compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying Cocktail Napkins

Cocktail napkins I have gifted and others I have yet to gift. Photo: Courtesy the retailer

It started at William Wayne, that wonderful throwback interiors store with locations on University Place and Lexington Avenue. I was early for a meeting at nearby East Pole and went in to look for a hostess gift for a beautifully mannered friend who had invited my husband and me over for dinner that weekend. Maybe a small tray or a painted vintage glass? I didn’t want to spend more than $50, but wanted it to be thoughtful. Inside, I fell upon the most charming set of 12 cocktail napkins, crisp white linen with sky-blue Swiss dot embroidery and an embroidered scalloped edge. They were $42 and somehow felt like the perfect gift, so out-of-date and out of touch as to make them just right.

In fact, it was a Christmas gift of monogrammed cocktail napkins in mouse gray from another chic friend several years back that kindled my appreciation for the tiny squares of linen. They feel old-school and formal in a welcome way and can be used for so much more than cocktails — seltzer, hors d’oeuvres, to wipe a Brie-sticky finger from a cheese plate. There are quippy ones, traditional monogrammed ones, and exquisitely embroidered ones. The really beautiful ones tend to feel like a fortune, especially were you to break down cost per square inch, but for the right host or hostess they can be the perfect present — even better if that person is you.

Cocktail napkins I have gifted

All of the August Morgan designs appeal to a shameless punthusiast like me. I love this camel one but find them all hard to resist.

I got these for a friend whose birthday is Cinco de Mayo.

These felt sort of country appropriate for a friend in Connecticut.

I love these faux Porthault little roselets. They were perfect for a WASPy friend who likes to have parties in her garden.

There are a lot of great embroidery vendors on Etsy that will do beautiful (and less-expensive cocktail napkins). I liked this store because of how many color arrangements it offered — it’s like the Nike “design your own sneaker” store.

I brought these to a friend when we were invited to lunch at her house in Amagansett. They fit perfectly with her nuanced maritime theme.

I just love these so much. I got Oprah for a friend who got particularly worked up about the Oprah 2020 mania.

Full disclosure, I got these for myself. They’re simple, but the detailing is so pretty, and I like the rectangle shape.

Who can resist a kiss? I got these for a friend who always leaves lipstick marks on her wine glass, a detail I love about her.

Cocktail napkins I would like to gift

I just love how they fold in thirds like a letter. They come in four perfect Easter-egg shades that would be perfect to mix together. The linen and embroidery feel really luxurious. I would actually love to buy these for myself.

Julia B.’s entire Italian collection is so beautiful, but these might be my favorites. I would love to get these as a wedding gift for someone.

I think this would make a lovely wedding or bridal-shower gift for a discerning bride. I love the six crest options: Out of Africa for the friend who is taking a safari honeymoon, La Dolce Vita for the Portofino destination wedding.

I just can’t stand how pretty these are. What a perfect present … for myself!

If you want to go custom, these are just about the chicest.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

I Can’t Stop Buying Cocktail Napkins