Cocktail Party Preparedness - Food & Beverage

Have you ever run into a scenario where at some point during the day you might be talking with your friends about dinner plans for the evening and the opportunity for you to host an impromptu cocktail party arises?  Well, I have run into this scenario all too often.  

I hate the feeling of not being prepared (regardless of what the situation may be).  A pop quiz in school always made me sick to my stomach and that deer in headlights look that typically results from a stressful surprise has never been flattering on me.  

Wouldn't it be great to be able to say to your friends at a moments notice, "Why don't you come over to my place for a quick drink before we head out to dinner."  You're confident with offering up an impromptu cocktail party at your house, because you know you have all of the necessary supplies to entertain.  This is actually very attainable and in all honesty, it doesn't take a lot to adequately equip your home for simple cocktail entertaining.  

Over the years I have learned a great deal from hosting my various cocktail parties (both planned and impromptu).  This post breaks down what I consider to be the cocktail party pantry essentials.  A list of the cocktail party food and beverages to have on hand, so that the next time you offer to host an impromptu cocktail party at home it will be naturally effortless.     


  • Red and White Wine- If its a quick cocktail party (like an hour or two), I usually buy enough for the wine drinkers to have at least 2 glasses.  If its full on dinner party that I am hosting, I budget a bottle per guest to be on the safe side (Is it really a bad thing to end up with left over wine? Um no, definitely not a bad thing at all!).  A final note- Keep a bottle of white in the fridge at all times.  That way you won't be caught off guard if a guest asks for a glass of white wine (unless you are serving spritzers, white wine + ice cubes = suboptimal). 
  • Beer- My first piece of advice with beer buying for a party is this…know your audience.  If you have a bunch of beer drinkers coming over, head to Costco and pick up a 24pack of Glass Bottles.  If theres only going to be 1 or 2 light beer drinkers, you can stick with a 6-12pk.  If I am buying 12 beers, I will usually break it up into a 6pk of Regular beers and a 6pk of Light Beers.  
    • Brands- Again, unless you know your guest's beer preferences, its best to stick with a more well known brand that is mid-priced.
  • Liquor - I typically keep a bottle of vodka on hand because I find it to be the most widely liked by my guests.  Again, a mid-priced vodka would be my recommendation.  
  • Water -Have a carafe/pitcher of iced water available for your guests.  Cocktails and salty snacks tend to make people very thirsty, so having water available is never a bad idea.  In addition, I also like to keep both sparkling and tonic water on hand.  Whether sparkling water is needed hydrating or tonic water is needed as a mixer for a cocktail, they are certainly entertaining must haves for my parties.  


2 Armadillo Spicy Cayenne Chick Peas, Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Roasted Almonds Lightly Salted

2 Armadillo Spicy Cayenne Chick Peas, Rosemary Marcona Almonds and Roasted Almonds Lightly Salted

  • Nuts- The cocktail party staple!  A mortal sin (in my opinion) is to host a gathering where you are only "watering" them.  Meaning, if you provide your guests with only beverages, it won't be a very long party.  Snacks not only take the hunger "edge" off but snacks also keep your guests from feeling buzzed or ever so slightly inebriated after a single cocktail.  Nuts are a great snack to serve at a cocktail party.  There are so many varieties, they taste delicious and they can be stored in your pantry for months at a time without spoiling.  
  • Frozen Apps- Trader Joe's Pastry Bites with Feta Cheese and Caramelized Onions, Edamame in the Shell, Flatbread Pizza (Love American Flatbread Cheese & Herb)
    • These are just some of my favorite frozen appetizers, but definitely go ahead and buy whatever you think that you and/or your guests would enjoy most.  

Entertaining Accessories

The goal of this post (like so many of my posts) is to let you know that even though you may be busy and not have a lot of time to plan, you can still easily host an impromptu cocktail party.  Hosting can really be nbd (no big deal).  Next time you are at the store for the weekly grocery shop, throw a few of these items in your cart.  Just like Rome not being built in a day, you can build your pantry over time.  Who knows, maybe the next time the opportunity presents itself you might surprise yourself and proactively volunteer to host an impromptu cocktail party.