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How to Host a Summery Vegan Cocktail Party on the Cheap

Don't let limited funds get in the way of your urge to throw a swanky soirée—just think thrifty with these tips.

Summer is here, and that means constant cravings for cool cocktails on the nearest deck, porch, or lawn. Cocktail parties are a great way to bring your friends together, and offer the pleasantry of social lubrication without the liability of an apocalyptic house-destroying kegger. Better yet, they’re effortless to veganize and pocketbook-friendly. The next time you have reason to celebrate—whether it's for moving into a new apartment, getting a promotion, or even spaying your cat—why not let the good times roll with some vegan hors d'oeuvres and libations? Here are some low-cost ways to party like it's 1999, 2013-style. 

Potent Potluck
Since the dawn of time (or at least since 16th-century England), potlucks have provided a great way to project the appearance of a gracious host when in actuality you can sit back and let your guests do most of the work. Attendees are generally happy to throw together a dish or two as long as you provide a venue, some tunes, and at least some of the booze. Think thematic by putting on a taco bar-themed party and asking guests to just bring one filling each (no one will go hungry, and no pocketbooks will suffer!). 

Thrifty Thirst-Quenchers
Barnivore is a great resource for finding out which beer, wine, and liquor is vegan-friendly. Keep it simple with one or two specialty cocktails so that you keep a short list of ingredients. Try concocting easy, delicious homemade sangria and serve it in a giant crystal punch bowl (you can find them at thrift stores and they really dazzle). Sangria is super versatile and hard to mess up; you can use almost any variety of fruit and experiment with adding brandy, vodka, or white wine instead of redMint juleps are also perennial crowd-pleasers, especially in the summer, and require only a few modest components. Offer rum as well as bourbon and you’ve got yourself—and your thirsty guests—a mojito option. Vegan White Russians are a stellar pick if you are perchance throwing a Big Lebowski party. Just don't get too riled up as the evening draws on—remember, aggression will not stand.

Apt Appetizers
You don't need to slave over the stove for hours in order to produce tasty, satisfying bites. For example, bruschetta is refreshing yet filling, and you probably already have at least half of the ingredients for this recipe for White Bean Bruschetta waiting in your pantry. Or, how about whipping up a simple Spinach-Artichoke Dip? Everyone loves dip. This is a scientific phenomenon, like gravity. Vegan cream cheese roll-ups are kindergarten-easy, but look and taste surprisingly sophisticated. Add cilantro for an elevated herbaceousness, or turn up the heat with VegWeb's four-ingredient Cream Cheese Wontons. If you are truly, devastatingly broke or short on time, just go with store-bought guacamole, chips, hummus, and warmed pita. These staples never disappoint. 

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us
Depending on the size of your party, you may wish to indulge in some festive decorating and activities. Goodwill and Salvation Army are always overflowing with cheap crystal goblets if you want to create an air of prestige in your abode. Got a fire pit? Throw on an eco-friendly Duraflame log for a romantic midsummer crackle. And it may be July, but pull out the Christmas lights—they're the cheapest way to add a twinkle to your living room or deck, plus most of them are weatherproof. And don't forget music! Rule of thumb: the older the music, the more worldly you'll seem. 

Being a killer host or hostess doesn't have to come with a high price tag. An hour or two of prep time and a few simple drinks and snacks are all you need to set your roof on fire (figuratively). Skip the bar scene and bring the fun to your own domain, without emptying your funds or your fridge. 

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