Planning the Perfect Menu: Peter’s Cocktail Hour How To Tips & Tricks

  • burgers and frites peter callahan bite by bite

    I’m asked all the time what the perfect menu is for a cocktail reception.  Specifically, the ratio of passed hors d’oeuvres, hot and cold, to stationary food displays, bars and cocktail presentations.  (and then there’s that whole tapas, mini plate thing which is a whole other story).  But what I can tell you, is that you can never go wrong with having too much!

    Here are some of my pointers and tips on building your cocktail party set list:

      • Plan on a minimum of four to six passed hors d’oeuvres per person, per hour.
      • Offer an equal split of beef, poulty, seafood and vegetarian.  (and don’t forget to offer several that are gluten-free!)
      • Serve a good balance of decadent bites, such as Lobster Rolls, Pheasant Under Glass, Mac & Cheese Canapes; and light savories, such as Vegetable Spring Rolls, Wine & Cheese, Caprese Tea Sandwiches.
      • Balance warm hors d’oeuvres selections with cold ones but keep in mind the season in which you are entertaining.  For instance, in the middle of January more hot hors d’oeuvres are appreciated than cold ones.
      • Make sure to offer passed, pre-poured drinks on trays (which helps alleviate heavy traffic at bars and gets everyone merry as soon as they walk in the door).
      • Set up full-service cocktail bars ahead of time and and make sure they’re well-stocked with appropriate glassware, liquors, mixers, ice and garnishes.  (not to mention a cutting board, knives, shaker, toothpicks, bar towel and cocktail napkins).
      • Display stationary foods in stylish containers to make anything look visually appealing.  Frankly, I’m not a huge fan of most as they can be can be messy and mundane. But some delicious cheeses, a selection of caviar or an updated charcuterie are classics that do no wrong in my book!

    {Mini Burgers + Frites, Photo by Ross Whitaker}



    November 9th, 2011

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