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How To Throw A Great Cocktail Party

Updated on December 8, 2013

Throwing a cocktail party is a great way to celebrate any occasion. Better yet, a cocktail party is a great way to have fun for those of us who like to throw parties "just for the heck of it"! A properly planned cocktail party will provide comfort and entertainment for all the different types of people on your guest list. It can also be a great opportunity to introduce some new friends to old acquaintances. Here are some things you should do to make sure your cocktail party is a great success:

  • Set a date and time. Cocktail parties are ideally held on Friday or Saturday. A typical cocktail party should last approximately 3 hours. A practical start time for your party would be somewhere between 6 and 9 PM.
  • Decorate accordingly. Keep in mind the type of crowd you will be hosting, as well as the occasion, if any, that you will be celebrating. Fresh flowers, and candles arranged nicely in the area which you will be entertaining are great for any cocktail party. For special occasions you may want to create a theme for your party. For example, if you are celebrating a college graduation, or an athletic accomplishment, you may want to decorate in the school or team colors. If you are celebrating a recent wedding you may want to decorate according to the newlyweds' honeymoon destination. If this is more of an office or business related cocktail party, I recommend keeping it simple, yet elegant.
  • Be sure to have enough ice. You don't want to run out of ice in the midst of your party. It is better to overstock on ice than to not have enough. Ice will be needed for most mix drinks, as well as any "on the rocks" requests. It may also be needed to chill any wine or champagne bottles you may be serving. A good rule of thumb is to have 1 lb of ice on hand for each guest.
  • Have an adequate selection of liquor. To provide a basic selection which should enable everyone a beverage option they are comfortable with, you should have the following available: wine, champagne, vodka, whiskey and beer. For a more complete bar which will allow your guests to customize drinks to their preference, you may want to consider adding the following: gin, tequila rum, bourbon, vermouth, sherry, and brandy.
  • Have the proper mixers and garnishes. I assume most of your guests will not be drinking the liquor straight-up. If they do, God bless them! Here are the mixers and garnishes you will need to keep the others happy: tonic, ginger ale, cola, tomato juice, Tabasco sauce, lemons, limes, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and of course simple syrup
  • Have the proper stemware. Now you have all the ingredients to open your own tavern, but what will you serve the drinks in? I recommend you have the following handy: wine glasses, high balls, tumblers and martini glasses.
  • Serve delicious appetizers. A cocktail party is meant for mingling, and should not involve a sit-down meal. You want your guests to move around and socialize. Serving finger foods will work toward that goal. You should have a diverse variety of appetizers and snacks, which will provide something for everyone. Some essentials include: at least one vegetarian dish, cheese and crackers, a spicy appetizer, a cold cut tray, a seafood type appetizer, and some simple snacks such as potato chips and pretzels.

Quick Tips

  • Keep the snack bowls full.
  • Limit the amount of seats available for your party. You want your guests to socialize, not be couch potatoes.
  • Consider hiring a professional bartender if you are throwing a large cocktail party. You want to entertain your guests, not serve them.


Add Your Two Cents!

Can you add something to this article? Do you have a great cocktail or appetizer recipe that you would like to share? Do you have a funny or interesting story from a cocktail party you've attended, or maybe some helpful advice? If you've thrown a great cocktail party in the past, please share your advice below, and tell us what made it a success or what to avoid.


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    • Top Rated Recipes profile image

      Top Rated Recipes 5 years ago

      Great tips Barkley. I especially like the idea of keeping the menu simple with finger foods. A great way to keep guests mobile and mingling.

    • profile image

      jenny 6 years ago

      Great tips for throwing a spectacular cocktail party Barkley. Finger food are definitely the way to go, and if money is not a factor, hiring a professional bartender is a great idea.

    • Duce Arendell profile image

      Duce Arendell 7 years ago

      What a great idea! limiting the seats will almost force the guests to entertain themselves and take some stress off of me...Brilliant

    • Dave Cald profile image

      Dave Cald 7 years ago

      I am hosting a cocktail party in June, and I am looking for a great seafood appetizer to serve. I am already planning to serve some cocktail shrimp and scallops wrapped with bacon, but I am looking for one more unique recipe. Ideas Anyone???