a menu like this one. There’s something for the gluten-free, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, meat-eating, low-salt, low cal person in the group.
If you don’t have platters, you can use large dinner plates for the food. Be sure to have plenty of napkins and bowls for the toothpicks for the cheese and berries.
As for tableware, Caspari makes some fabulous pieces in very heavy-weight paper, including these great square faux bois plates by our dear Bunny Williams. All you will really need are plates and napkins, because everything is going to be finger food.
And for the décor… Flowers. Either from the wholesale florists (call and ask if you can come in) or else Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. Buy lots. Put them in tall clear vases, float some in teacups or silver fingerbowls (do you have one or two hanging around?) fill an old champagne bucket with dozens of stems.
Or take a page out of our book and put up something interesting, like this Art Deco model for a conservatory from Halcyon House Antiques.
Music… whip out your iPod and create what we used to call a “mix tape.” Start with lively music to get things jumping and then as the evening winds down, slow the music a bit. Mix oldies with the latest tunes. Make sure the tape is at least four hours long. If you still have CDs, go back and take a look at the ones you played in heavy rotation, and add a couple of those songs to the mix.
The guests should be a mix of people from all the aspects of your life… someone you met recently through friends, parents of a child from your child’s class, your old friend from university days whom you swear you will see more than once a year, your best friends… Limit the number to 20 or 30, and since it’s not a seated dinner, you don’t have to make the numbers even.
If you begin planning this about six weeks before the date, everything should fall into place perfectly, and your friends will have a great time. They will also appreciate that YOU took the initiative and hosted a party! Our parents did it, so why shouldn’t we?
The View From Halcyon Farm is sponsored by Halcyon House Antiques located at 11219 Greenspring Avenue in Lutherville, and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information visit the Halcyon House Antiques website or call 410-828-8889.