For "lively," you need to invite plenty of people, since a cocktail party should have a nicely buzzing kind of energy. There's no magic number of guests; it depends on the personalities and the space. Fifteen may feel crowded and boisterous; 40 may feel sparse. You just don't want it to feel empty.
"Short" means set a beginning and an end time—4 to 6, say. This makes it easier for guests to commit, and for you to say goodbye graciously when the mood starts to wane.
- A cheese board with Manchego, San Simón da Costa, and Tetilla cheeses (or substitute Gouda, Camembert, and Gorgonzola)
- Assorted Spanish olives
- Marcona almonds (large, crisp, salty Spanish almonds)
- Dried apricots, figs, and plums
- Roasted pepper and goat cheese empanadas
- White wine sangria with summer peaches and strawberries