Easy But Elegant Happy Hour Snacks.

By: Jen Shoop

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When we visit Mr. Magpie’s aunt at her lake house, she serves a proper happy hour every night — wine or cocktail plus something delicious to nibble on. Sometimes she’ll serve something involved, like a homemade spread with crackers, or a flatbread-type offering; other times, a simple but elegant offering like charcuterie and cheese. Mr. Magpie talks fondly about several happy hour dishes she made in the summers of his youth, especially something called “Kristi Yamaguchi Dip” (ranch dip, whose recipe probably came from an interview with the skater?) and bacon-wrapped pretzel rods. (My mother served something similar at many cocktail parties when I was younger: a club cracker wrapped with bacon. They were always the first to go!). This past weekend, we brought a happy hour spread to celebrate my father-in-law’s birthday: a few dozen oysters, some sparkling wine, fancy chips (Torres’ Iberico Ham flavored ones), and BjornQorn truffle popcorn. (My MIL transferred the oysters to several of her impressive oyster plates, seen above. She’s been collecting for years — these are beautiful mounted on a wall, by the way! — and Etsy’s a great spot to start hunting for gems. Search for Majolica as a starting point! You can find really fabulous vintage ones, too.)

I was reminded, as we pulled this together, of how much I love the nightly tradition at Mr. Magpie’s aunt’s lakehouse: a deliberate time to slow down and chat, without the formality or fanfare of a full meal. A highly recommend “bringing by happy hour” in lieu of treating someone to lunch or dinner at some point. It feels festive, and can often be just as impressive, and it permits the conversation to be the centerpiece. What are some of your favorite happy hour snacks? A few of our go-tos below.

Kielbasi (pan-toasted and sliced into coins) with mustard or Spanish chorizo (pan-toasted)

Bread cheese (you can find this at Whole Foods — also known as Swedish kaffeost or brödost) toasted in a skillet and served with slices of baguette and whatever spread or condiment you have on hand (fig spread, Bonne Maman jam, chili crisp)

BBQ shrimp (a bit more ambitious, but not difficult and can be made well in advance — be sure to serve with paper towels) or cocktail shrimp

Mini toasts with slices of manchego and a smear of membrillo (quince paste)

Gildas (the original pintxo)

Spiral ham with Hawaiian rolls and mustard

Smoked salmon or tuna spread (we buy locally at Black Salt, but Fishwife has a spicy version from their recent collab with Fly by Jing you can buy online) with baguette slices

Little Sesame Hummus with Crudite and Pita Chips or Toasted Pita Bread — I always “dress up” the hummus by drizzling with good olive oil and sometimes fresh herbs or a sprinkle of paprika

Pimento Cheese Spread (I love the one at Bread Furst) with club crackers

Ina Garten’s Turkey Tea Sandwiches (follow all instructions to a tee — especially important to get a good quality raisin-nut loaf from a bakery)

Trader Joe’s Pastry Pups (I brush with egg wash and sprinkle with everything bagel seasoning) with mustard

Whipped Ricotta (literally just place ricotta and a bit of olive oil in a Cuisinart and season with salt and pepper) with Trader Joe’s Fig + Olive Crisps (they often have a few similar varieties), drizzled with Red Clay Peach Hot Honey

Gỏi cuốn (Vietnamese rice paper spring rolls) with peanut sauce — we buy from favorite Vietnamese restaurants and slice in half (Eden Center has tons of great Vietnamese restaurants if you’re local)

Dozen oysters with mignonette sauce

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests (must be cooked to a crisp or they are unappealingly soggy, FYI)

Breadsticks (thin, crispy kind) wrapped with prosciutto

Slices of cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto and drizzled with anise liquor and fennel seeds

Alexia oven fries served with three dipping sauces: mayo, malt vinegar, and ketchup

For even smaller nibbles: Regalis truffle popcorn, Virginia peanuts, Torres chips, Trader Joe’s Patio Chips (I loveeee these), Ranch crackers, Mitica Teralli crackers (different flavors available), cheese straws, bar mixes like this or this, Flufa cheese pastry sticks, good olives (dressed up with extra olive oil at home), shrimp chips, Mitica spanish cocktail mix.

Share your recipes, ideas, brands in the comments, too!


+My Grub Street Style food diary.

+How to make really good cocktails at home.

+Lessons from entertaining.

