A Cocktail Party to Celebrate the Empty Nest

  • 01 of 03

    A Cocktail Party to Celebrate the Empty Nest

    Adorable empty birdhouses set the stage for an empty nest cocktail party. As for the drinks, "Unlocked Aviary" martini, anyone?. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Dorm drop off is over, the kids are gone and the house is suddenly quiet. Why not throw a party to celebrate that newly empty nest and chase away any blues? You're focused on your kid's departure and the experiences he's having, but this transition is a huge deal for you too. You've put 18+ years into this project, after all. (It's not over yet, of course. You've just moved into more of a tech support role.) So let's greet that launching in style, with a cocktail...MORE party to celebrate the newly empty nest.

    Cocktail parties are always popular - and not just because they involve booze. They're easy to throw and fun to attend. So craft a signature cocktail (The Liftoff, perhaps? Or The Unlocked Aviary?), then set out antipasto platters, queue up your favorite playlist, and adorn the buffet table with adorably empty birdhouses and martini glasses.

    On the following pages, you'll find food and drink ideas, as well as decorating how-tos. Just page through or use the quick links below. (And if you're thinking of surprising your sweetheart with this party, you'll find tips on how to keep the surprise a surprise here.)

    • Cocktails and menu ideas
    • Birdhouses and other table decor ideas
    Continue to 2 of 3 below.
  • 02 of 03

    Cocktails for an Empty Nest Party

    An empty nest cocktail party deserves a terrific signature cocktail that fits the theme. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    The beauty of a cocktail party is that all you need is one cleverly named martini to set the mood. So make it easy on yourself. Order up antipasto platters from your favorite Italian deli, slice baguettes and arrange wedges of cheese on a nice cutting board. Add little clusters of grapes and fresh figs, cut in half, for color and sweetness. Then break out the cocktail shaker, because the secret to a memorable party lies in having what caterers call "a signature cocktail." Slap a great...MORE name on any martini, and you can fill out the rest of your bar menu with wine, craft beer and a fun, non-alcoholic option, such as pitchers of sparkling lavender or strawberry lemonade.

    Here are some cocktail ideas to get you started. The recipes - with new names to fit the theme - hail from The Spruce cocktail experts.

    • The Unlocked Aviary: Served in a flute to show off its color and fizz, this cocktail is also known as The Venetian Spritz or an Aperol spritz. It's a mixture of Aperol, a bitter orange Italian aperitif, the color of a Venetian sunset, Prosecco, and sparkling water, usually served with a slice of orange. Perch a little bird next to the cocktail shaker and you can rename it the Unlocked Aviary, a celebration of the adventures that lie ahead.
    • The Liftoff: This cocktail, which calls for tequila, St-Germain elderflower liqueur and fresh, ruby red grapefruit juice, was actually dubbed Pretty in Paloma. Give it a new name in keeping with the theme.
    • Bye-Bye Birdie: Bid a bittersweet farewell to your little bird and welcome this new, exciting phase of empty nesty life with a classic Lemon Drop. Garnish this with a lemon twist, and strew feathers around the table.​​
    • Unshackled from the Snack Shack: Free at last! You may miss many things about your child's school years, but chances are, serving hot dogs at the snack shack won't be one of them. So it's only fitting to pour the most adult cocktail of all to celebrate. It's cool, it's elegant, it's very un-snack shack. I'm referring, of course to the classic martini. You'll find the classic version and more than a dozen variations at that link.
    Continue to 3 of 3 below.
  • 03 of 03

    Decorations for an Empty Nest Cocktail Party

    These small birdhouses, which cost only a dollar at the craft store, make adorable table decorations for an empty nest cocktail party. Photo by Jackie Burrell

    Cocktail parties don't require much in the way of table settings but adorn the buffet table or cocktail bar with these adorable empty birdhouses and you'll evoke the empty nest theme effortlessly.

    These small wooden birdhouses cost a dollar each at the local craft store. Use a sponge to paint the roof and trim in cheery hues - or your child's college colors. They dry in a matter of minutes, and you can arrange them around the table with branches or topiaries and a few scattered feathers. Add...MORE a little decorative bird or two, and line up the martini glasses and cocktail shakers.

    Need more ideas?

    • Cut college-style pennants from felt. Using sticky-backed felt letters from the craft store, add words such as "Bye bye, birdie!"​
    • Instead of hunting high and low for paper plates that match the theme, make your own customized glass plates to match the colors of your birdhouses.