I've lived in my apartment building for several years now. It's a lovely place with friendly doormen who actually open the door for me and, if my hands are full, they push my floor for me on the elevator panel. The lobby is pleasingly reminiscent of a Turkish hammam (or at least the mosaic arched ceiling is) and our apartment is adjacent to the access stairs to the well appointed roof deck.
But perhaps because my apartment lacks sufficient closet space, central air and windows in the bedroom, I sometimes forget what a nice place it really is. It takes the perspective of an outsider, a friend walking in for the first time remarking on what a nice building I live in, to remind me of that truism. And as I've been doing quite a bit of entertaining at home lately, I've not only been feeling remarkably connected to my friends, but also unusually positive about my living situation. So as much as I love a truly good restaurant meal, lately I've been preferring whatever it is I can gather together to eat and drink at home with friends.
And frankly, during the week that isn't much...cocktails and finger food on the roof are about all I can muster after a day at work. But no matter, I've discovered that, appropriately done, this low effort route can be just as delicious and satisfying as a full meal.
Based on recent experience, a combination of cheese, meats, crackers, dips, something piquant, something fresh and something sweet will satisfy just about any crowd. Oh, and booze of course.
For cheese I like a soft and a semi-hard cheese (lately it's been Robiola and whatever semi-hard the guy at Di Palo's gives me...Prima Donna works if you don't have access to Di Palo's). For meat I like a salami, a silky prosciutto cotta and if you have non pork eaters, a bresaola. Crackers I don't feel that strongly about. Sometimes I'm very loyal to Ak Maks, other times I like Bretons...but NEVER original water crackers. I cannot fathom why such a boring cracker was ever created.
Dips/spreads...buy, make, whatever, as long as they're tasty and something other than hummus. Although one tip I have discovered is that fewer people than I thought like chicken liver pate if that is at all helpful. For the piquant, I'm currently obsessed with pickled sour cherries but cornichons will do in a pinch. And something fresh? Cherry tomatoes are my current go to, but that is mostly because I got the most unbelievably sweet batch in my CSA box last week and I felt compelled to share them with everyone who crossed my threshold. My something sweet is unfailingly David Lebovitz's Pain d'Amande cookies.
As for drinks...you can of course get fancy and mix cocktails, and assuming a moderately advanced skill level I'm sure that your friends will be quite appreciative. But I find that sticking to a white wine (Gruner, Vinho Verde or Sauvignon Blanc for hot summer weather), beer and a bottle of San Pellegrino sparkling water fits the bill quite nicely as well, and takes a fraction of the effort.
So go forth and impress your friends with your extraordinary hosting abilities and enjoy the added benefit of lifted spirits. No need to mention to anyone that they're getting the "low effort" cocktail party. They'll never know. And even if they did, it wouldn't matter. Friends are friends, and in the end, everyone just wants to spend time together, regardless of how big of an effort is made.