Friday, July 12, 2013

Cocktail Napkins

There is one entertaining item which is often overlooked, and that is the humble cocktail napkin.  No matter what season, we are constantly using napkins under every kind of beverage: hot, cold, wine or mixed cocktail, non-alcoholic or simple spritzers or flavored waters.  These little napkins do double duty when there is any kind of finger food; it’s a simple way to eat a few bites of an appetizer; even when there are plates and forks, I always set out little napkins.  For a large party with tray-passed foods, you can go through hundreds of napkins.  They contain condensation, manage spills and drips, keep hands clean, present rings on wood tables and prevent the dreaded sound of glass-on-glass contact.  That’s one of my peeves, I hate to hear glasses touch glass tables. So mine are covered, and at a minimum, there are plenty of cocktail napkins. 

It nice to know that there are so many options for little napkins; the easy answer is paper; you can buy them in solid colors, stripes or dozens of styles at the party stores.  In paper they are a great way to extend your theme at an affordable price.  I pick them up wherever I can on my travels; I have Eiffel Tower napkins from Paris on reserve for the Reve launch this summer (yes, still in production), and Swiss napkins from the last stopover in Geneva, as well as chickens, stars & stripes, and solids, in a stack in our bar.  I have had orange ones, pink ones, florals, Chinoisserie and toiles.  Many of these come from the line called Ideal Home Range; you will see this line sold all over, including many fancy grocery stores.  We use a lot of these and they also make great gifts.

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I leave stacks of them around the drinks areas, and like to double them up;  I find that guests often pull one for wiping their hands and the other stays under the glass.  I like to coordinate colors and textures; we had pink Chinoiserie toile with a coordinating pink and green floral for Mother’s Day, and now, chickens and black & white stripe~

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I have been really happy to see the resurgence of cloth cocktail napkins.  When I lived in Paris, the family that lived below had dozens of crystal glasses in the same pattern in different forms, as well as several hundred matching white scalloped-edged cocktail napkins, all of which were used on a regular basis for les cocktails; if you had a cocktail party in Paris, you had cloth napkins; I went to many, and no one ever had paper napkins.  When I left Paris, I came home with 100 of these same white cotton scallop edge cocktail napkins, just like my friend Karen had, the ones we used all the time.  It was tough to track them down, but 100 was modest for a party of 30,I figured.  I still use these, 20 years later.  My family thought they were fussy at first, and hesitated to use them, but now they use them without a thought, and they have always cleaned up fine, through lipstick, fruit juices and sauces.

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I have linens stashed away now that I need to sell for my friend L.  She and her Mother of the Bellodgia fame and with the best taste, bought these in Belgium long ago. These cocktail napkins are finished with the finest Belgian lace and still have their original stickers~

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No one makes lace like this today; this set is ivory, and the needlework is amazing, not to mention the original price~

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There are many online sources for cloth cocktail napkins, but I often prefer to see before I buy.  Today I went to Crate and Barrel to see some of the samples they had online.  You can see their range of napkins HERE.   As soon as I walked in the door to the store though, I picked up one of these: a linen napkin in Mustard, which I swear matches the one I have in Beaune that is also linen, the last one a store in Beaune had in stock 5 years ago.  I have hunted for this napkin in this shade for five years!  I brought it home, but will go back to buy more right away.  This is the yellow that looks amazing with the Napoleon III chinoisserie that we have in Beaune.  If you have seen our living room in the Romantic Homes Christmas shoot you also know I love this color of yellow; it’s a very happy and clear yellow. AND it goes great with sterling and vermeil~


it looks great on a tea service, with silver and white and the amber of sugar stirs~

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I’d like to see these napkins tied with navy, but in summer, golden yellow and hot pink is one of my favorite combinations~

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And I will be hosting Dad’s 82nd Birthday party next week, so I think I will use the yellow napkins and the French curtain rings.  I love this look; very pretty yet still casual and fine for a man’s birthday.  These napkins are not on the website, but they come in various colors in the store.  If you love turquoise blue, go see these.  They are 21” square, 100% linen, made in India, fine quality and with mitred corners.  They look like what I would buy in France, but for $7 each. Compare to Matteo or Libeco at $24 and this is a great deal.  Can not go wrong with linen napkins.


So back to the cocktail napkins, I was thinking of a lighter grey, but the only ones in linen are this color, which is called Brindle.  I have used the French cotton napkins you find all over France for many years and still have many of them, but the cotton tends to stain.  None of my linen napkins ever stain, ever.  I was tempted by the beautiful ocean blue and a lime green, but this color goes with everything, and I thought, if I were in France which one would I buy.  This one, definitely.  I would be able to use these with all white flowers, as well as deep amethyst shades, lavender, yellow or pink.  They will go with everything else I have.

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I particularly love how they are set off by white, and pinks.

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I can see us using these for tea or breakfast too; they also have the nice mitered corners and so well sewn~

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they really go neutral when I put other pieces with them.

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If cloth beverage or cocktail napkins were ever “out of style,” I’d say they are definitely in style now, and affordable.  There are some that are coaster size, like 6” square.  I like this size, which is 10” square, the same size as the paper napkins I buy, the same size as the unfolded Paris napkin here, and the same size as the Crate & Barrel napkin, here folded up~


There are lots of great monogrammed cocktail napkins online; Tina from The Enchanted Home blog showed a great source HERE this week.  I tend to buy white or neutral, since my family is really pretty messy at meals and I can successfully launder shades of white and neutral.  I can think of plenty of friends who would love the monogrammed ones, and who would be able to keep them clean, but that’s probably not for me.


And as an extra bonus, these cocktail napkins happen to pair beautifully with the Italian linen napkins that my friend L gave me to sell or find a home for…um, I am pretty sure that home will be here….


I am not sure I can allow my family to eat on this magnificent Italian table cloth.  Maybe we will use it for coffee one day.


Maybe I will just take some photos and put them back away….I love the contrast of the Brindle napkins with the taupe trim of the Italian ones….ahhhh…


Do you use cocktail or beverage napkins in paper or cloth?  If not, would you consider them?  Personally they are something I can’t live without, even when we have a Sunday meal outside.  I’m loving these yellow and taupe ones, now it’s just a question of how many I should buy.  I always have to buy a few extra since every now and then the party gets going and a napkin lights on fire or something.  You’ll see them in the next few weeks in action here.  Have a wonderful weekend~


  1. Loved these last two posts. They make me feel better for not buying a lot of decorating items - like things for tablescapes - which is an abhorrent word to begin with. A simple linen napkin, some homemade food, wine, and a big hunk of cheese is the best tablescape I can think of.

  2. Beautiful post Andrea!
    I have been buying vintage napkins of all sorts for years but rarely use the cocktail sizes ones. YOu've inspired me as usual!
    Will start to use them toute suite!
    Thank you!!!!
    Love your posts so much!

  3. What a nice selection you have. Do like the idea of pairing two paper napkins. I always keep a variety of paper cocktail napkins in various designs--find them practical and love to buy them when I see a cute pattern.

  4. Andrea, we do both share a love of linen napkins and tablecloths.Yours are GORGEOUS! The last image and those with the lace edging are so special. I do have a couple of sets of beverage or cocktail napkins, in linen and a stack of assorted paper ones. I like Caspari paper that are so beautiful and like to find them at Tuesday morning! Rogers Gardens always has a big selection.

    Love and Hugs
    Artists Series 2013

  5. Yes, indeed. Cocktail napkins add to the fun and decor for any little gathering. I tend to use paper ones outside, and cloth ones inside; but that is not a hard and fast rule.

    I'm often looking at the German line called (amazingly) Caspari, too. They make some gorgeous designs and can be found at good home decor shops. This past year I had some with nasturtiums printed on them, and a guest of mine was really taken with them. They do get noticed!

  6. I loved reading this post! I've just spent an entire week looking for the perfect shade of napkins.. sferra's bluebell wins, but in the process, I've found 3 dozen others.. LOL I love cloth napkins. I try to scarf up all of Williams Sonoma's cocktail napkins when they are on sale. You are so right about linen resisting stains, I find that, too. I think napkins are the perfect accessory for anything! xo marlis

  7. So elegant! Last night, my husband and I stopped by a neighbor's for a bite of homemade goat cheese and a glass of Prosecco. Delish! She said it was your recipe and she found you through me...and she gave me some to take home...all around great! I just had some for lunch.

    1. Haha you (and your neighbor) have made my weekend~ glad you all loved it!