Sometimes the best parties — especially a kitchen happy hour — are the best on the spur of the moment. There’s no doubt that any kind of entertaining can be overwhelming. As a personal chef and caterer, I put a lot of pressure on myself to go above and beyond when I invite guests into my home. While I’ll be the first to tell you that planning is key when it comes to successful entertaining, I also feel that the longer I have to plan a party, the more time I have to over analyze it as well. So, call me crazy, but I almost prefer an impromptu get together that I don’t have time to over think. I’ve always been one to perform well under pressure (like starting papers the night before they were due in college…) and it turns out that entertaining is no different. When I have guests coming in an hour for happy hour, I don’t have time to think. I just have time to act.

Here a few of my tips for entertaining on a whim:

impromptu dinner party

1. Don’t go crazy cleaning the house. Yes. I give you permission not to do this. Our kitchen is smack dab in the middle of an open floor plan so we always gather there when we do any kind of entertaining, especially an event like a happy hour- that’s where all the action is. I spend a quick five or ten minutes focusing on picking that one area up. I de-clutter and wipe down the counters then sweep the floor. If I think about it, I’ll light a candle in the bathroom, but otherwise, I don’t go crazy.

cheese tray impromptu party

2. You don’t need to serve a feast. Impromptu get togethers are just that- impromptu. No one is going to expect anything lavish. It’s always nice to put out a little bite to eat, but don’t kill yourself trying to come up with something fancy. I always have a selection of cheese in my fridge. (Cheese is my vice, what can I say?) It’s my go-to when I need a quick lunch, but it’s also a life saver when your best friend is in town and you plan a last minute get together. Throw whatever cheese you have a on a plate and call it good. You get bonus points for crackers and some kind of tasty preserve. If even that is too much and all you can throw together is a bowl of Goldfish and raisins, so be it. Your guests will be happy to have a little something to snack on while they sip their wine.

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3. Wine is enough. Or beer. Or a pitcher of a gin and tonics. My point is: pick one and go with it. A last-minute gathering isn’t the time to set up a full bar. Save that for when you have more time and can pull out all the stops. Just as we always have cheese, we always have wine in our wine rack. Often it’s no more than a few bottles, but it’s enough to get us through the hour.

wine at a cocktail hour

4. Pull out the nice wine glasses. Since you’re keeping everything else simple, go all out and serve drinks in nice glasses. It’s a nice touch, and though something small, it will make your guests feel special. I have a set of hand-painted wine goblets my uncle gave me years ago that I love to use for entertaining. I’m not above drinking out of a red plastic cup (trust me), but save those for the summer gatherings. Above all, keep things simple and enjoy yourself. Your guest will appreciate your relaxed attitude and the laid back atmosphere in your kitchen. It is called happy hour, after all.

This post is part of BlogHerís Kitchen Entertainment editorial series, made possible by KitchenAid.

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3 Responses to Four Tips for an Impromptu Happy Hour

  1. Ok, I’m in love with your kitchen. Our house is on the market (and we just got an offer today actually!) and that open kitchen floor plan you’ve got going on is EXACTLY what I envision in our next house. Exactly.
    Also…I totally agree on the wine (or beer) part being enough. Cocktails overwhelm me. Wine is easy and definitely enough 🙂

  2. sheila says:

    Impromptu is the best kinda party! Great tips.

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