Killer punch, classy finger bites, and Gothic decor that breaks free of jack-o’s for a sophisticated soiree
You get all the satisfaction of a caramel apple in one bite and without a messy chin.
Recipe: Mini Caramel Apples
A few tips for making great grilled cheese sandwiches: Grate the cheese (it’ll melt evenly); butter the outsides of the bread,
instead of putting butter in the pan; and cover the pan as you cook.
Recipe: Broccoli Soup Shots with Cheddar Bites
A play on skordalia, the Greek garlic-potato dip for fried fish. We add peppers for flavor and color, and serve with fresh
Recipe: Red Pepper-Potato Dip with Crudites
“Punch” is a good description of this one—a couple of glasses pack a wallop. Add extra cranberry juice if you want it weaker.
Recipe: Autumn Punch
These are great for cocktail parties since you can eat them one-handed.
Recipe: Spice Lamb Chops with Rosemary Crumbs
Gothic vessels: Trade out regular stems and cups for goblets ($68 each; juliska.com; or try thrift stores) and inexpensive glass lab vessels, like cylinders and flasks (from $2.45; pelletlab.com) that are food- and heat-safe. Fill a few with dry ice to turn your house into a mad scientist’s laboratory.
Tabletop creativity: Buy fabric and make it into a tablecloth by hemming the edges, or asking your dry cleaner to do so. Houndstooth plays into the Victorian theme while still feeling modern. (Try fabric.com, hartsfabric.com, or spoonflower.com for inspiration.)
DIY lanterns: These take their cue from Edward Gorey illustrations and can be hung indoors or out. Decoupage tissue-paper lanterns (from $2.30; lunabazaar.com) with downloaded clip art. Project by the Curiosity Shoppe’s Lauren Smith and Derek Fagerstrom (curiosityshoppeonline.com).
Halloween greenery: For an easy display, find mossy branches in the yard or at a florist and lash them together. Drop in orchids and, for spook factor, fake blackbirds.
For another take on a spooky, grown-up fete that friends will love, we got ideas from Yifat Oren, the L.A. event planner behind the weddings of Reese Witherspoon and Natalie Portman. “I’m a bigger fan of haunted—ghosts, cobwebs, ghouls—than I am of gore. The occult is scary to me too. That’s why a good psychic or a Ouija board is always a hit at a Halloween party,” Oren says.
Swap orange for white to create a sleek black-and-white color scheme. Scatter pale pumpkins on a buffet table, then add candy apples for a blood red accent.
Halloween is not the time for flowers. Instead, fill vases with spray-painted black branches or order dark resin branches ($10; jamaligarden.com).
To give candy apples a creepy elegance, put them on a mirrored tray. For extra credit, and spookiness, cover with spun sugar to give them a webby look.
Use drippy black tapers with these mercury-glass candleholders (from $17; potterybarn.com) or a simple black candelabra.
For a Gothic-looking cheese platter, arrange ashy cheeses (like goat) on a tray with dark grapes and quince paste. Also serve Sunset's meatball sliders (omit the basil) with “bloody” ketchup—just add a few drops of dark food coloring to your favorite brand.
Garnish a classic Belvedere martini with black olives instead of green ones. If you stuff them with pimentos, they’ll look like eyeballs. Alternatively, serve sangria in a punch bowl (a splash of dry ice will make it smoke) and rim glasses with black sugar, which you can find online.
If you plan to throw an annual party, buy one pricier item a year, like this skeleton drink dispenser ($148 for stand and dispenser; potterybarn.com). Tip: Vampire teeth ice cubes (Fred & Friends vampire tray; $8; amazon.com) made with grape juice will look like bleeding fangs when served in a light-colored drink.
Stamp cream-colored cocktail napkins with a spiderweb design ($13 for stamp; paper-source.com).
Danger zone: Fake cobwebs “make your house look a little dirty and haunted,” says Oren. A mass of them strung across a staircase or bedroom
door is a clever way to let guests know the area’s off-limits.
Haunted mansion: Replace your artwork for the night with these lenticular portraits (Colonel Whiplash; $15; kmart.com), which appear to move as you walk by.
Spooky switch: Swap your regular lightbulbs for red ones, available at most hardware stores.
Refresh your playlist: “If I hear ‘Thriller’ at another Halloween party, I don’t know what I’ll do,” says Oren, who asked L.A. DJ Patrick Belton to put together a playlist that’s “a little groovy, a little indie, with a bit of goth.” Her five favorites: