The key part of a cocktail party is, of course, the cocktails, but the food accompanying the beverages can be just as important. Depending on your budget, time constraints and cooking abilities, you can choose to have your cocktail party catered or do it yourself.
If you choose to hire a catering service you will have a lot more time to mingle and concentrate on your guests, especially if you have butler service. Ask around for trusted caterers in your area. Most companies will supply you with many choices of canapés, hors d'oeuvres and appetizers, try to have a good balance of hot and cold food trays. Find a caterer that keeps up with food trends instead of offering the same old wings and stuffed mushrooms.
Do-It-Yourself Appetizers and Nibbles
Instead of settling for chips and dips, serve bowls of wasabi peas and spiced nuts, which pair well with cocktails. Another good option is hummus with toasted pita wedges or thin, toasted baguette slices. A homemade bruschetta accompanied with a platter of roasted vegetables like asparagus, zucchini and roma tomatoes or whatever veggies you like is usually a crowd pleaser. Endive leaves make a good portable wrap for cream cheese mixed with finely chopped olives or any type of shrimp or crab salad.
Hot Hors D'Oeuvres
Grab some of those tiny potatoes in the produce section and drizzle them with some salt, pepper and olive oil, pop them in the oven until they are done. Right before you serve them open them up and stuff them with a teaspoon of a mixture of bacon bits and diced tomatoes or feta cheese and black olives, there are probably many good ideas you can come up with to make a variety of fillings for baby baked potatoes. Usually anything wrapped in bacon is a big hit such as marinated scallops, water chestnuts or shrimp. Find a recipe for macaroni and cheese that you think is great but instead of making a casserole use mini muffin pans for just a bite-size taste.
Seasoned and savory dishes are usually the main event (besides the cocktails) but you should offer a small variety of sweet treats as well. Slices of pear with soft goat cheese on a cracker or crostini is light and delicious especially when drizzled with honey. Cup-sized lemon or chocolate meringues are hard to pass up. Strawberries, long-stemmed cherries and orange slices partially dipped in chocolate never seem to go to waste. Cheesecakes flavored with liqueurs like amaretto or hazelnut are a good accompaniment with most cocktails -- just cut your slices small and thin or use small muffin tins to bake them in.
Advice on Portions
According to Food and Wine magazine you should count eight servings of your hors d'oreuves per hour per person; this is suggested for parties where no meal is served. Cocktail parties and dinner parties are two separate occasions; cocktail parties are usually for mingling and socializing, not a sit-down meal.