How to Create the Best Dinner Party Menu

How to Create the Best Dinner Party Menu

With the future of social gatherings looking bright, many anticipate hosting their friends and family in their homes again. In fact, 33% of UK residents are already planning on hosting dinner parties post-pandemic. 

If you’re looking to plan a fabulous dinner party evening when lockdown restrictions ease, we’ll be showing you how to create the perfect menu for your guests. Learn the imperative do’s and don’ts for cuisine, food types and drinks using data gathered after surveying 2000 people looking at the British public's attitudes towards dinner parties.

nio cocktails dinner party cuisines

What Cuisine to Serve

From our research, we discovered that 48% of the nation want British food served at a dinner party with Italian cuisine (40%) and Chinese (29%) also making the top three spots. Although historically, Britain has gained a reputation for having fewer culinary options than other countries in Europe and around the world, there are multiple classic dishes that we just can’t get enough of. With fish and chips, shepherds pie, beef wellington and, of course, the famed roast dinner, there are a plethora of British dishes to serve!

Over the years, however, Britain has broadened its horizons. It is now well-known as the land of foodie innovation, with almost every type of cuisine imaginable represented in the UK. From Indian and French to Thai and Spanish, the options are endless and reflect the ethnic diversity of Britain today.

what cuisine to serve at a dinner party

What Food to Serve

With British cuisine earning itself the top spot, we learned that roast dinners (5.45%) win as the nation’s favourite food to be served at a dinner party. This was followed closely by steak (5.3%) as well as pizza (5.05%) and pasta (3.75%) as the next top picks. Beef dishes including wagyu, fillet, and wellington (2.6%) were also popular among respondents.

Which Foods to Avoid

Of course, when planning a dinner party, you’ll need to try and cater to everyone’s tastes. While this may be tricky if you’re inviting lots of people, there are some foods that our survey respondents think should always be avoided. For example, 15.25% do not want fish or seafood of any kind served at a dinner party, including prawns, sushi, mussels, oysters, salmon, tuna, shellfish, octopus and calamari. 

Vegetarianism and Veganism are definitely on the rise, and our survey agreed so! 9.15% of respondents said they wouldn’t want meat based products of any sort. Respondents also rejected typically spicy foods such as curry and Indian cuisine (4.95%), with 2.15% not wanting anything spicy! Before deciding on what food to serve, we'd recommend getting an idea of your guests' likes and dislikes and asking about any allergies or dietary requirements. 

The Best Drinks to Serve

Drinks also play a vital role in creating the best dinner party menu - it’s not all about the food! Our survey revealed that 46% of respondents prefer non-alcoholic and soft drinks at a dinner party.  The next most popular was wine at 44%, and beer at 34%, with cocktails coming in fourth at 26% with spirits.

Interestingly, we also found that millennials want cocktails more than any other age group, with 43% opting for cocktails over wine, beer and prosecco. Patrick Pistolesi, Master Mixologist at NIO Cocktails and founder of Drink Kong, a World's Top 50 Bar, attributes the millennial love of cocktails to changing drinking habits. Commenting on the survey, Patrick says: “It’s no surprise that millennials favour cocktails. Their attitudes towards drinks and alcohol differ significantly from that of their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts.

Millennials place high importance on flavour innovation and premium drinks. They are more experimental and open to different types of spirit than any other generation, from vodka, rum to tequila. As a result, they have driven considerable interest in cocktails, particularly premixed drinks. Premixed or ready-to-drink cocktails offer convenience, new drinking experiences and flavours in social drinking situations. Studies have shown that in addition to drinking in bars, an increasing number of millennials are opting for at-home experiences, citing different reasons such as budget, comfort, and more personal experiences. 

While cocktails have technically been around for hundreds of years, their popularity has skyrocketed since the mid-2000s. We’ve seen a huge growth in the appreciation for the art of mixology and an enormous boom in cocktail culture with drinks like an Espresso Martini, Negroni, Mai Tai and Margarita’s appearing on cocktail menus worldwide. 

Patrick says, “the premixed cocktail boom reflects these demands as they allow people to enjoy their favourite drinks without the stress, cost and expertise of making them yourself. All the hard work has already been done! I expect premixed cocktails to remain a popular choice for millennials long after the pandemic, as people begin to socialise again in small groups in newly renovated homes and gardens. 

NIO Cocktails appeal greatly to millennial drinking habits as they require no specialist cocktail knowledge or apparatus without compromising on expertise, premium brands and quality ingredients. They offer an extensive range and choice of classic and signature cocktails that you would expect to discover in some of the world’s best bars and, most importantly, alleviate the hard to balance demands of making proper cocktails with the requirements of hosting guests in your home.”

Expert Tips on Cocktail & Food Pairing

Patrick Pistolesi suggests pairing cocktails with food to enhance the flavours of your dishes and truly wow your guests. 

“Pairing food with wine is a traditional format that works well, but a good cocktail pairing is an excellent way to impress your dinner party guests. Cocktails are slightly more complicated when it comes to food pairing as the flavours are a lot more complex. However, this is good news for food and cuisine as you can experiment with a host of different flavours and tastes to make your dishes shine. 

My top tip for cocktail pairing is to contrast and compliment flavours. The drinks must fit with the food without matching the flavours too closely. You want to invigorate the senses and extend the food’s flavour profile, not replicate the flavours of your dish.” 

Based on the UK’s favourite dishes, here are Patrick’s recommended cocktail pairings:  

Roast dinner - With rich gravies and tender slow-cooked meat, Mai Tai’s tend to beautifully pair and complement these flavours — rum pairs well with roasted lamb and beef, as well as slow-cooked stews. A rum Mai Tai, combining dark rum, zesty citrus and Cointreau, is a popular cocktail and one of the most well-balanced drinks around. The refreshing citrus will cut through the intense meaty flavours and surprise guests with new flavours that they perhaps haven’t tried before. 

Steak - One thing that’s not hard to argue is that whiskey pairs wonderfully with red meat and pork. The spicey, aromatic and warm flavours of a good Bourbon cocktail, such as a Manhattan, will both elevate and balance the flavours of a rich, succulent steak dish. 

Pizza - With heavier food like pizza, it’s best to try and pair it with a lighter drink. If the pizza is spicier, consider shaking a light, refreshing cocktail like a Vodka Sour to level out the heat. Vodka is very neutral in flavour, so it’s a good base spirit to start with if you’re unsure how to compliment the food. You can also pair similar tastes in the dish to the drink by adding a herb garnish, such as basil, for a punchy kick of flavour. 

Pasta - As an Irish-Italian, I unsurprisingly enjoy pairing Italian dishes with Italian drinks. For a taste of la Bella vita, why not try mixing a classic Italian aperitivo (pre-meal drink) like a rich Negroni. With the bitterness of the Campari and the botanical rich flavours from the Vermouth and bitters, it needs strongly-flavoured pasta dishes, like Pasta alla Carbonara or Lasagne alla Bolognese. It is an acquired taste, but a dinner party should celebrate life, and exploration is undoubtedly one of life’s greatest adventures. Another excellent digestif (after dinner drink) to cleanse the palate after a meal is a classic Espresso Martini. An exquisite cocktail that marries silky vodka with espresso liqueur is a sumptuous choice for the discerning cocktail drinker. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new flavours - your guests may love it!



If you’re looking for bar-quality cocktails that’s quick and convenient to serve but don’t skimp on the quality, look no further than NIO Cocktails. With a wide menu of popular classic menus plus some unique creations, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.