How to Host a Holiday Cocktail Party (With Cocktail Party Recipes!)

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From hot mulled wine and bubbly spritzers to creamy cheese dips and grilled oysters, we’ve gathered up all our favorite cocktail party essentials. Whether you are hosting a New Year’s bash or simply sipping at home, there is sure to be a drink or a cocktail party appetizer to please everyone.

Three Ginger Beer cocktails made with pomegranate juice
These pomegranate spritzers are sure to bring some sparkle to your party

So you’ve finished binging your favorite 60’s drama (hellooo Mad Men) and now you’re ready to host your very own cocktail party. Hooray! We’ve got you covered from the drinks to the best cocktail party recipe ideas.

Cocktail Party Planning

You need to make sure you balance time with guests and time to socialize during the event. So plan your menu with just a couple of each items.

First things first: booze. So that you actually have time to talk to your guests (and not just be the bartender) we recommend choosing 2-3 cocktails and pre-mixing them in pitchers or carafes. Try picking:

  • 1 drink with a light liquor (gin, vodka, light rum)
  • 1 with a dark liquor (bourbon or whiskey)
  • 1 with bubbles (you can rarely go wrong with bubbles)

That way everyone will have a drink they can jive with. Plan on serving 1 drink per person per hour. Don’t forget to have a non-alcoholic drink option on hand as well.

For cocktail appetizers plan a combination of cocktail appetizers you can make in advance and cook during the party. Below we mention portions. That way you can pull some things out of the oven with minimal need to prepare or clean up.


It goes without saying, having a few well curated wines goes a long way. When it comes to ease and accommodating a wide range of palates, keep the budget around $30 (or less) per bottle. It is a special party. And if you are wondering what styles to have: sparkling wine, Chardonnay, and a red Zinfandel are all great options and very versatile with food (not to mention they cater to a wide variety of palates).

Holiday Cocktail Recipes

Make a pitcher (or crock pot!) of these festive cocktails so you can spend more time mingling.

Two Apple Cider Mimosas
5 from 1 vote

Apple Cider Mimosa Recipe

Fresh apple cider plus sparkling wine for the perfect apple cider cocktail. This will be your go-to fall cocktail.
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5 from 1 vote

Mulled Wine Recipe

Mulled Wine is a comforting festive drink made from a blend of red wine, spices, and citrus, served warm. This holiday classic recipe is easy to make and is a great cocktail for winter parties.
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Ginger Pomegranate Spritz in glass.
5 from 1 vote

Ginger Pomegranate Cocktail

Ginger Pomegranate Spritz is a loose take on a classic cocktail. This refreshing drink is made with ginger beer, pomegranate flavored Italian soda, fresh lime, vodka, and some fresh herbs. It's the perfect refreshing holiday cocktail this season.
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Pomegranate Mimosa
4.60 from 5 votes

Pomegranate Mimosa

A delicious and festive Pomegranate Mimosa made with sparkling wine, Cointreau, and pomegranate juice. The perfect champagne cocktail recipe for holiday parties!
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Spiked Hot Apple Cider
4.43 from 83 votes

Bourbon Spiked Hot Apple Cider Recipe

A soothing and comforting spiked apple cider made with Bourbon. Can be served warm or cold over ice. 
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Bourbon Cocktails with Lemon Simple Syrup
5 from 2 votes

Bourbon Cocktail Recipe with Grilled Lemon Simple Syrup

Grilled lemons infused into a simple syrup and mixed with bourbon and bitters. A great summer cocktail.
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Cocktail Party Appetizers

On to the food! Like with drinks, the name of the game is to do as much as you can in advance. Dips and nuts can be prepared the day before. Meatballs can be kept warm in a crock pot throughout the party.

How many appetizers should you make?

No need to make every recipe on our list. Choose your favorites and try making 3-4 different appetizers with enough for each person to average 12 bites. (Plan on more per person if being served in lieu of a meal.)

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail served with a Spicy Sriracha Cocktail Sauce
5 from 3 votes

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail with Sriracha Cocktail Sauce

Grilled Shrimp Cocktail features a Spicy Sriracha Cocktail Sauce that is easily adaptable. Perfect for cookouts, parties, and holidays!
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A platter of jalapeño poppers stuffed with brie cheese and wrapped with prosciutto on a white plate
5 from 3 votes

Jalapeño Poppers Recipe with Brie and Prosciutto

A cheese board meets jalapeño poppers with creamy brie cheese, savory and salty prosciutto with a touch of cherry jam.
Chestnuts roasting over a grill
4.80 from 5 votes

Roasted Chestnuts over Open Fire

An easy recipe for roasting chestnuts over an open fire of charcoal or embers.
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Grilled Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates on a platter
5 from 7 votes

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Dates with Honey and Goat Cheese

Stuffed with goat cheese, these dates are then wrapped with bacon and then grilled over direct heat. These dates are finished with a smoked honey glaze and create the very best finger food at any party.
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Smoked Meatballs with a Cranberry and Red Wine Sauce
5 from 1 vote

Smoked Cranberry Meatballs in a Cranberry Red Wine Sauce

A simple, delicious, and elegant appetizer idea for the holidays. Smoked meatballs made with pork and beef, cooked on the smoker, and then braised in a sweet and savory cranberry wine sauce.
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Baked Brie dip with crostini.
4.49 from 25 votes

Grilled Baked Brie with Wine and Thyme

Grilled brie wheel with white wine and thyme served with grilled crostini.
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Smoked Salmon Dip with crostini in a cup.
4.86 from 7 votes

Smoked Salmon Dip Recipe

A delicious appetizer recipe for smoked salmon dip made with salmon cooked on a smoker, then mixed into a creamy indulgent dip. This is a great smoked salmon appetizer for any occasion. Includes wine pairings.
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Smoked almonds in a dish with sea salt.
5 from 3 votes

Smoked Almonds

Roasting almonds using a low and slow method to get an amazing smoky flavor and crunch. We add a touch of extra virgin olive oil and kosher salt to finish.
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A serving platter of smoked and stuffed sausage mushrooms.
4.67 from 9 votes

Smoked Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe

An easy and elegant recipe for Smoked Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms. Smoked sausage adds incredible flavor to this favorite holiday party appetizer.
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Lodge cast iron baking dish with baked goat cheese, mushrooms, and crostini.
5 from 2 votes

Goat Cheese Dip Recipe with Shiitake Mushrooms

Goat Cheese Dip with Shiitake Mushrooms combines cream cheese and goat cheese with savory shiitake mushrooms and is baked and finished with spicy pickled peppers, tomatoes, and more mushrooms. Creamy, savory, and delicious!
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A sheet pan full of Smoked Candied Nuts
5 from 1 vote

Smoked Candied Nuts Recipe with Bourbon Glaze

A slowly smoked mix of pecans, almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts finished with a sweet and decadent butter, brown sugar, and bourbon glaze.
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A platter of Grilled Oysters
4.45 from 18 votes

Grilled Oysters with White Wine Butter Sauce

How to grill oysters in the half shell with a herb wine butter sauce.
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Beef skewers on a cutting board with cranberry relish.
5 from 1 vote

Wine Marinated Beef Skewers

Using a red wine marinade and easy dry rub for these delicious grilled steak skewer recipe.
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About Mary

I'm Mary, a wine/food/travel writer, Certified Sommelier, mom of twins, former vegetarian turned BBQ fanatic, runner, founder of Vindulge, and author of Fire + Wine cookbook. Thanks for stopping by!

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