A white oval platter holding a bowl of dill dip with potato chips beside it.
Jim Henkens
1 of 13

Dill Dip with Potato Chips

Dips are the best, and not just because I like any occasion to serve potato chips. This creamy dip is just so easy to eat, and you can focus on one big flavor: Here, it’s a garden’s worth of dill, garlic, and lemon.
A grey plate half-filled with mac and cheese canapes, with a few resting beside the plate.
Steve Legato
2 of 13

Mac and Cheese Canapés

These mac and cheese canapes, essentially baked mac and cheese bites, are made from macaroni and sharp Cheddar cheese and baked in mini-muffin tins. Perfect finger food for kids and adults. Cocktail party, anyone?

These are insanely good.

Cheese straws on an oval wooden platter on a distressed wooden surface.
David Leite
3 of 13

Peppery Cheese Straws

These crispy, peppery cheese straws are inspired by the famous pasta cacio e pepe, which means cheese and pepper in Italian. And like the pasta, it’s just as delicious, cheesy, and spicy.
A white plate with three prosciutto-cheese gougeres with a glass of Prosecco in the background.
David Leite
4 of 13

Prosciutto-Cheese Gougères

For these gourgères, I went one better by adding to the batter classic Proscuitto di Parma as well as one of the noble cheeses of Italy, Grana Padano, along with thyme and rosemary to ensure every bite literally explodes with indulgence. Okay, perhaps I’m a little hyperbolic. But these are indeed not your ordinary savory gougères. Indeed, a fine piece of puffery.

These gougères were so good I’ve been planning an after New Years dinner party just so I can make them again! The prosciutto and spices in the dough gives a great savory flavor that goes so well with drinks. Man, I love these little gems.

Seven crispy rakakat (Turkish cigars) on a parchment-lined white plate.
Ernie Enkler
5 of 13

Turkish Cigars

These Turkish cigars, known as rakakat, are a popular middle Eastern mezze made with phyllo pastry and two types of cheese. They're incredibly delish and will impress the pants off your guests. Seriously.
A white cake stand with four spirals of pumpernickel bread, salmon mousse, and smoked salmon.
Leigh Beisch
6 of 13

Salmon Mousse Pinwheels

These salmon mousse pinwheels, made with pumpernickel bread, smoked salmon, and a creamy smoked salmon mousse are an elegant and impressive canapé or tea sandwich.

Loved these pinwheels! Great idea when planning for a tea party, dinner party, Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Years.

Kathy A.
Two pieces of prosciutto, pear, and Brie toasts with slices of Brie, pear, prosciutto, and a jar of fig jam beside the toasts.
Jessica Nicosia-Nadler
7 of 13

Prosciutto, Pear, and Brie Toasts

These prosciutto, pear, and Brie toasts are a simple, yet sophisticated appetizer that you’ll want to whip up any time you’re entertaining. And even when you’re not.
Three Mexican sopes on a rustic platter with a glass of white wine in the background.
Karl Petzke
8 of 13

Mexican Sopes

Sopes are one of the most popular Mexican antojitos (literally, little cravings) to serve as an appetizer. Made with a masa harina base, they get filled with juicy tequila-lime pulled pork shoulder, pico de gallo, and queso cheese. I bet you can't stop at just one.

This sopes recipe combines 3 things I love- homemade masa corn tortillas, slow cooked pork, and tequila!

A blue skillet with paper towel and a pile of breaded, deep-fried cauliflower. A bowl of dip in the background.
Malou Burger
9 of 13

Popcorn Cauliflower Bites

Dipping anything in breadcrumbs and frying until golden is always going to be a winner, and for anyone telling you they don’t like cauliflower, they may well change their minds if they try this.
Ten Stilton and walnut crackers arranged in rows on a sheet of parchment.
Quentin Bacon
10 of 13

Stilton and Walnut Crackers

I came across this very British cracker in London—a savory shortbread made with Stilton and walnuts. I make extra rolls of dough and freeze them unbaked so I can just defrost, slice, and bake the crackers before guests arrive. Everyone loves these and there are never any leftovers!

This stilton cracker recipe is a winner. They are delicious. They are easy to make and, for me, a wonderful part is that I can make a double or triple batch and freeze the logs, then slice and bake. This means that when I am having friends for cocktails or or dinner, this is one fewer item I need to prepare that day.

I have served them three times and each time, I have been asked for the recipe. The combination of walnuts, stilton, and salt makes the perfect prelude to dinner.

A grey plate filled with jalapeño popper halves and a bowl of white dip on the side.
Jennifer Davick
11 of 13

Air Fryer Jalapeño Poppers

These easy jalapeño poppers are filled with a creamy cheese mixture, topped with crunchy panko, and air-fried until golden.
Nine Portuguese coconut custard tarts on a wire rack.
Cenk Sönmezsoy
12 of 13

Portuguese Coconut Custard Tarts

These Portuguese coconut custard tarts are little pastries that look like cupcakes. They’re a classic in which the best parts of creamy milk custard and eggy macaroon come together in very Portuguese fashion.

These coconut tarts are beyond wonderful. My 11-year-old grandson inhaled his and his mom and I weren’t far behind. Yum!

Torsades au chocolat in a brown paper bag on a marble counter, beside a white plate with pastry and a linen tea towel.
Mardi Michels
13 of 13

Torsades au Chocolat ~ Chocolate Pastry Twists

While these are great in the morning, they are an excellent on-the-go snack to eat rushing from school to extra-curricular activities. Holding them in the paper bag to eat them means that you don’t get custardy/chocolatey hands!


What should I include in a charcuterie board?

A charcuterie board is an excellent option for offering to guests to graze on at a party. A well-rounded classic charcuterie board should include a selection of cured meats, soft and hard cheese, crackers, baguette, or toast rounds, spreads or condiments such as chutney, chicken pâté, or mustard, and some nuts, fruit, and/or pickles.

How many dishes should I make for my cocktail party?

It will depend on the size of the dishes, but you should plan for each person to consume 4 to 6 pieces of food per hour they are at the party.

How many cocktails should I plan for per guest?

A good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 drink per guest for each 45 minutes of the party.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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