Insta-Party: Pantry Items to Keep on Hand for Easy Entertaining

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Are you panic-stricken instead of pleased when friends stop by unannounced? Would you like to be the talk of the town for being able to throw a fabulous soiree at a moment's notice? Don't fret! The biggest secret to a successful impromptu party is to be prepared in advance with a well-stocked pantry!

If you're anything like me, you work better under pressure. Too much planning and over-thinking for an entertainment can suck the fun right out of it. Most often, I find the spontaneous gatherings to be the most pleasurable, and friends tend to agree. So let's get down to business. What should a well-stocked party pantry look like? After compiling my own list and polling my party-savvy friends, here are my suggestions, divided into two main categories.

BAR ESSENTIALS:

Alcohol - Bottles of red and white wine, champagne or Prosecco, a light and dark beer, vodka, gin, a whiskey or bourbon.

Mixers - Tonic water, club soda, ginger beer or ale, cranberry juice, peach puree (for a simple Bellini), lemon and lime juice, sour mix, simple syrup, quality sparkling water for non-drinkers.

Garnishes - Sugar or sugar cubes, salt, cherries, pickled onions, cinnamon sticks, dried rosemary sprigs.

A rule of thumb for a stocked bar is to plan on three to four cocktails per guest, and three bottles of wine for every four people (for a three-hour party).

FOOD ESSENTIALS :

Hors d'Oeuvres - Dried herbs (thyme, sage, oregano, crushed chili pepper, garlic, onion salt, nutmeg, peppercorns, ground mustard, cumin), olives, pickles or cornichons, tapenades, roasted peppers, canned tomatoes, nuts (raw and roasted/salted), dried fruit, palm tree hearts, green chilis, beans (white, black, garbanzo, etc. great for homemade dips and spreads), jar of chopped garlic, black-eyed peas, wasabi peas or spanish cocktail mix, rice paper (for summer rolls), dried mushrooms, silken tofu (great for vegan recipes), vegetable bouillon cubes, cream of mushroom or celery soup (for sauces), dip mixes, pita chips, variety of crackers, tortilla chips.

Condiments - Olive oil, sesame oil, balsamic vinegar, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, hot sauces, Sriracha, mustard (dijon, grainy, honey, etc.), mayo or Veganaise, salsa, a good chutney, nut butter, spreads, soy sauce or tamari, a couple dressings (vinaigrette & creamy).

Baked goods/Desserts - Brownie mix, cake or cookie mix, corn bread mix, Girl Scout cookies or Oreos (great for being vegan-friendly), soy milk (great to have on hand for times you're out of milk), dark chocolate, baking soda, baking powder, flour, vanilla, confectioner's sugar, brown sugar.

This list is by no means exhaustive — you could add to it if you want to be the hostess with the mostest, or swap out certain items for your favorites (like rum or tequila for gin). Do you have any pantry party favorites that didn't make the cut? If so, please tell us what you couldn't be without.

(Image credits: Gina Biancaniello)

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