Hosting an Elegant Winter Cocktail Party

This party idea was inspired by the newest addition to my cheeseboard collection.  I recently found this fabulous new marble cheese board with glass dome at Crate & Barrel, and decided that it only seemed fitting to take it for a test drive (aka host a cocktail party) ASAP!  

My goal with this look was to keep everything sleek and sophisticated.  I kept the color palette to a minimum by only using black, white, gray and silver table accessories.  I wanted to have a low but full floral arrangement, so I decided to go with white hydrangeas in a low glass cylinder vase.  Instead of using a table runner, I lined up 3 of my square gray croc embossed placemats (similar to these). I also chose to accessorize my new cheese board with my simple but modern CB2 cheese knives. 

Unlike my previous cheesescapes, I kept this board fairly minimal.  The reason for this approach was two fold.  First, the actual surface area is generous but not overly abundant.  Adding in my cheesescape extras (herbs, fruits, etc.) would have created a cluttered/cramped look.  The second reason (really the main reason) being that I did not want to take away from the fabulous dome!  The dome is such a unique and sophisticated addition to this board, so I wanted to make sure that it remained the focal point.  

Cheeses for this board included: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon (a personal favorite), Aged Cheddar with Carmelized Onions and a classic Bucheron.  Stonewall Kitchen's Old Farmhouse Chutney accompanied these three cheeses under the dome.  All nuts, charcuterie, fruits and crackers were served along side the cheeseboard in both silver and glass bowls.  

This party was so much fun and I loved that my new cheeseboard forced me to go outside of my comfort zone.  In the past I would have thought to only include all cheese accoutrements directly on the cheeseboard, because that always seemed to be most practical.  This time I was forced to think outside of the box to find a functional yet aesthetically pleasing way to include everything.  All said and done, I would have to say "mission accomplished!"

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.  

Easy Baked Brie

There are so many different schools of thought on the appropriate cocktail party menu in terms of both quantity and variety.  While I'm not a cocktail party expert (I just enjoy hosting them…a lot), one rule that I have always stuck with is that you should always plan to serve at least one or two hot hors d'oeuvres.  

This is definitely not a hard thing to do, nor should it sound intimidating.  I initially got started serving hot hors d'oeuvres because of the fabulous selection of heat and serve options available at my local grocery stores.  I now have a repertoire of my favorite heat and serve hors d'oeuvres, but as I have continued to grow (in the culinary sense), I have wanted to create my own hot hors d'oeuvre recipes that are easy to make and delicious (just like the heat and serve options I have loved for years!).  

A baked brie recipe seemed like the easiest starting point with the highest likelihood of recipe creation success.  I wanted to come up with something unique, delicious and full of tips on the best products and techniques to use so that I could share them with you!  Below is the breakdown of my Candied Walnut and Quince Paste Baked Brie Recipe.  


  • 1 Brie Wheel
  • 1 Sheet Frozen Puff Pastry Dough (thawed)  *Recommend Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry*
  • 2 Tbs Chopped Candied Walnuts
  • 1 1/2 Tbs Quince Paste
  • 1 Egg + a splash of water (My Brie Egg Wash)


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Roll out thawed puff pastry sheet
  3. Place brie wheel centered on puff pastry sheet
  4. Spread 1 1/2 Tablespoons of Quince Paste on top of brie wheel
  5. Add chopped candied walnuts
  6. Gather pastry sheet and pinch closed over brie wheel and toppings
  7. Brush pastry with egg wash
  8. Bake on a lined cookie sheet for 20min
  9. Remove from oven and serve hot

Hot hors d'oeuvres are a great addition to your cocktail party menu and while I am still a fan of the different store bought heat and serve appetizers, I love that I now have this baked brie recipe to add to my repertoire.