Spontaneous Cocktail Party

I have a terrible track record with parties.  The more time/money/effort I put into a party, the less likely any of my guests are to show up.  My best parties have always been thrown together at the last possible minute.  Even if you’re the most impressive party planner ever, sometimes a completely spontaneous party that even you don’t know about until four hours before it starts can be a lot of fun.

To throw together a party on the fly, there are four main things to consider.

  • People will want to eat.
  • People will want to drink.  (Even if it’s a non-alcoholic party, people get thirsty.)
  • People will need to be entertained.
  • People will want to do this in relatively clean surroundings.

Combine parts one and two and allot about two hours of your four hours of prep time to get the food and drink ready.  This includes enough time to run to the store if you need to, but most of the party recipes here are simple and made from stuff you have in the pantry.   The goal of the impromptu party is to impress guests with your resourcefulness, not your budget.  The other two hours will be devoted to creating a party atmosphere.  Again, we’re going for quick, so these tips are not Martha.   The spontaneous hostess (or host) does not give a fat baby’s arm about dust on the door frame.  The spontaneous hostess (or host) is far too fabulous to clean the stuff only busybodies will see.

To quote my dearest friend, it’s not a party in Indiana until someone whips out a dish made from cream cheese.  We can do anything with cream cheese in Indiana.  Savory, salty, sweet, it doesn’t matter.  Cream cheese is the perfect party flavor vessel.  We’re going full Hoosier on this party, friends.  Those of you on the edges of the US can do all of this ironically and still be the cat’s pajamas.  Wear Indy 500 t-shirts, say you’re going to warsh your clothes and put some melk on your cereal and listen to John Cougar Mellencamp and Cole Porter.   Stage a Vonnegut read-aloud and be the ultimate in Hoosier hipster.  But back to cream cheese, your staple for the evening.  Indiana residents will have some in the fridge, the rest of you may need to buy some.

The Menu

Snowman Cheeseball and assorted crackers

Nachos of Distinction

Crudite platter (we call this a vegetable tray here.  In real America.)

Red Velvet snowballs

Raspberry Redneck Royales (cocktail)

Church Basement Punch (non-alcoholic)

Supplies To Dredge Up

Lots of small plates (I love these by CB2, they’re cheap and basic and go with anything.)

Dessert forks

Cookie sheets

Serving platters (In a pinch, cover a piece of cardboard in foil, attach a piece of wax or parchment paper with tape loops for ease of serving)

Mini and regular cupcake pans

Punch bowl (be creative. Hollow out a pumpkin, use a mixing bowl, whatever you’ve got that can hold a gallon or so.)




Snowman Cheeseball

3 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (16 ounces)
2 tablespoons basil pesto
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard
2 drops red pepper sauce
1 container (4 ounces) whipped cream cheese, softened

Step 1: Mix the cream cheese (soften to room temp first) and cheddar cheese and divide into three equal sections.

Step 2: Put two sections together in one bowl and add basil pesto, stir well and set aside.

Step 3: Mix mustard, onion and pepper sauce in with the smaller cheese blob.

Step 4: Shape the two blobs into balls and place on a cookie sheet or serving platter lined with wax paper.  The smaller blob is the snowman’s head, the larger ball is his body.

Step 5: Chill for about 15 minutes

Step 6: “frost” the snowman with the whipped cream cheese and decorate with olives, vegetables and whatnot to make it look cute.  Bacon makes a great scarf.

Step 7: Serve with assorted crackers.

Nachos of Distinction

1 pound ground beef, browned and drained, then seasoned with taco seasoning
Grated cheese
Jalapeno or other pepper slices
Taco sauce or salsa
Sturdy tortilla corn chips
Can of refried beans
Sour cream

Step 1: Heat the refried beans

Step 2: Place a baking cooling rack on a cookie sheet lined with foil

Step 3: Place chips in a single layer on top of cooling rack

Step 4: Dot individual chips with meat, beans, a pinch of shredded cheese and a pepper slice

Step 5: Turn on broiler and pop tray underneath until cheese melts and bubbles.

Step 6: Add a dollop of salsa/red sauce and/or sour cream on top of each nacho

Step 7: Carefully transfer to serving platter OR individual plates.

Vegetable Tray

Veggies + some sort of dip.  Like falling off a log.

Red Velvet Snowballs

1 1/3 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 stick softened unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar


8 ounce package cream cheese
4 tablespoons unsalted softened butter
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut

Step 1: Oil and flour cupcake pan, preheat oven to 350°

Step 2: Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder

Step 3: Cream butter and sugar

Step 4: Mix in eggs one at a time

Step 5: Mix in buttermilk, vinegar, food coloring and vanilla

Step 6: Slowly add the flour mix and stir gently until blended

Step 7: Pour batter into cupcake pan until about 2/3 full.

Step 8: Bake for 18-22 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the cakes comes out clean.

Step 9: Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove from pan to cool on a rack

Step 10: When completely cool, slice the tops off of each cupcake and flip the bottom over onto a small plate, flat edge down.  Save the tops, that’s good cake for snakin’

Step 11: Mix cream cheese, vanilla, butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.

Step 12: Use a spatula to frost each cake on the tops and sides.

Step 13:  Roll or sprinkle each cake in/with shredded coconut.   Fancy!

Church Basement Punch

2 liter bottle of ginger ale
1 quart citrus juice (pineapple, orange, grapefruit blends are all great)
1 quart fruit sherbet

Step one: If you’re feeling really fancy, freeze a second bottle of ginger ale in cool shaped cubes or a jello mold/bundt cake pan.  Put in the bottom of whatever you’re using as a punch bowl.  If you don’t want to do this step, that’s totally cool and you can skip it.

Step 2: Scoop all the sherbet into the bowl.

Step 3: Pour juice and ginger ale on top

Step 4: Serve

Raspberry Redneck Royales

Cheap champagne, with a lower case ‘c’ which means it’s not real.  If you can afford the real stuff, go for it!

Bottle of raspberry liquor like Chambord

Drizzle half a jigger of raspberry liquor into the bottom of a Champagne flute

If you want, drop in an actual raspberry

Pour champagne on top

Pretty! Also, potent.  Don’t drink too many, they go down easy and hit you hard.

The Entertainment

If you’re going with the Hoosier theme, you’re going to want to learn how to play Euchre.  It’s a card game, it’s a distant, distant cousin of both spades and bridge.  Throw on a playlist (the mixtape of the aughts) and you’re good to go.  Get a few Redneck Royales into your rowdiest friends and they’ll provide plenty of entertainment as well.

The It’ll Do Five Step Clean

1. Do the dishes

2. Run the vacuum

3. Clean the bathroom people will use, especially the mirror and the toilet.  Make sure there’s soap and clean hand towels.  Fold the toilet paper on the roll into a point or some other sort of origami.

4. Light scented candles and open a window

5. Spot clean hard floors, counters and furniture.

Image Credit

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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