How to Host a Successful Cocktail Party

After owning my own restaurant for 10 years with lots of successful catering, the closest I ever came to failure was a week out from the wedding I discovered it was for Friday not Saturday, a fairly serious miscommunication. After telling an industry friend about it she admitted she had a party that the invite advertised was a week wrong once, so here are some of my tips for successful cocktail parties. First of all make sure everyone has the same time and date correctly.

Catering for events is hard work and cooking is only part of it so there are a few tips I can give you. The biggest piece of advice is to be organised, so when your guests arrive you can enjoy their company without being stressed and pay for someone to help serve your gourmet delights and clean up the aftermath when everyone is finished.

The Frocks are out so the food should be easy to eat, no dripping bright red sauces and easy for ladies to pick up with a glass of bubbly in one hand. Enough food so those ravenous gentleman’s appetites are satisfied. Remember gluten free, wheat free, dairy free, vegetarian and religious restraints when inviting your guests and creating your menu, know dietary requirements and plan for them, have a backup plan for those who forget to tell you, but don’t forget to ask.

Plan your menu around seasonal produce so it doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg and plan for some foods to be cooked on a bbq outside under cover to create some atmosphere and get your guests away from the kitchen.

Most items you plan should be prepared up to two days before with only final garnishing and finishing off on the morning of your event. Some suggestions of things you can prepare in advance are:


  • Wild mushroom frittata (finish with shaved truffle on the day)
  • Boiled Quail eggs with 5 spice and pink himalayan salts (make 2 days before)
  • Charred asparagus with lime and basil vinaigrette (char and make dressing the day before)
  • Smoked organic chicken, salsa verde, labna (yoghurt cheese) crepe roulade (make, roll and set 2 days before and cut on the day)


  • Parmesan polenta, roast red pepper, rocket pesto (make parmesan polenta 2 days before, set, cut next day, roast red pepper, make pesto, assemble on the day) re-heat and serve
  • Confit spatchcock breast with sage and prosciutto (confit quail breast 2 days before in duck fat, after they are cooked wrap in sage leaf and pancetta) heat and serve on the day
  • BBQ mini chorizo sausages in mini rolls with green tomato relish for the hungry men at the end ( sausages pre-made, relish made 2 days before, rolls cut on the day)


Char grilled fruit skewers with (make the day before, chargrill on the day) chocolate fondue

You don’t have to make everything; there are some things that you can buy in readymade such as sushi and sashimi platters from the fish markets or a good local business. Deli items can be bought pre-made from good local delis. Make sure you transport them refrigerated and pick them up fresh bright and early on the day of your event. Just make sure you add some dishes that are different and give you the “WOW” factor,

The theatre of food is in the presentation, some tips to make your food look like works of art, contemporary, modern and delectable are:

  • Don’t over crowd the food, space food out on the platter and keep different varieties of canapés on separate platters, less is more
  • Gone are the doyleys, use things that are simple, minimalistic and in keeping with the dish to garnish the platter i.e. a Thai dish on a banana leaf, Sugarcane to set off a Tropical theme, A Spanish style quail dish on vine leaves, many of these items can be found at good grocers, Delis and some edible plants and flowers even in your own garden!

About Cassandra Austin

I joined the food service industry as a 15 year old, Women in the commercial kitchen were an anomaly 25 years later, I am a accomplished Chef, Consultant, Recipe developer, Culinary Judge, Women in the World association of chefs Societies Committee Member and Representative for the Pacific Rim Certified Food and Wellness Coach. I am committed to improving people’s life styles, networking and career opportunities for females struggling with health and general wellness “To be the best that you can be”.

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