Barcelona and Beyond: Planning the Perfect Tapas Party
Craving some inspo for your next gathering? Everyone loves tapas—savory snacks, canapés, or small plates that can be cold (e.g., mixed olives and Spanish cheeses) or hot (e.g., patatas bravas)—making a soiree centered around these shareable dishes a mouth-watering must. Of course, you’ll want to wash down all that deliciousness with some palate-pleasing sips too. And then there’s the requisite decor and entertainment. So, to help you get started, we’ve put together a guide with everything you need to throw an fabulous tapas party.
Invitations give guests a glimpse of what to expect at your upcoming event. How are great are these themed invites from FrankieBearDesigns? Your pals will instantly know they’re in for a festive fête with lots of food and fun.
Music helps set the mood for your fiesta. Transport party-goers to Spain by making a playlist of flamenco and classical guitar tunes. Or take the guesswork out of it and turn on a Spotify playlist.
Start with a lively color scheme. Spice things up with festive accents like tassel garlands, streamers, paper fans, and bright blooms. Twinkly lights add an air of romance to any outdoor space, whether it’s a backyard, terrace, patio, or rooftop.
Create a tablescape to highlight your delicious dishes. Planning a seated affair? A long table works best for a dinner party. Serve tapas on ceramic platters or opt for wood or slate for a more rustic aesthetic. Vibrant floral centerpieces, colorful napkins, and candles up the ambiance.
Small plates are also great for a more relaxed gathering. For this type of affair we’d suggest a Spanish-style buffet. You can’t go wrong with an Instagram-worthy appetizer board, plus an assortment of easy-to-eat items that don’t require a fork and a knife. Montados and Banderillas are ideal for this type of event.
When it comes to throwing a tapas party, it’s all about the food, so menu planning is key. You’ll want to choose an array of shareables based on guest count, dietary preferences, and the format of your fête (sit-down dinner vs. casual cocktails). Below are a few of our favorite tempting tapas recipes.
- Croquetas de Jamon y Queso - Ham and cheese croquettes
- Gambas al Ajillo - Shrimp sauteed in olive oil and garlic
- Tortilla Española - Omelet with potato and onion, considered the national dish of Spain
- Pulpo Gallego - Grilled octopus
- Tigres - Stuffed mussels that are batter and fried
- Salmorejo - Chilled tomato soup that’s vegetarian-friendly and great for summer
- Salmon Ahumado Con Queso Blando - smoked salmon and cream cheese on a baguette
- Patatas Alioli - Fried potatoes topped with a warm, creamy garlicky sauce
P.S. Don’t forget to stock up on these essential Spanish ingredients.
Just because savory stuff is the star doesn’t mean you should discount dessert. Afterall, pastelerias (pastry shops) are famed for a reason. Finish the meal by treating guests to Spanish sweets such as Turrón (almond nougat candy—traditionally enjoyed around Christmas but scrumptious year round) or Bunuelos de Viento (light-as-air fritters, filled with cream and dusted with powdered sugar). Another guaranteed crowd-pleaser is flan (vanilla egg custard, topped with caramel sauce).
Spanish wines are a sublime complement to tapas. Set a few bottles of red and wine on the table or channel your inner sommelier with a progressive tasting. Sparkling vino come in many styles. No doubt, you’re familiar with Champagne, but what about Cava (or champán as its known colloquially)? Made in the same method as the famous French fizzer, this affordable bubbly from Spain, pairs wonderfully with native delicacies like manchego cheese, olives, almonds, serrano ham, and fried fish. Fans of crisp whites should try Albarino, renowned for its acidity and refreshing fruit-forward flavors. If you like Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir, you’ll love Tempranillo, a full-bodied grape varietal that grows in the northern regions of Rioja and Ribera del Duero.
Sangria is a popular Spanish cocktail made with wine, fruit, and spirits. Not only does it taste great, but it’s super simple and adaptable. Opt for a classic red sangria or get into the seasonal grove with white peach and mint sangria. This party-ready punch is best made ahead and refrigerated overnight to allow all the flavors to come together. Mix up a big batch the day before and add a splash of seltzer before serving. (Last minute soiree? Try this instant sangria recipe.)
Display sangria, or agua fresca for those that don’t imbibe, in large drink dispensers or pitchers and let your guests help themselves. That way you can spend less time playing bartender and more time mingling with your pals.
In between savoring and sipping, treat your guests to some Spanish-themed games and entertainment. What better way to remember the party than pics? Fashion a dedicated space for photo opps with a DIY backdrop and a few props, which you can craft yourself or buy online and print at home (check out these instant digital downloads from HappyFiestaDesign). Piñatas are most often associated with Mexico, but the tradition dates back to the 14th century in Spain. These papier mâché creations are fun for kids and adults of all ages. Fill with candies and other festive trinkets.