A Grown-Up Guide to a Creepy but Classy Halloween Party
Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, mainly due to my love of sweets. So this year I wanted to find a fun, easy, and delicious way to celebrate the spooky spirit of Halloween as a grown woman. I was delighted to team up with my talented friends, cocktail connoisseur Ellie Nonemacher and floral fiend Lyndse Yess, to host a classy but creepy Halloween cocktail party!
You shouldn’t have to break the bank or break a sweat to have a fun and festive get-together with friends. I took a simple but delicious approach to the food, Ellie whipped up two to-die-for cocktails, and Lyndse brought knock-out florals to set the mood.
If a low-key night in with amigas sounds fun for you, here are a few easy ways to pull off your own spooky Halloween gathering at home, too!
Spooky Cocktail Party Decor
I’m all about decorating for Halloween, but it’s truly terrifying how fast things add up in the grab-bag section at Target. So for our tablescape, we opted for a select few items that added some serious bang for our buck, and mostly relied on the natural beauty of Lyndse’s deep-colored florals to set the tone.
We already had these fun gray chargers on hand (but those are totally optional), which we then paired with these adorable “Witch, Please!” plates from Party City for $2.49. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sassy word art.
An old mirror tray that I inherited from my grandmother offered a fun reflective surface upon which to add a season candle and some dark fruit, and I threw in a plastic black pumpkin and open weave skull (both $3 at Target) for some added spookiness.
For the buffet area, we first added a simple but impactful array of bat silhouettes cut from black craft paper and stuck on the wall with double-sided tape. So cheap – and somehow they came out looking both elegant and spooky all at once!
I stretched out a $1 pack of “creepy cloth” black netting that I picked up from Party City to provide a spooky base to our food and drink area. On top of that I added a variety of trays I already had on hand (mostly from Target) and propped them up on bowls flipped upside-down and some tree trunk slices Brad had cut out as part of our DIY wedding decor. By placing my platters at varying heights, we were able to cram a lot in a small area and it added visual depth that really elevates your presentation (get it, eh? eh?).
Lyndse created our floral pieces using an assortment of fresh flowers and greenery. She chose a mix of roses, poms, mini carnations, spray roses, dahlias, and ranunculus. Flowers like carnations, poms, and alstromeria are on the cheaper side, which allow you to get a lot of bang for your buck. Add in a mix of greenery and at least one focal flower (she recommends centering the eye on a rose, dahlia, or mum) and it’ll create a beautiful arrangement with depth and texture.
If you don’t want to spend a lot on flowers, greenery can go a long way. You can use it as a table garland, cut it up to use as added touches on plates or platters, and put it in simple, small bud vases along with a single flower. Italian or Israeli Ruscus is a great greenery option if you can find it, otherwise any leafy bouquet-filler will do.
Lyndse recommends you go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s and snag whatever’s in season. These stores tend to have a fresher and more interesting selection of florals and greens than most grocery stores. Fresh flowers will majorly elevate the look of your table or buffet and add a gorgeous pop of color to any setting. For this shoot, we opted for a dark, deeply-colored arrangement to create a spooky vibe.
Creepy but Classy Cocktails
These drinks somehow struck the perfect balance between looking spooky and still enticing!
Her Don’t Give a Fig cocktail was fruity and refreshing, while still evoking spicy and warm fall flavors. If you haven’t tried fig butter (we picked ours up at Trader Joe’s), making this cocktail is a perfect excuse to pick up the delightful condiment, which plays a starring role in this recipe.
Easy and Delicious Appetizers
My philosophy on cocktail party food is this: keep it simple, delicious, and pretty. Sometimes I get a little too focused on pretty and forget to keep things simple. The night before my cocktail party, for instance, I tried and completely failed to make these adorable mini caramel apples. Were they adorable? Yes. But they were an enormous pain in the ass and not worth the effort, so I ended up ditching them entirely. Everything I’m about to show you was easy enough to pull together the day of the party, and total crowd-pleasers.
I’ll also admit that these weren’t the healthiest of dishes. This is no light summer backyard party, after all. And whenever I’m opting to not serve an entire sit-down meal, I believe in dishing up hearty, indulgent appetizers.
My cheeseboard was overflowing with delicious fresh fruit, 2 different cheeses, a spicy peppered sausage, and a little something sweet: dark chocolate-dipped dried blueberries. I wanted to go for a dark and spooky vibe, so the dried cranberry-coated goat cheese was the perfect option, paired with pumpernickel crisps. Dark black grapes and a sliced plum added moody colors and fresh fruit to the spread, too.
Throw it all together by placing the bigger items first, then layering on the crackers, and ultimately filling in the gaps with the smaller items on top, too. Add in a little ramekin of spread if you like, too. I opted for what was in my fridge – Trader Joe’s onion and garlic jelly – but any jam or jelly will do. Make sure to set it up wherever you plan on serving it so you can really go for the overflowing effect and before you know if you’ll have put together a decadent-looking super-easy board of deliciousness.
These Halloween-y looking sweet potato pie bites added a nice pop of orange to an otherwise pretty dark spread, and were so easy and delicious to make, too. I followed this recipe here, which essentially just calls for peeling, slicing, and baking the sweet potatoes after glazing them in maple syrup (*drool*), then topping them with a spiced whipped cream cheese dollop and candied pecans. If you’re in a rush, raw pecans would have worked just as well, too. These turned out to be hearty two-bite appetizers absolutely packed full of fall flavors.
Finally, I because I love me some cheese, I opted for the ultimately simple crowd-pleaser: a baked brie – but with a creepy Halloween twist. Topped with a homemade blackberry compote that came together in mere minutes on the stovetop, this baked brie went straight from getting gooey in the over to being surrounded by crackers right in the cast iron skill it was in, then topped with blackberry compote and served immediately. It was decadent, delicious, and a little creepy-looking, if I’m honest. Find the recipe I followed here.
Finally, my favorite part of the meal – dessert! – was also a point of pride for this party. I’ve been watching a LOT of The Great British Bake-Off this fall, and it inspired me to pick up a $4 loaf pan at my local grocery store and find a simple seasonal dessert that would be easy as sliced bread. I found it in this super-simple, incredibly-satisfying recipe for Cinnamon Apple Pie Bread. It has swirls of fall spices throughout it, and required little more than what I already had in my cabinets and a single granny smith apple. Cheap. Easy. And incredibly delicious. I was pretty darn proud.
And finally, the show-stopped dessert which was slightly more complicated but absolutely worth it: these Mini Cranberry Cheesecakes. It involved making my first batch of homemade cranberry sauce on the stovetop (which was surprisingly easy – I’m officially never buying cranberry sauce again!). I even opted to double the recipe so that I could put half in the freezer and save it for our Thanksgiving! From there, the base of the cheesecakes were made up of pulverized ginger snap cookies and a little bit of butter, which came together quickly with my immersion blender. The “cheesecake” part was simple: a whipped bit of cream cheese plus powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange zest that added a delightful brightness to the overall flavor. I assembled them quickly, using a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off to quickly pipe in my cheesecake filling, using the mini dessert trifles I had leftover from our engagement party this summer (you can get 40 for $9.99 at Party City).
Find the full recipe I followed here. They were tangy, sweet, and delicious, and looked downright bloody when lined up next to the rest of our spooky spread.
Make your own Halloween Cocktail Party!
Ready to bring together your besties for a grown-up take on Halloween?! I’d love to see what recipes, cocktails, and decor you try for your own spooky festivities! Be sure to tag us on social media to share!