Hosting Tips

How to Throw a Cocktail Party in an Hour

By Camille Styles
brie and fig spread

Confession: I’m really happy that we live in an age when we can get almost everything delivered at the tap of a smart phone button. As much as I actually enjoy grocery shopping (really I do), my current schedule makes leisurely trips to the market a thing of the past, and the ability to have my groceries show up on my doorstep has been lifesaving over this last year of juggling 2 babies and a busy work schedule. I’ve tried all the delivery options available in our area, and Shipt is my front-runner for a few reasons: same-day delivery in as soon as an hour, free delivery for orders over $35, and all the shoppers I’ve had so far have known how to pick produce the same way that I would have if I’d done it myself. To kick off our partnership, Shipt challenged me to throw a cocktail party and order everything from food to flowers to be delivered to my house… then prep it all in 60 minutes before guests showed up at the door. Click through the slides to see if I pulled it off.

*photography by Ashleigh Amoroso

Meeting up for happy hour is always a good idea, but once in awhile I like to make it feel a little more special by inviting a few friends to my place for drinks and sophisticated snacks.

I setup the spread on our side yard under a big oak tree that provides a nice dose of shade even in the August heat. Since the goal was to prep this party in under 60 minutes, my strategy centered around ordering some of my favorite prepared ingredients that can be quickly assembled into delicious hors d’oeuvres that feel fancy, but are actually ridiculously easy.

Even our decor came together in a flash! Both these gorgeous flowers and their colorful vessel came straight from the grocery store.

Creating this arrangement is simple:

  1. Empty the contents of your canned veggies into a tupperware for later use.
  2. Toss the aluminum top, and rinse the can thoroughly.
  3. Trim flower stems, then arrange your blooms until they’re just right!
  4. Fill the container with water.

Cheese spreads and cocktail parties go hand-in-hand, but you’d probably never guess that a cheese display this decadent can come together in less than 5 minutes…

To make this brie appetizer:

  1. Top a wheel of brie with sliced figs, cherries and candied walnuts.
  2. Garnish with fresh thyme.
  3. Drizzle with honey or balsamic vinegar if you like.
  4. Fan crackers around the cheese.

Getting this space party-ready required almost no planning. I just tossed a few more throw pillows onto our side yard furniture to make it extra inviting, and dressed up our outdoor coffee table with this gorgeous linen.

This mixed nuts snack is the kind of thing guests won’t be able to get enough of…

How to make your own thyme and sea salt mixed nuts:

  1. Decant mixed nuts from the grocery store bulk section into an oven-safe bowl.
  2. Top with fresh thyme and sea salt.
  3. Keep in the oven on low heat until guests arrive.

I save so much time these days by not having to go to the grocery store. Ordering from Shipt frees up at least a couple hours each week that I can instead spend doing something more fun, spending time with friends and family, or accomplishing other things on my to-do list. I even used the app when we were in Florida a couple weeks ago, and when we arrived at our condo, the shopper met us with everything we’d need to stock the kitchen for the week. Lifesaving!

For perhaps the most important menu item, I whipped up my favorite summer sangria recipe. By making a big batch of one cocktail, I don’t have to think about making drinks to order during party time… so I’m freed up to actually sip cocktails with my guests.

Click here to see how to make this Citrus Mint Sangria!

I’m obsessed with these ceramic plates and have been waiting for the right time to put them to use. They turned out to be the perfect fit for all the bite-sized apps at this cocktail party.

For something savory and a little more substantial, I served shrimp toasts. They’re made with just a few store-bought ingredients, but since they’re served in pristine little bites, they look like they came straight out of a caterer’s kitchen.

To make this shrimp toast appetizer:

  1. Lightly grill your shrimp (make sure you order it shelled and de-veined).
  2. Use a mandolin to thinly slice cucumber and radish.
  3. On a slice of toast spread a thin layer of mayonnaise. Then layer cucumber and radish on the bread and place a shrimp in each corner.
  4. Top each shrimp with a sprig of cilantro.
  5. Cut into quarters.

Voila! And there you have it: a fun and delicious cocktail party that takes less than 1 hour to prep — which means you don’t have to wait for the weekend to host a get-together for your friends. Why not set a date on the calendar for next month, place your grocery order that morning, then scoot home from work in time for a mid-week get-together?