It's not that complicated, actually. Life is too short to worry about one's cholesterol all 365 days a year, so once a year we throw caution to the wind and have a cocktail party where we provide ingredients & instructions for martinis and a bunch of martini-like beverages and everybody else brings us platefuls of red-meat based appetizers.
Once upon a time, in a distant land (actually Thanksgiving 2002, Boston MA), we sat at a dinner table discussing social niceties. The conversation turned to a brief lamentation that our circle of friends never got together for a good old-fashioned cocktail party, as glamorized in many a TV show and movie. You know the kind-- a party where the attendees actually take the time to dress for an "event" and enjoy a few very tasty beverages. Kyle summed it up wonderfully when he said, "Yes, we need an old-school cocktail party. You know, meat and martinis."
All of us around the table recognized a good idea when we heard it, so the first Meat & Martini party was scheduled for a few months later.
The sky's the limit-- provided the foundation is red meat. The great thing is that such a wide berth of food options allows everyone to participate. During our first Meat & Martini, we had three varieties of meatballs, homemade sliders, beef-wrapped breadsticks, a one-pound pepperoni, and two pounds of beautiful rare roast beef from a local deli.
Kyle, originator of the phrase Meat & Martini, did it up well: when he arrived at the party he pulled two large bags of beef jerky from his pockets, proclaiming it, "Dry meat for a dry martini."
In recent years, we've declared that the noble pig is an honorary red meat for the purposes of the party. This is handy since many foodstuffs become substantially tastier when wrapped in bacon and/or prosciutto.
For example, let's follow Mike's logic from 2010:
Duck also gets a hall pass, mainly because Americans don't eat enough of the stuff.
Let's face it, almost all seafood and poultry should be left for the rest of the year. Vegetarian stuff? Well, if you're a card-carrying meat-avoider, we'll let you hide a tray of veggie pastries in the corner, but don't expect much buy-in. Sorry.
Dress up a bit, especially with a little bit of a retro touch to the outfit. Watch some Rat Pack movies or similar if you need inspiration.
Office casual? Um, too casual. Jeans? You must be kidding. 007 tux ready for the casino? Too far in the other direction. The middle ground of looking good but not too stuffy is your goal.