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Here’s a simple — and simply perfect — New Year’s Eve menu and game plan for a great cocktail party. It’s got a select few of our favorite tried-and-true recipes, plus entertaining tips and tricks so you can set it and forget it. NYE should be fun!

Best Holiday Cheese Board 780 | Umami Girl-2
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Our NYE party philosophy

Somewhere in our late 20s, we had a brilliant idea. It had been a few years since either of us had really wanted to go out somewhere loud, expensive, and medium-terrible on New Year’s Eve. But we also didn’t want to think of ourselves (or, hey, be thought of) as un-fun.

So we started a tradition. We found a few friends from college who felt the same way, and we invited them over for a low-key, just-sophisticated-enough New Year’s celebration. They’d arrive midday on NYE, spend the night, and leave midday on January first. Over the years, we all had kids, and they grew up with this tradition. Now it’s one of the things we most look forward to every year.

Also? We don’t make it any harder than it needs to be.

New Year's Eve Menu for an Easy Cocktail Party

Your New Year’s Eve menu and party game plan

Here’s all you need to do to host a perfect NYE:

  • Choose a signature cocktail. We’ve shared our three favorite options below. This approach has two benefits: It makes the party feel thoughtful, and it’s the only cocktail you’ll have to make all night.
  • Offer one white wine, one red wine, and two kinds of beer. I’d recommend Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc for a white, A to Z Pinot Noir for a red, Founder’s All-Day IPA for a beer with more character, and Peroni for a lighter option.
  • Anchor your buffet with a couple of epic platters. You can’t go wrong with what we’ve suggested below: our epic cheese board and classic spinach dip in a bread bowl with crudités. These can be made quickly, in advance. And they’re abundant enough to serve as dinner.
  • Class it up with the world’s best shrimp cocktail. This is the only recipe on the list that requires a bit of work. It’s 100% make-ahead friendly, and it’s an ABSOLUTE game-changer that will ruin you for other shrimp cocktail forever. Sorry not sorry. Recipes like this serve as conversation points and make your guests feel extra-special.
  • Consider our puff pastry appetizers, but also consider Trader Joe’s. In the deep midwinter, it’s nice to have some two-bite appetizers straight from the oven. We love our puff pastry cups. But we also really love a nice little variety of premade hors d’oeuvres from a place like Trader Joe’s (or your regular grocery store freezer section). People won’t have more fun just because everything you serve is homemade.
  • Include a few sweets, but keep it simple. We love pairing brownies with blondies, both cut into smaller-than-usual squares.

Signature Cocktails

Choose one of these signature NYE cocktails for your party and supplement with a favorite red wine, a favorite white wine, two types of beer, and plenty of nonalcoholic beverages.

Rising Star Vodka Cocktail Lillet Blanc 780 | Umami Girl
4.56 from 36 votes

The Rising Star: A Cocktail Starring Lillet Blanc

We created this Lillet Blanc and vodka cocktail for a fundraiser celebrating our school district’s performing arts programs — raising money for our rising stars. It’s smooth and moreish enough to have encouraged people’s generosity. Imagine what it could do for your next party.
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The Fifteen Apple Cider Rye Champagne Cocktail 780 | Umami Girl-2
4.92 from 25 votes

The Fifteen: An Apple Cider, Champagne, and Rye Cocktail

A simple, nicely balanced, gently sophisticated cocktail that's just right for fall. I
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The Dumpster Fire, A Sour Gin Cocktail
4.60 from 47 votes

The Dumpster Fire

Make The Dumpster Fire your NYE 2020 cocktail of record to help send off this year of years with a bang. This drink has a little bit of everything, including nods to two classic cocktails whose namesakes perished this year, each in their own way: The Pegu Club (RIP the NYC cocktail lounge, April 2020) and The White Lady (Bye, Karen). 
If you like, you can set the orange twist on fire. The slight smoky flavor of a flaming twist makes no particular sense in this drink, but what even does make sense anymore?
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a campari prosecco cocktail (Mom's Italian soda) in a coupe glass
4.58 from 42 votes

Campari Prosecco Cocktail (Mom’s Italian Soda)

This vibrant Campari and Prosecco cocktail is simple and sophisticated, and it couldn't be easier to make. Try it for New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, or any occasion.
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Platters

