Tips and Guides

Halloween Party Ideas: Cocktails and a Murder Mystery

Invite friends for a couple of drinks and an interesting activity


You outgrew trick-or-treating years ago, and the usual costume party has gotten a little old. So bring the fun—and chills—back into Halloween by throwing a murder-mystery-themed party. It’s one part costume party, one part brainteaser, one part great food, and a whole night of guaranteed fun!

Styling by Issa Villar. Recipes by Mel Jimenez. Photographed by Ocs Alvarez.

Read the original article ("The Butler Didn't Do It!”) in the October 2007 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App ( now! Log on to for more details.  

The Look

There are so many ways to go about the theme—it could be a mock high school reunion, a mountain lodge, even a Mexican getaway. Whatever you choose, the key is to make it look elegant. We picked a 1930s-type vibe (think old detective movies), making use of tasteful china with a silver border, and delicate rosebuds in low glass vases as a centerpiece. You can opt to use some deep red roses to play up the “bloody” theme.

The Mood

Every guest has to be game! Assign characters to your guests when you send the invitations, and ask them to come in costume. Have everyone act as their character throughout the night. The more over-the-top everyone acts, the more fun you’ll all have!

The Activity

There are many websites that offer murder-mystery party kits or downloadable instructions, but you’ll have to shell out a bit of cash. Just type “murder-mystery party” in your search engine and you’ll be presented with loads of options.

If you’re unwilling to shell out cash for a party kit, just improvise. Have your guests come dressed as assigned characters, and provide prop weapons. Some suggested characters: an heiress, a retired general, a millionaire couple, a debonair playboy, a former actress, a French maid, and—of course—a butler. You can decide who gets killed, the weapon used, and where it happened. You can give each guest a different clue—that way, they’ll all have to mingle to piece the puzzle together and get to the bottom of the mystery. The first to guess correctly wins a prize!

Game over? Don't go home just yet. Cap the night with a movie: pop in a DVD of Clue, which was based in Cluedo --- a classic Whodunit game; or the elegant 2001 version: Gosford Park, director Robert Altman's witty take on the Whodunit --- there are several butlers in this murder-mystery!

Make the party more fun with these ideas:

  1. Ask your friends to come in costumes! They can go for a 20s look or 40s noir -- similar to what we did! 
  2. Make it trend! Show the world how fun your party is! Create an instant makeshift Instagram booth with a simple styled background so you and your friends can take photos and post it in real time. Don't forget the hashtag!
  3. Don't forget to give a prize to whoever can guess the answer first. How about a gift check to their favorite spa or restaurant?
  4. Make it memorable. Aside from the photos that you'll take, you may also give away goodie bags that follow the theme. If you're doing a mystery theme, your loot bag can have a toy/water gun, a play-bow-tie, and a stamp pad, too!

If you're looking for more party theme and ideas, you may want to consider the following:

  • Chilling Haunted House - you'll surely have fun decorating each room of the house!
  • Creepy Carnival - you may turn the foyer into a scary entrance!
  • Zombie Apocalypse - have fun adding survivor-approved decorations!
  • A Bewitching Party - complete with a smokey cauldron and a an outdoor buffet of sweets!
The Food

Serve up cocktails that everyone can easily pick off their pretty silver platters while staying in role. Remember: Elegance is key. Roasted baby potatoes, canapés, and risotto cakes make the grade. Butter cake sandwiches dribbling with strawberry preserve would look absolutely delicious—and also somewhat ominous!

Canape of Tinapa, Basil, and Cherry Tomatoes

The smoky, salty flavor of the fish goes well with the juicy freshness of the tomatoes. The basil gives it a little herby kick.

Serves 10-12 as an appetizer.


  • 2 cups flaked smoked boneless Bangus (tinapang Bangus)
  • ½ - ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • freshly ground pepper
  • Optional: 1-2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 15 cherry tomatoes
  • basil leaves
  • 30 pieces unflavored crackers or melba toast


  1. Process the tinapa and the ¾ cup mayonnaise until relatively smooth. Add more mayonnaise (this part of the recipe is quite subjective; there are those that love their mayonnaise and then there are those who prefer as little as possible) until the spread is at the desired consistency. You may add the optional amount of vinegar at this point, if the brand of mayonnaise you are using is too sweet for your taste.
  2. Place the spread into a large bowl and season liberally with freshly ground pepper.
  3. Serve the tinapa spread on melba toast slices or crackers, with a slice of cherry tomato and a basil leaf.
The Drink: Tropical Cocktail

You may add grenadine to this cocktail to give it a more “sinister” look. 

Serves 4-6.


  • 2 cups (16 oz.) unsweetened pineapple juice, chilled
  • ¼ - 1/3 cup passionfruit syrup, chilled
  • 8 oz. rum (for this recipe, we used Tanduay Superior)
  • ice cubes
  • grenadine


  1. Place 2-3 large ice cubes in each glass.
  2. In a large container with tight-fitting lid, pour the chilled pineapple juice, the passionfruit syrup, the rum. Shake vigorously.
  3. Pour into ice-filled glasses.
  4. Drizzle each glass with 1-2 teaspoons grenadine just before serving. 

For the Passion Fruit Syrup, you'll need:

  • 1 cup passion fruit puree*
  • 1 cup white sugar

In a small pot over low heat, combine the two ingredients and heat until the sugar is dissolved.

*Passion Fruit Puree can be found in supermarkets such as Rustan's and Shopwise. You may look for brands like Full of Grace or Kablon Farms.


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