As sad as it is to admit, some of the best parties that have happened in out house have been unplanned. I love the planning aspect and can spend a whole lazy evening on Pinterest looking at photos of novelty appetizers and fun cocktail recipes. I LOVE planning.
With that said, most of the time our parties are impromptu! We love inviting people over, and it’s a joke that we have guests staying at our house every other weekend (a joke that is sometimes true!).
After a particularly stressful quickie party a year ago (I’m talking thirty minutes to prepare a hang out for ten people starting with nothing), I learned to keep a few things on hand. A “just in case” stash if you will.
Party foods you can keep on hand:
3. Quick pasta. It’s sometimes hard to gauge how much food to serve at a party, or what guests will be interested in eating. Quick pastas are a great backup plan. My other go-to (for Autumn parties) is chili because I can keep all the ingredients I need for a veggie chili in my cupboard. At one party I made a GIANT pot and the whole thing was gone in an hour.
4. Special Ice Cream. My all-time favorite ice cream is Brown Butter Almond Brittle, but I also love picking out a bunch of Ben & Jerry’s flavors for a party. At one party I bought a bunch of pints from our local favorite Elle’s. It’s easy and who doesn’t love ice cream?
*Bonus points if you keep chocolate syrup, maraschino cherries and sprinkles on hand.
5. Nuts. Jeremy and I always keep lots of nuts in our house since it’s one of our favorite snacks, and I think they’re a great component for a quick, but beautiful, cheese tray.
6. Fancy Crackers. We have a local wine shop where we love to shop for all things party related. One of my favorite things to buy a big variety of is fancy crackers. Since they come in all shapes, sizes and flavors, it’s fun to get a variety, and they make a cheese plate look more legit.
7. Cookies. There is much debate about tube cookies, but Didier and I both agree that they CAN be delicious. Tube cookies are a good back up plan too. One night we had friends over to watch The Bachelor, and I did fancy popcorn with tube cookies. It was perfect (I like chocolate chip, Didier likes the slice-and-bake with the pictures inside). I’m also a fan of Milano cookies for a quick, but pretty treat!
8. Chocolate Fondue Fixins. Raise your hand if you hate fondue? (I see no hands raised.) Fondue is a great party food! Keeping the ingredients for a quick chocolate fondue is a great idea. I typically like it with fresh fruits, but you can also serve it with pretzels, marshmallows or little cake bites.
9. Fancy Popcorn. OK, popcorn is one of my top 5 favorite foods. I know it’s weird, but I love it so much that I can’t enjoy the movie theater without it, and I am very bitter that a popcorn shop opened in our mall (too much temptation). I like to cook it with oil in a pot on the stovetop (old school just like my grandpa), and for parties my father-in-law gifted us a GIANT popcorn machine (think high school basketball game size) for Christmas one year! My favorite ways to “fancy up” popcorn (that you can keep in stock) are adding parmesan cheese and pepper, tossing it in truffle oil, or adding cinnamon and sugar.
10. Olives. Buy olives in sealed jars and packages that you can keep for a while before opening. These make great treats all on their own, or you can mix them into a cheese spread. My husband is a HUGE olive lover, so an olive plate is always sure to please in our home.
Party drinks you can keep on hand:
OK, we’re moving along to drinks and mixers. These are things that you can stock now and use for impromptu parties or date nights at home. Some of these ingredients are random, so I’ll try to list off how I would use each one in multiple ways!
1. Champagne and frozen fruit. For life’s little celebrations! My favorite fruit to add to champagne is frozen raspberries, but any berries will do. I also love it with cranberry juice. During the holidays every year I make a few trays of champagne ice cubes and serve them with juice. It’s really good (basically turns into a slushy!).
2. Fun beer. Even if you’re not a beer drinker (which my husband and I usually are not), it’s good to keep a small stash for parties because there are a lot of people who only or mostly want to drink beer. Bonus points if you go to a special shop (most wine and liquor shops) and grab a random variety of beers that are either locally made or made around the world. That makes you look cool even if you know nothing about beer!
3. Fruit juices (buy single serve bottles or cans). It’s helpful to have a variety of juices on hand, and if you buy single serve bottles or cans, they can last you through several parties. I mostly keep cranberry (for any party), orange juice (for brunch parties) and grapefruit juice.
4. Mixers (again, single serve bottles are most practical). We normally just keep tonic water (for gin + tonics, which for some reason is the go-to in our group of friends), ginger ale and ginger beer. Ginger ale is useful for mixing with liquor (like rum or whiskey) if you don’t want to keep a ton of sodas in your home. Ginger beer is for (another favorite in our circle of friends). Both ginger ale and ginger beer are great for making , which you always want to be prepared to do. Club Soda is also useful for making low calorie drinks.
5. Wine. You don’t have to keep a giant stash, but I always like to have a few extra bottles for bigger parties because you never know how many “wine people” are going to be there. It’s nice because it’s a self-serve thing too. If you’re not a wine person, I would recommend getting a variety—a Moscato (sweet and easy to drink), a dry red wine and a dry white wine. I personally favor red wine, so we always have a little extra incase we run low on other things.
6. Spirits. I wrote a giant post about last year that has a ton of information about the basic spirits and what you can make from them. These collections should last you a while, and I personally think they are really pretty too. I always keep in stock vodka, gin and whiskey (most common and easy to make cocktails with), a bottle of Scotch (It should last a while. If you’ve never bought Scotch, try Glenlivit 12 year (it’s not crazy expensive and a lot of different Scotch drinkers like it). We also love Ron Zacapa, which is a rum that’s really good served just with ice.
The only rule I would really suggest when it comes to buying spirits is to stay away from flavored stuff until you have a good collection of basics built up since they are more versatile.
7. Straws and swizzle sticks. Stock up on paper straws (I also buy them on Etsy) and fun garnishes like swizzle sticks. Or you can ! Wine glass markers are a good idea as well.
8. Fancy ice cubes. It’s straight up silly how impressed my guests are by our and . All you have to do is buy the trays and it’s super easy to keep these around for parties.
9. Syrups and bitters. These are fun to collect, they look cool in your home bar, and they last a long time. Most of my bitters are from and . I usually make my own syrups (super easy—learn how , and then customize them with any flavor), but for pre-made syrups, my favorites are ( their packaging is really pretty!).
10. Kahlúa. Didier insisted I include Kahlúa for White Russians, and Bushwackers (which is basically a boozy milkshake, and according to Didier, “the ultimate hot tub drink”). Sounds fun for summer!
Now, these are just ideas. I don’t actually keep every single one of these items in our home at all times (I’m not Martha Stewart…), but I do have enough to throw a pretty decent cocktail party on the fly, pop a bottle of champagne or make the yummiest popcorn ever!
Cheers to those sneak-up-on-you surprise parties. They’re usually the most fun. xx! Helen
Credits// Author: Helen Larson. Photography: Laura Gummerman and Janae Hardy. Photos edited with .