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‘Tis the season to gather and entertain!
And though planning something involved is fun, we like the last-minute parties just as much. The key is in the preparation! That’s why we threw a last-minute cocktail party for this latest Friends Who Fete party, and we’re sharing every last detail!
Meg of This Mess Is Ours, and I drove up to Kate of Hola! JALAPEÑO!‘s house to throw a low-key but totally gorgeous party in her Central California Coast home. We came armed with loads of food (of course!), lots of flowers, and some liquor and started the party. We store-bought many items to make prep go faster, got the invitees involved in the party itself, and even had quick but gorgeous florals. Here’s a look into it all:
Holiday Cocktail Menu
Yes, the idea of this party is that it’s very much last minute. As in, invite friends over and have them arrive a few hours later. Even so, we wanted a stand-out menu. The key is a menu based on store-bought ingredients, but each is customized for classy and serious flavor. Here’s the full menu:
- Cranberry Sauce Dark & Stormy || This Mess Is Ours
- Spiced Cranberry Cinnamon Italian Soda || Salt & Wind
- Pear, Cranberry, and Brie Mini Tartlets with Hot Honey Drizzle
- Speck-Wrapped Persimmons With Balsamic Honey Glaze
- Roasted Butternut Hummus with Crispy Fried Sage || This Mess Is Ours
- Mango Habanero Cocktail Meatballs | ¡Hola! JALAPEÑO!
- Honey Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs || ¡Hola! JALAPEÑO!
- Peppermint Mocha Cupcake Bites || ¡Hola! JALAPEÑO!
Cocktails & Drinks
This is an easy seasonal twist on a Dark & Stormy by mixing a store-bought Cranberry Orange Relish with freshly-squeezed mandarin juice, ginger beer, and rum.
Think of this as a wintry take on Italian soda loaded with homemade cranberry simple syrup, Torani Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup, club soda, and ice.
Spiked Eggnog Italian Soda
We’ve all had that classic holiday appetizer of cranberry brie bites, yes? Well, here we modernize it with just 5 minutes extra cooking time by adding in sage-scented pears, pomegranate seeds, and a hot honey garnish.
We don’t know about you, but we can never get enough of prosciutto and melon in our lives. When the melon is no longer in season, we switch to persimmons and top it with this inky sweet-tart balsamic honey glaze.
This time of year, we constantly roast off some butternut squash and use it in everything from our soups to dips. Here it gets whirred together with classic hummus ingredients!
Yes, you could buy store-bought meatballs, warm them up, and leave it at that. Or you could take a couple more minutes and toss them in this Mango Habanero Jelly for a sweet-spicy cocktail meatball!
If Habanero is just too hot (or you want a few options), you will also want to make these honey chipotle meatballs. We so adore the sauce; we could (and just might) put it on everything in sight!
Last Minute Cheese Plate
It’s not a holiday party, in our opinion, until some peppermint gets involved. This super simple mocha cupcake is topped with whipped cream and crushed peppermint for a nostalgic take on dessert.
Tips For A Last-Minute Cocktail Party
To us, a last-minute party is one where you can invite friends in the morning and have them over that very night. The key is to be organized and choose what you want to be the focus of your party. Oh, and even though it’s last-minute, our go-to entertaining tips still very much apply. Here are a few other tips we learned when throwing this last-minute cocktail party:
Keep Your Pantry Well Stocked
We say this over and over because we mean it: the easiest way to entertain is to keep a well-stocked kitchen. We always have things that we like to snack on but can also double as items for a cheese platter (think quality olives, nuts, charcuterie, dried fruit, and cheeses), so we know at least one piece of the menu will be a cinch to put together.
Use Storebought Ingredients
True, we rarely use prepared foods or processed snacks on this site, and we’re not doing that here. Instead of opting for the pre-made quiche bites with who knows what ingredients, we buy things like pre-cooked squash and meatballs and amp them up with a few minutes of cooking.
Make A Simple Floral Centerpiece
Florals and music make a party setting go from drab to gorgeous in seconds flat. But when you’re throwing a last-minute party, doing some bespoke arrangement is unrealistic. Instead, we turned our florals into table runners for a standout centerpiece that took minutes to put together.
Have A Conversation-Starting Drink
Okay, in addition to those flowers and music, the other thing that makes a party special is a custom drink. We made this super simple twist on Dark & Stormy because the classic is a crowd-pleaser, and this version is totally unexpected.
Have Your Guests DIY
Finally, there’s no shame in having your guests do some of the work. But instead of making it a potluck, we say have them make their own drinks. You can have a signature cocktail, or, if you have more time, make the Handcrafted Soda Bar below!
Handcrafted Soda Bar
Just because you’re throwing a party the same day you invite everyone doesn’t mean it can’t be special. Adding a handcrafted soda bar is an easy way to make it interesting. We stocked ours with all sorts of Torani syrups and then put ingredients out for guests to DIY handcrafted sodas. For all the details, check out this How To Make A Handcrafted Soda Bar For Your Next Party.
How To Florals
Even though it’s a last-minute cocktail party, we didn’t skip florals for this party. Instead, we made them more laidback by using the florals as a table runner centerpiece. The one pictured here comprises sugarbush flowers, seeded eucalyptus, and grevillea ivanhoe (all of which are available at most major grocery stores this time of year, FYI).
Here are the items we turned to in order to make this party happen!
Fat Uncle Farms Rosemary Blistered Almonds
Sartori Espresso Cheese
Dried California Apricots
La Quercia Speck Americano
The Fillo Factory Mini Fillo Pastry Shells
Torani Eggnog Syrup
Torani Brown Sugar Cinnamon Syrup
Cuties Tangerine Juice
Trader Joe’s Cranberry Orange Relish
Trader Joe’s Sweetened Dried Orange Slices
Cheddar & Parmesan Brazi Bites
Nature’s Rancher Angus Beef Meatballs
Mrs. G’s Mango Ginger Habanero Jelly
La Costeña Chipotle Sauce
Stauffer’s Gingerbread Iced Cookies
This time we went with a white, gold, and terracotta slash cranberry color scheme, and here are the tabletop pieces that made it come together:
Flameless Pillar Candles
Starry String Lights
Mini White Cake Stand
WRF Lab Ceramic Dinnerware
Gold Flatware Set
Flora Poste Shibori Essex Linen Napkins
Juliska Whitewash Cocktail Plates
Japanese Yarai Cocktail Mixing Glass
Copper Bartender Set
Stainless Steel Straws
Industrial Wood and Metal Tray
Photos by Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours