I'm having an after dinner cocktail party, and am running into conflicting info on how much food to serve 25-30 people. Ideas?

It will be a mix of savory and sweet -- was leaning towards heavier on the savory, but would love to hear your thoughts on this as well.

  • Posted by: Esvee
  • December 5, 2014


Bevi December 7, 2014
These are great holiday bites. You can make them ahead, freeze them, and then reheat for 10 minutes just before serving. I made them for Thanksgiving and will make them today for Xmas Eve. http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1015716-cranberry-cheddar-gougeres
SKK December 7, 2014
Seems you want a gathering where guests can hang out and meet one another and have great conversations. The question you asked, as I heard it, is how much food to serve for 25-30 people, then you said a mix of savory and sweet, leaning towards heavier on the savory. The cooks that responded with recipes gave you great ideas. And cocktails at the hour you are serving seem to call for savory. Bravo on inviting people to such a great party! Last night attended an event from 6 - 8 p.m. A few sweets, mostly savories. About 60 people attended, coming from work or wherever. Most people had not eaten, and those that had certainly did not have a 'sit down dinner'. A bartender prepared the cocktails, there was a menu to order from - 4 cocktails, and wine, soft drinks and beer. It was great.
sexyLAMBCHOPx December 6, 2014
If you have a chafing dish cocktail or Swedish meatballs can be made ahead and are delicious. I know its old school but I do like crudité, cheese & meat platters for cocktail parties. Nut mixes as well. Lots of make-ahead appetizers on the site, check the best open house contest.
Bevi December 6, 2014
I think some of your guests may expect savory items. Here are 2 I always serve: https://food52.com/recipes/8010-fig-and-blue-cheese-savouries
Both recipes can be easily doubled for a party. And you can use any type of jam you prefer, or an assortment of jams for a really pretty effect for the blue cheese savories.
And this is a divine shortbread that is nothing short of wonderful : http://thesolitarycook.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/salted-lavender-rosemary-shortbread/

mbobden November 18, 2021
Bevi, if you are still keeping up with this activity, I just found this post and will make these lavender shortbread cookies. I am reading mixed info on english vs french lavender for baking although most lavender that I see online is french. Do you have a suggest as to which I should seek out? Thank you.
ChefJune December 6, 2014
Whenever I host a cocktail-type party, whatever the hour, I always have a one-pot meal on the back burner (think red beans and rice type) for those who need something heartier, or the late-stayers.
nutcakes December 6, 2014
That's a very good suggestion, especially for this situation, which wouldn't be after dinner for me either. I would expect food at 7!
Pegeen December 5, 2014

Esvee, you know your "guest profile" better than we do. Do you think most go home from work at 5pm or 6pm and always eat dinner, or will the majority work in the office until the last minute and show up at the cocktail party, hoping for enough appetizers to satisfy hunger and offset the free drinks? :-)

Also, are these items "passed" by a server or on a table? (People eat less when items are on a table, because some guests become piggy and hover around the food tables, making it harder for other people to get at the food.

So, if you think most will have eaten dinner, offer more sweet one-bites and fewer savories. But if you think this is going to be dinner for most attendees, then the opposite: more savories, fewer sweets. Especially if you have an open bar. By the time the guests have eaten 5-7 savories (that would be my estimate) with a few drinks, they are not as interested in dessert.

Hope your event goes very well!
klrcon December 5, 2014
I don't even get off work until 7 and in today's world where the 9-5 routine has gone the way of the dodo, I don't think I'm the only one. So for me and perhaps some of your guests, it wouldn't be after dinner at all - it would be dinner. So my advice would be to offer one or two heartier snacks, perhaps a quiche or some kind of tart or even something like tea sandwiches, so that those folks will have something substantial to fill up on. Then fill in with finger foods and more traditional appetizers like veggies and dip, cheese, fruit, nuts and some sweets and coffee for those who have had dinner. That way you meet everyone's needs, no one has to starve while drinking (which can lead to unnecessary drama), and hopefully everyone has a good time.
Good luck - I hope you have a blast.
inpatskitchen December 5, 2014
Take a look here: https://food52.com/contests/265_your_best_onebite_party_snack
Since we don't eat dinner until after 7:00 pm I would go with a lot of little snacks and a dessert table for those who have already had dinner. Figure about 5 to 6 one bite snacks per person and maybe cookies and/or brownies for dessert. With that many people try to do as much make-ahead as possible and keep it simple.
bigpan December 5, 2014
I would suggest after dinner cocktails since it is an after-dinner cocktail party.
Offer an after dinner punch featuring a liqueur base, and a couple martini offerings. Perhaps one can be caramel sea/salt vodka and another a raspberry/chocolate martini.
As for food, a nice platter of chocolate truffles and a cheese platter with more heart tastings like Stilton etc.
Victoria September 18, 2016
In dry counties you have to get drinks at private homes after dinner. Nuts and mints should be enough.
Esvee December 5, 2014
The invites have already been sent out, so let's just call it a party that starts at 7. After dinner for most. There will be drinks (cocktails, but also wine and beer) and small bites. Thanks for your help!
Meaghan F. December 5, 2014
Oh! That makes a HUGE difference... I think people responded the way they did because, with the wording of the original post, it could be interpreted that it was a given your guests had already eaten. I'd assume your guests will either have a late lunch or a snack around 4-5pm, so will still have some appetite; avoid anything too heavy, though, or you're likely to have some guests slipping into "food comas." Have an appetizing nut mix or some fried chickpeas on hand to munch on, plus some warm one-bite apps: bacon-wrapped dates, spiced shrimp skewered with artichokes or tomatoes or something, balsamic roasted cippolini onions... Lots of great options. Definitely include coffee and dessert though. Bonus if you can plan things that store well, in the worst-case scenario that you're stuck with tons of leftovers.
kimhw December 5, 2014
I would do a few dessert bites, fruit, cheese and drinks.
ChefJune December 5, 2014
I cannot imagine a cocktail party after dinner. Not sure what savories I'd include other than a cheese platter. Not very many desserts are UN-sweet enough for Champagne to compliment them.
Susan W. December 5, 2014
Dessert and champagne would be perfect. Maybe a charcuterie platter for those people who didn't eat for whatever reason.
irina December 5, 2014
Yes it does sound strange. Could it be a dessert party? A dessert table and champagne?
I wouldn't do savory after dinner. They already had their savory.
Randi T. December 5, 2014
An after dinner cocktail party sounds a tad strange... people won't want to eat and not savory after dinner... hey, I just had meat, veggies and salad and now what???
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