Epicurious has a VERY in depth cocktail party guide up. Frankly, I find it pretty intimidating and misleading. Throwing a party shouldn't be THAT hard. Mix some drinks, invite a few amusing people, and serve them some food. This is not rocket science. So, if you don't feel like braving the bar scene tomorrow evening to celebrate the New Year, here is my guide for a fun, easy, last minute New Year's Eve cocktail party. You can download a shopping list based on 10 guests here and a pre-party time line here.
Let's start with the cocktails. Nothing says New Year's Eve like champagne, so how about a champagne cocktail bar. Put out the champagne with some peach puree for Bellinis, orange juice for mimosas, and cranberry juice. I don't know if the cranberry and champagne combo has a name, I just call it tasty. You can substitute any sparkling wine you like for the champagne, try cava from Spain or prosecco from Italy.
For the non-champagne drinkers, pick up some beer, a lager and a dark beer, and a few bottles of wine.
Moving on to decor. Go to any local hardware or grocery store and buy up the leftover poinsettias en masse. They'll be super cheap now that Christmas has passed, and you can give them one last hurrah. Group them around the house in visible areas, and throw one in the bathroom if there is space.
While you are at the grocery store, pick up some pretty Christmas paper plates and napkins in a white theme. Again, they should be marked waayy down.
If you have time, run some of those pretty twinkly Christmas lights around the house.
Cocktail party nibbles can be as simple or complicated as the host chooses to make them. For a last minute party, it's best to keep it simple. Some nuts and olives, a cheese board, simple veggies and dip, and mini sandwiches will fill your guests up and allow easy prep before they arrive.