If you want to throw a memorable cocktail party, you'll need some exciting dessert ideas. Cocktail party lore credits Mrs. Julius Walsh of St. Louis, Missouri, with throwing the world’s first cocktail party in May 1917. Reported in the local press as "positively the newest stunt in society” and an “innovation,” it’s no wonder that the cocktail party has endured. With guest-friendly small bites, and host-friendly easy cleanup, a cocktail party makes for a perfect gathering, be it elegant or casual.
While many people focus on the savory appetizers and signature cocktails, serving an array of desserts rounds out any cocktail party and will undoubtedly leave your guests raising a glass in your honor. Desserts that can be picked up and eaten with only a napkin, or with a minimum of extra dishes are ideal. The following suggestions for sweet treats keep things simple for you, while making an impressive display for your guests.
Cupcakes reign as the of-the-moment dessert of choice. Always popular at a cocktail party, consider matching the frosting to your party’s theme, or varying the flavors by adding red velvet, mocha, or lemon to the traditional vanilla and chocolate selections. The up-and-comer in the dessert world, macaroons offer similar variety and color. Looking for traditional crowd-pleasers? Brownies never fail (and can be made in a flash). Lemon bars take many of us back to childhood. Cheesecake slices, or even better, mini bite-sized cheesecakes, make for a delicious addition.
Many of our thoughts steer towards Frank Sinatra or Mad Men when planning a cocktail party, so why not incorporate retro desserts into your menu? Chocolate fondue is a vintage standby with just the right amount of kitsch and sweet. Dipping strawberries, pineapple, angel food cake, or marshmallows into melted chocolate never goes out of style. For those with a non-chocolate sweet tooth, cream puffs can be stacked neatly onto a plate, perhaps with a drizzle of pureed raspberries. And for the kid in all of us, Rice Krispie treats make for great dessert (and even better leftovers for the next day).
Looking to give your guests something especially unique? Give your cupcakes a twist by making them with a warm, oozing molten chocolate center. Slicing wine-poached pears gives guests an option with less sugar and lots of color and taste. Or consider serving mousse (chocolate, white chocolate, or even chai) in a martini glass topped with berries or pomegranate arils. Most desserts can, in fact, be scaled-down to become cocktail party friendly by serving them in a cocktail glass, ramekin, or teacup.
As you assemble your dessert menu, be sure to balance the different flavors. If you have one chocolate dish, consider another with fruit, or another that is vanilla-based. Alternately, a chocolate-themed array of desserts often goes over well.
Desserts are a way to add your personal flare into your cocktail party, so serve treats that you love; your guests are sure to put you on the invite list for their next gathering. Cheers!