You can easily scale these set-it-and-forget-it platters to the size of your party. Prepare them in advance and let them anchor your buffet.

a beautiful meat and cheese platter (charcuterie board)
5 from 12 votes

Meat and Cheese Platter (Charcuterie Board)

A show-stopping meat and cheese platter (charcuterie board) may be the easiest possible contribution to a holiday party. Here's how to make one in about 15 minutes. The post above includes a ton of detailed information and specific recommendations. You can use the ingredient list below as-is or simply as a general guide, whichever suits your style.
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knorr spinach dip in a bread bowl with grape tomatoes, broccoli, baby carrots, and snap peas
4.57 from 44 votes

Knorr Spinach Dip in a Bread Bowl

This is the good old Knorr spinach dip recipe served in a bread bowl with fresh veggies. It's a little uncharacteristic for Umami Girl to start a recipe with a seasoning packet from the supermarket, but I can't deny that I love (and basically everyone with a pulse loves) this stuff.
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a mezze board (mezze platter)
5 from 3 votes

Mezze Board

Here's how to build a beautiful, satisfying mezze board. This recipe is very flexible, so you can include as many or as few of these elements as you like, and incorporate others to suit your preference and your crowd. The quantities here will serve eight people as a main course or 16 as a grazing board — feel free to scale up or down. Just be sure to choose a platter that barely contains your ingredients, to give it an abundant feel regardless of size.
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bagna cauda Piedmontese with broccoli, asparagus, baguette, and endive
4.91 from 10 votes

Bagna Cauda Piedmontese

Bagna cauda Piedmontese is a super-savory, classic Italian dip. Pair it with veggies and crusty bread for a stellar party platter. Or use it as a sauce for pasta, fish, or chicken.
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Bite-sized Savory Hors d’Oeuvres

Pass these two-bite wonders on trays while you mingle with guests, or set them on a buffet.

Creamy Leek Puff Pastry Cups Easy Appetizer 780 | Umami Girl
4.62 from 34 votes

Leek and Feta Puff Pastry Cup Appetizers

Leek and feta puff pastry cup appetizers are savory, satisfying, two-bite wonders. They pair beautifully with wine, cocktails, and beer.
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best shrimp cocktail recipe with cocktail sauce and a lemon wedge on a plate
4.64 from 90 votes

Truly the Best Shrimp Cocktail Recipe Ever

Look, I know it’s a little ridiculous to call a recipe “the best,” buuuuttttttt this recipe is seriously THE BEST shrimp cocktail recipe ever. The poaching method gives the shrimp a wonderful, delicate texture and flavor, and the sauce has a hint of gin in it, so. Don't miss it.
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a fancy deviled egg with caviar, creme fraiche, and chives on a marble background
4.63 from 66 votes

Fancy Deviled Eggs with Caviar and Crème Fraîche

Whether you're hosting a wedding, a New Year's Eve party, an awards show event, or just one heck of an elegant Tuesday, these fancy deviled eggs with caviar and crème fraîche are an easy and special hors d'oeuvre idea. 
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baked oysters with shallot herb butter and prosciutto on a bed of salt in a cast iron skillet
4.78 from 9 votes

Baked Oysters with Shallot Herb Butter and Prosciutto

Baked oysters with shallot herb butter and prosciutto are party-ready in no time. Special enough for NYE or date night, easy enough for every day.
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Sweet Treats

Classic Brownies in One Bowl 780 | Umami Girl
4.82 from 16 votes

Fudgy Crinkly Top Brownies

Irresistibly fudgy crinkly top brownies come together in one bowl. This is our family's hands-down favorite brownie recipe, and I hope it'll soon be yours, too.
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blonde brownies (white chocolate blondies with chocolate chips) on parchment with a paring knife
4.67 from 15 votes

Blonde Brownies (White Chocolate Blondies with Chocolate Chips)

These blonde brownies (blondies) with white chocolate in the batter, bittersweet chocolate chips, and chopped nuts are sheer perfection. Don't miss them.
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That’s it! Happy new year.

See you on the other side. xx

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About Carolyn Gratzer Cope

Hi there, I'm Carolyn Gratzer Cope, founder and publisher of Umami Girl. Join me in savoring life, one recipe at a time. I'm a professional recipe developer with training from the French Culinary Institute (now ICE) and a lifetime of studying, appreciating, and sharing food.

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