Let’s Go Shopping.

+Three very pretty white/off-white dresses for summer in varying styles: this crochet, this Reformation, and this eyelet Natalie Martin.

+Speaking of Natalie Martin: they’re running a sample sale with lots of goodies. How great is this $75 eyelet cover up?

+The Target dumbbells I just featured over the weekend are 20% off. I keep adding new weights as I try to figure out what my true “light,” “medium,” and “heavy” range are — it’s shifting as I continue to train, too. I also bought a yoga block for various exercises while 20% off. Why do these colors bring such joy?

+With all my new fitness gear, eyeing an organization system like this for our fitness room.

+But back to Target: the Stanley pint cups are buy one, get one 25% off.

+A fabulous statement necklace. Love everything from this costume jewelry brand. Like how great are these oversized red stars for FOJ?

+My fav round brush – have had it for over a decade. Bought after I read this is the brand Gisele uses. If it’s good enough for her…

+Cute slouchy stripe sweatshirt.

+Love the color, silhouette, and pique material of this Boden swimsuit!

+A new razor is essential for swim season.

+This Juliet Dunn…!!!

+FUN, colorful designer tote.

+A clever way to attach your carry-on to your roll-a-board if it doesn’t have that sleeve to slip over the handle!

+Sezane’s newest collection is GOOD. I love this unexpected moody floral, this shirtdress, this top and shorts set.

+This brown floral dress is so up my alley. Love the neckline.

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14 thoughts on “Easy But Elegant Happy Hour Snacks.

  1. Also from Ina, sliced (English) cucumbers and salami. Intersperse one slice of cucumber and one slice of salami. So easy and always on hand, along with truffle chips and Marcona almonds. For the holidays, a log of goat cheese with pepper jelly on top served with water crackers.

  2. What wonderful app/happy hour ideas! We’re taking our first vacation as a family of 3 to Hilton Head in a few weeks and rented an AirBnB. To give ourselves more flexibility around nap schedules we’ll be cooking 2 meals a day at the cottage and I was on the hunt for easy and celebratory recipes. I’m thinking a different meat & cheese pairing for a few nights, crudite platter repurposed as beach snacks another night, and pimento or another classic (Helluva Good French Onion) with Cape Cod chips.

  3. Love these posts so much! Your MIL seems so elegant. Love the glimpses of her entertaining and home decor. One HH snack I serve frequently is a block of cream cheese with hot pepper jelly poured over it and topped with a sprig of Rosemary. Served with crackers. Love how simple and quick it is to assemble! Guests always go back for more.

  4. Ooo love the idea of bringing HH over! Especially bc HH often feels impossible as a toddler parent, a relic of my younger, more carefree life, haha.

    Couple of my crowd-pleaser small bites/apps:

    Chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken) with spicy kewpie mayo. Frying at home is a pain so we often buy at our Japanese grocery store and it reheats well in the air fryer. (Prepared foods at the Japanese grocery store are also a take-home HH in their own right!)

    Onion dip: caramelized onions and shallots mixed in with half sour cream and half Greek yogurt, with some lemon juice, salt and mushroom powder for extra umami. Serve with dipping chips and crudités.

    Baked Brie: I cut a small wheel in half and layer it with caramelized red onion, toasted walnuts, and raspberry jam and wrap it all up in a puff pastry. Brush with egg wash and bake. Everyone dies over this one!

    1. YUM! Love these so much — hadn’t thought of getting carry-out fried chicken bites, but I can’t imagine how popular that would be! Thank you, Iris!


  5. Oooh I will be trying out the whipped ricotta! I’ll take any excuse to use the Red Clay hot honey.

    Another simple idea for ricotta — thin sliced baguette, ricotta, lemon zest, honey, and flaky salt.

    And this seems to be a popular nibble when I serve it or bring it to a gathering: Trader Joe’s rosemary Marcona almonds!

    1. Yum – forgot about those almonds! Also love the truffle flavored ones. Speaking of truffle, WF usually sells a truffle-flecked gouda. Any time I serve it, people go wild over it! It has a particular affinity for the stoned wheat thins (you know, by the brand Red Oval?)

      Also love your suggestion for ricotta – will be trying that next.


  6. I love your recipe posts so very much. You know we are all waiting for the Magpie cookbook. Until then, would there be a way for you to make the recipes or your entire post pinnable?

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