Are you looking to host a great networking event? Or maybe you want to do something for a special occasion beyond just another dinner party? Why not throw a cocktail party?

Admit it, you love the idea of a cocktail party. They just seem so sophisticated and delightfully retro. And while it is true that cocktail parties had a brief dip in popularity in recent years, they are back in a big way.

But how does one go about throwing a cocktail party? Well, thankfully they are easy to plan, fun to attend, and a great way to bring coworkers, friends, and family together.

The Basics Of Your Cocktail Party

So, when you decide to throw a cocktail party, there are some things you need to figure out fairly early on in the planning process.

  1. How many people will be on the guest list?
  2. Is it a work thing, a friend thing, both?
  3. How formal is the dress code going to be? Is it going to be casual or will cocktail attire be required
  4. Will it be themed or just a full bar?
  5. Is it going to be indoor or outdoor? And if it is outdoor is there a plan in case it rains?
  6. How much and what kind of food will be served?
  7. How much money is in the budget?

Now, ideally, the guest list should be small, but not too small. The magic number is between 8-15. It is also good if you invite people from several different sectors of your life so they can get to know each other. So, a handful of your closest friends, a smattering of coworkers, plus a cool cousin or two should do the trick nicely.

The Food

While it is important to have some tasty treats to snack on, the real star of the show is, of course, the drinks. So, simply plan out some hors d’oeuvres and other finger food for guests to graze on. And if you don’t want to get too fancy or deal with too much food prep, a simple cheese platter with some crackers, fruit, and a little cured meat will be more than enough.

The Drinks

Now, even if you are going to have a fun themed event, it is important to have the makings for at least a few classic cocktails beyond a rum and coke. Also, make sure you have some beer and wine on hand, in case folks aren’t in the mood for hard liquor. And don’t forget the makings for alcohol-free drinks, other than soda and water, for those who are driving.

A few more things to remember, if you are going to have a theme around your drinks, make sure you limit your menu to two or three drinks. Also, make sure you totally comfortable mixing them by having a few practice runs leading up to the big event. That way you don’t have to keep stopping to check the recipe and will look suave and assured in your mixology skills.

Or, you could simply premix your drinks, pour them into classy pitchers, have plenty of garnishes and ice available and where guests can get to them, and let guests serve themselves. However, if you are going to do it this way, you should remember to check the levels of drinks, extras, and ice every so often to make sure you aren’t running low. Also, have enough for about three drinks per person, just to be safe.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

Unless you are the ultimate host or hostess, you are going to need some help, especially if you are going to socialize a little too. It is ok to ask friends and family to help with food or making drinks. You can even take turns, so everyone has a chance to mingle with guests and get to know everyone (if they don’t know everyone already).

The point of having a cocktail party is to have a relaxed, mellow get together, where everyone has the chance to circulate a little, talk with folks, and just have a nice time. This includes the host or hostess.

So, if you don’t want to do it all yourself, and for some reason, none of your friends or family want to help out, you might want to consider hiring someone for the evening to help out. There are plenty of college students who are more than happy to serve drinks for a couple of $20s and some free food. Or if you want to be really fancy, hire a bartending service for the night.

Some Final Thoughts on Making It Perfect

First of all, don’t let the stress get to you. It is natural to feel a little stressed out when hosting a party, but don’t let it stress you out so much you can’t enjoy the party and hanging out with your friends and watching them meet and mingle.

Some ways you can manage the stress and worry is by making sure you are totally prepared for the night. This means getting the invitations early enough for people to not have anything else planned for that night but not so early they forget about it. 2-3 weeks is good most of the year and at least a month during the holiday season.

Next, make sure you have all the essential bar tools. This means ice buckets, a cocktail shaker, spoon, and strainer, a zester and knife for adding that perfect twist, and a couple of jiggers for measuring the booze. Also, make sure you have plenty of cocktail napkins, glasses, and little plates.

And most importantly, make sure you have enough alcohol for the entire cocktail party. Plan on 50-75% of the people you invited showing up and figure that most will want 2-4 drinks. Use these numbers to figure out how many bottles to buy.

Finally, have fun.

For more helpful tips on how to entertain like a pro, check out our blog. It is full of great tips on how to throw a great dinner party and so much more.