Salt & Wind Travel

Last-Minute Holiday Cocktail Party

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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:

The Perfect Last-Minute Holiday Cocktail Party Menu @saltandwind

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:

Cocktails & Drinks

Cranberry Dark & Stormy Cocktail Recipe @saltandwind

Cranberry Sauce Dark & Stormy

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.

Spiced Cranberry Cinnamon Italian Soda Recipe @saltandwind

Spiced Cranberry Cinnamon Italian Soda

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 Recipe @saltandwind

Spiked Eggnog Italian Soda

We L-O-V-E a good Eggnog but don’t always have the foresight to make it happen. That’s when this rum-spiked Eggnog Italian Soda is a perfect choice!


Pear Cranberry Brie Mini Tartlets With Hot Honey Recipe @saltandwind

Pear, Cranberry, and Brie Mini Tartlets with Hot Honey Drizzle

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.

Speck-Wrapped Persimmon Recipe @saltandwind

Speck-Wrapped Persimmons With Balsamic Honey Glaze

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.

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus With Crispy Fried Sage Recipe @saltandwind

Roasted Butternut Squash Hummus with Crispy Fried Sage

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!

Mango Habanero Meatballs Recipe @saltandwind

Mango Habanero Cocktail Meatballs

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!

Honey Chipotle Meatballs Recipe @saltandwind

Honey Chipotle Cocktail Meatballs

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 Platter @saltandwind

Last Minute Cheese Plate

One way we’re always ready for last-minute entertaining? We keep the ingredients on hand for a basic cheese plate. Then, even if we don’t use them up with guests, we can eat them ourselves!


Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes Recipe @saltandwind

Peppermint Mocha Cupcake Bites

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 Holiday Cocktail Party @saltandwind

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!

How To Make A DIY Handcrafted Italian Soda Bar @saltandwind

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 Build A Holiday Floral Centerpiece @saltandwind

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). 

Store Bought Food For A Last Minute Holiday Party @saltandwind

Storebought Food

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

Tabletop Decor For A Last-Minute Holiday Party @saltandwind

Tabletop Decor

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
Mason Jars
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

Go stock up on all your cooking essentials, then head into the kitchen, make this, and share it with us by tagging @saltandwind and #swsociety on social!

How To Throw A Last-Minute Holiday Cocktail Party @saltandwindHow To Throw A Last-Minute Holiday Cocktail Party @saltandwind

Photos by Salt & Wind and This Mess Is Ours

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