With 3 out of 4 birthdays in our house landing in November and Jackie, our youngest, turning 21, it is only fitting that we present to you—
The Cocktail Party!
There's more than one way to throw a cocktail party.
Some will opt to organize an early-evening event lasting only a couple hours, serving light appetizers and a few basic cocktails.
Nothing wrong with that!
Others will put together bashes including more substantial food, designed to tempt their guests to linger and enjoy the festivities longer.
Needless to say, we opted for the latter!
We lured 9 unsuspecting guests over to test out our menu.
It was a lovely time.
In the process of preparing for this gathering, we definitely worked out some kinks and fine-tuned the menu for you.
We were able to achieve our overload of all things Thanksgiving without feeling the need to allow Thanksgiving (and pumpkin) to seep into our cocktail party!
Instead, our theme for this party was, simply, winter . . . and cocktails that taste especially good in winter!
(Click the links for the recipes!)
Whiskey Sage Cocktail • Lemon-Rosemary Martini • Clementine Winter Cocktail • Tzatziki dip • Hummus dip • Salt and vinegar potato cubes with balsamic sauce • Pulled pork sandwiches on Hawaiian sweet bread rolls • Crispy (baked!) chicken wings with dipping sauces and carrot and celery sticks • Brownies • Coffee
Seems like a lot, right?
Believe it or not, my grand plan actually included a few more dishes, but I came to my senses and narrowed it down to what I've listed above.
We had plenty of food and our guests came back to the table several times during the course of the evening -- exactly what we had envisioned.
In getting ready for this party, I was reminded of the benefit of preparing dishes ahead of time.
Nearly all the food on this menu can be prepared ahead of time and reheated before your guests arrive.
We found that the roasted potatoes taste best while they are nice and hot -- fresh out of the oven.
If you can get your hands on a chaffing dish, that would be helpful.
Otherwise, cook the potatoes in batches and stagger their "done time" which will allow you to bring out fresh, hot potatoes a couple of times during the gathering. (I will do that next time!)
We had all the food, plates, napkins, arranged on our dining room table. We moved the chairs away to allow an easy flow.
We offered a choice of 3 cocktails -- 1 featuring whiskey; the other 2 featuring vodka.
I found it amusing that 100% of the males in attendance chose the whiskey drink!
The Whiskey Sage Cocktail was a delicious hit.
The Lemon-Rosemary Martini never fails to please.
And the Clementine Winter Cocktail, with a sugared rim is just so tasty!
Of course we had beer, wine, Prosecco and non-alcoholic choices available.
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I set up "the bar" in the kitchen.
Because the featured cocktails all use fresh-squeezed citrus, I made sure to have a sufficient amount of juice ready to go -- this was especially helpful at the beginning of the party when everyone arrived at nearly the same time and needed a beverage.
The party went just as we had intended -- our guests were on their feet, mingling, sitting only occasionally.
As a matter of fact, we didn't even get around to arranging music!
I realized this after everyone had arrived, but from what I could see, the music wasn't missed!
The conversations didn't stop all evening. Nine guests (plus Jeff and I) can make a lot of noise just telling stories!
We invited a mix of people -- some had never met before, but had things in common.
One additional hot appetizer: Salt and Vinegar Potato Cubes with a balsamic and rosemary sauce. These were SO easy and delicious. I got the recipe from Sprinkles and Sprouts and didn't change a thing!
For decorations, I again went primarily with candles. It's hard to beat the simplicity of candles!
I also was finally able to put together the "Spirit Tree" I have been wanting to make for years now.
In keeping with the "winter" (but not yet Christmas) theme, I found a tree branch, sprayed it with "hammered metallic" paint (but I could have gone with white, silver or even brown or black).
I propped the branch up in a big demijohn, ensuring it was secure enough not to topple over during the party!
You could also use a tall plant pot filled with potting soil.
I decorated the branch by hanging miniature bottles of whiskey and vodka, along with some tealights and crystals.
That's the spirit!
We were thrilled with the outcome. Our guests loved it.
This feature was difficult to photograph -- the photos don't do it justice.
Initially, my thought was to have our guests remove their chosen bottle and mix their own drink.
And that might just happen down the road, but for this party, I thought it best for us to take care of the mixing.
I can envision a "Black Russian" tree with milk available for White Russians in our future . . .
Hint: I will tell you that miniature versions of liqueur and spirits are not the most economical way of doing business!
Although, too late to be of use at our cocktail party, I located some miniature glass bottles through Amazon.
The bottles look great and I plan to fill them up with the appropriate liqueur/spirit next time.
The bottles (conveniently) hold 2 ounces and ran us $10/dozen.
I have to admit I was really kind of sad when it was time to disassemble the Spirit Tree.
Would I be going overboard if I decorated my Christmas tree with miniature bottles of booze???
Probably. But I don't think that's going to stop me!
So as the holidays escalate to full speed, consider cutting out a few hours one evening for a cocktail party -- gather a few friends to enjoy each other's company and indulge in a delicious beverage.
A couple or three cocktail choices, a few appetizers, music (if you can remember) and let the conversations roll!
Enjoy! - The Recipe Wench