The Clever Hors D'oeuvre Rule To Keep Cocktail Hour Classy

While beverages are an essential component of all cocktail parties, deciding what drinks to serve isn't the only catering detail hosts should be concerned about in order for the event to be a success. There is the hors d'oeuvre menu, too, which party planners say should not only include a set number of nibbles per guest but should also have a diverse selection of small bites with enough substance to keep guests satisfied. One easy way of doing that is to serve proteins in a selection that suits the dietary preferences of those present.

Ina Garten suggests offering guests a mix of meat, vegetables, and fish because, if you  "cover whatever the guests eat [then] it feels a little like a meal," per Food Network. Most caterers will recommend you prepare a variety of dishes — keep in mind your guests' diverse range of dietary preferences — including small bites made with fruits and vegetables, and a variety of snacks like chips, nuts, or popcorn, along with dips to go with them. Hors d'oeuvres made with bread like bruschetta, pizza, or dumplings will add some substance and carbs to your menu, but proteins such as meats or seafood will help keep your guests feeling full and satisfied while they wait for the main event.

How to pick your party proteins

When planning for proteins to add to a cocktail menu, remember that your guests are going to want to enjoy the hors d'oeuvres that you prepare for them. That means putting their dietary wish lists ahead of your own and building a nibble selection based on their needs and not yours. A cheese board featuring a range of textures and tastes isn't likely to go wrong, particularly since it can also come with a diverse range of other nibbles including crackers, olives, nuts, and pickles. Other protein ideas include bean dips and hummus for vegetarians, meatballs, mini sandwiches, or chicken wings.

To ensure you won't run out of food, Garten advises hosts to serve a sampler selection of five or six different types of hors d'oeuvres, per Food Network. That number should go up based on the number of guests you've invited, but no matter how many different appetizers you eventually decide to serve, remember to work out that each person will probably want to consume about 10 servings all in all, and that a serving size will depend on what's on offer. Garten also takes the extra step of recommending that all dishes be served at room temperature — particularly if a cocktail party is self-catered, so you're not stuck in the kitchen while your party is in full swing.