Hosting a last-minute gathering is a breeze with the help of party planning professionals Michelle Hunt and Laura Panter, co-owners of The Martini Club.


“Summer entertaining is often planned at the last minute,” says Panter. “It should be easy and relaxed,” adds Hunt. “All you really need is simple food, good company and delicious cocktails.” Here’s their guide to preparing a great party in just a few hours:


• Grab a platter and arrange a few different types of cheese with fresh fruit and nuts. Serve with a fresh baguette for a beautifully presented treat.



• Set up a self-serve bar — encourage your guests to try their hand at making their own cocktails (Make sure you have several measured shot glasses available for mixing drinks accurately.)

• Along with your favourite spirits, such as vodka, gin, rum, tequila and whisky, be sure to have a liqueur handy that helps mix up fantastic cocktails. A bottle of Cointreau can be used to make the perfect margarita, sidecar or Cosmopolitan, just to name a few.

• Always have chilled ice water on hand and add some flair by filling pitchers with any combination of lemon, lime or orange slices for colour and flavour.


• Keep it simple and elegant. You don't want to spend all day setting up — the focus is having fun with friends.

• If your patio furniture is limited bring some of the indoors out. Thick cushions and blankets can be used for extra seating.

That's it — you're done. Now, pour yourself a cocktail, relax and wait for your guests to arrive.

Make it easy

Follow the golden rules for stress-free summer entertaining

  • Stick to staple dishes that are simple and easy to make.

  • Create a welcome cocktail: Chill sparkling wine and serve it spiked with a dash of Cointreau, for a refreshing, citrus-flavoured twist.

  • Pick up flowers or fill a glass vase with some fresh fruit to add a pop of colour to the table.