Cocktail Party Math

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Cocktail Party Math

Hosting a holiday party? Plan for success by making sure you have everything you need to serve a crowd of any size, for any occasion. The numbers and quantities below will help you stock your bar and prep your appetizers — and we’ve also included some of our favorite recipes for a soiree. Cheers!

 

Food

 

Before dinner: If you’re serving hors d’oeuvres before a full dinner, aim for 4-5 bites per person.

 

Cocktails-only: If your party just has drinks and nibbles (no dinner), you’ll need more generous amounts — typically 8 to 10 bites per person for every 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

 

For groups: For an average-size cocktail party of 9 to 20 guests, plan on having 4 or 5 different hors d’oeuvres on hand.

 

What to serve: Aim for a mix of more satisfying bites and lighter ones, with plenty of heartier ones for the cocktails-only get-togethers. Here are our picks, listed from lighter and less involved to heartier, with more ingredients and components.

 

Candied Mixed Nuts with RosemaryCandied Mixed Nuts with Rosemary
Slightly sweet and slightly spicy, these nuts are easy to prepare, and they make a great snack when guests gather for dinner.
Shrimp CocktailShrimp Cocktail
Like the basic black dress, this classic dish is always in style at cocktail parties. A bed of crushed ice makes an elegant presentation.
Crab and Cucumber CanapésCrab and Cucumber Canapés
These impressive little appetizers come together quickly, making them perfect for entertaining. The crisp, fresh cucumber slices contrast nicely with the sweet, rich crab.
Golden Beets with Smoked Trout and DillGolden Beets with Smoked Trout and Dill
Roast the beets ahead, and all you have to do is assemble these stacks before a party. Bites of smoked trout make them perfect for a special occasion.
Caramelized Onion and Apple Tarts with Gruyere and ThymeCaramelized Onion and Apple Tarts with Gruyere and Thyme
Store-bought puff pastry makes it easy to prepare these simple, pretty and delicious bites. Caramelized onions, apples and grated Gruyère cheese are ideal toppings for a winter soiree.
Dates Stuffed with Goat CheeseDates Stuffed with Goat Cheese
Here, sweet, rich dates are stuffed with tangy goat cheese and topped with crispy bread crumbs for a simple hors d’oeuvre. Hint: they pair wonderfully with a glass of bubbly!
Prosciutto-Wrapped Figs with St. AgurProsciutto-Wrapped Figs with St. Agur

Sweet dried figs, pungent blue cheese and crisp, salty prosciutto — these bites are full of different flavors and textures. Assemble ahead, and bake just before guests arrive.

 

Spicy Broccoli Rabe BruschettaSpicy Broccoli Rabe Bruschetta
Mild, pleasantly bitter broccoli rabe is delicious on top of simple toasts. Creamy ricotta cheese and spicy red pepper flakes add just the right complementary flavors.
Moroccan-Style MeatballsMoroccan-Style Meatballs
Mint, parsley, cinnamon and cumin give these mini meatballs a strong North African profile. Serve with lemon wedges and cocktail picks.
Mushroom TurnoversMushroom Turnovers
These turnovers are filled with earthy cremini mushrooms, nutty Gruyère cheese and fresh herbs for an earthy, hearty starter. Our filled pastry press simplifies prep work.

 

Drinks

 

For a 2 1/2-hour party, plan on serving:

  • Cocktails: 2 1/2 per person
  • Bubbly: 1 bottle for every 2-3 guests
  • Wine: 1 bottle for every 2 to 3 guests
  • Liquor: 1 quart or liter for every 10 to 12 guests
  • Water: 1 quart or liter for every 2 guests

 

Ready to get started? Learn everything you need to know about sparkling wines and holiday wines, or mix a couple of our favorite cocktails below!

 

MartiniMartini
This sophisticated cocktail never goes out of style. Add a touch of elegance by mixing the cocktails in a crystal Martini Mixer, ideal for serving drinks to a crowd.
Apple CidercarApple Cidercar
This drink makes a festive beginning to a holiday celebration, and it’s easy to make ahead — just prepare a big batch in the morning and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Cranberry MartinisCranberry Martinis
Here, the traditional martini is given a holiday hue with a splash of cranberry juice. A garnish of whole cranberries lends a fresh feel.
Spiced Hot ToddySpiced Hot Toddy
Who doesn’t love a hot toddy? This version gains a lovely flavor and aroma from toasted sesame oil, used in place of butter. We’ve also traded in the typical cinnamon, which can often be overpowering, for ginger and star anise.
Elderflower White CosmopolitanElderflower White Cosmopolitan
Elderflower lends a wonderful flavor to this cocktail, made with vodka, white cranberry juice and fresh lemon juice. It’s light and refreshing, perfect as an aperitif.
The Barn NailThe Barn Nail
Infusing simple syrups with herbs and spices makes cocktails unique. Here, a spiced honey syrup adds depth and warm flavor to a drink with whiskey and cherry liqueur.
Harvested AppleHarvested Apple
Calvados adds a hint of apple to this harvest-themed drink, making it perfect for toasting a seasonal feast. The recipe serves one but can easily be made in a larger batch.
Thyme for a DrinkThyme for a Drink
In this cocktail, we love the use of gin with Riesling and the citrus flavors of the soda mixed with thyme. A fresh thyme sprig makes a beautiful natural garnish.
Pomegranate Champagne CocktailPomegranate Champagne Cocktail
Enjoy a taste of winter with this festive bubbly drink, which is simple to make and impressive to serve.

 

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