How to Throw a Smashing Cocktail Party

people_at_party_560w-e1296334488128With spring approaching, people are slowly rousing from hibernation. They are finally peeling themselves off the couch, away from their televisions, and are feeling more social. Because it is not warm enough for the backyard BBQ’s to begin quite yet, this is the perfect time to throw a cocktail party! It will break up the tedium of March, where we are stuck between the winter chill and the spring thaw.



To determine how many people you wish to invite, you must first decide upon the place for the party. Select which rooms you want your guests in and estimate how many people can comfortably fit in this space. With spring
approaching, this is a great time to make introductions. Try joining one group of friends with another, but be careful not to outnumber one set of friends or the smaller group will tend to only mingle with one another.

Cocktail parties usually break into a few smaller groups, breaking up conversation, so keep this in mind as you consider the minimum number to invite. Even numbers from 12 – 20 is a good range.

TIP: To encourage mingling and circulation, set out fewer chairs than guests. That way your guests cannot spend the evening confined to a seat.





Set your budget for the party by assuming that each guest will have four drinks over the course of the evening. Estimate 10 hors d’oeuvres per person for each hour they’re at the party. Evite offers a bar calculator that can help you better plan your budget for alcohol.




1)    Create a playlist that will begin the minute your first guest arrives and will not end until all your guests have left. The music should be just loud enough that people have to talk above it slightly.

2)    Because you are the host, your attitude will set the mood. Have a stiff drink before your guests arrive. If you start the evening off projecting a loose and fun vibe it will be easy for your guests to follow suit.

3)    Create the proper lighting. You can go all the way with this, as it bears the most weight on the atmosphere of the party. A low-lit atmosphere has a very glamorous, old-movie feel. Everyone looks better in low lighting, so set up lamps on lower tables. You could even switch your bulbs to pale pinks – a flattering color for everyone. You can light candles as well (unscented and plain), but keep them away from your guests’ hand-gesturing trajectory (typically the drunker people get, the more Italian they become.) 😉


4)    You don’t need to set a dress code, but encourage your guests to gussy up a bit. This will add to the glamour of the evening without setting to formal a tone.

5)    Be sure to provide guests with introductions, especially if you are hosting a meet-and-greet style party.

6)    Set appetizer platters on different surfaces throughout the party area. This will also encourage circulation and mingling.

7)    Clear your entranceway coat-rack or closet and stock it with hangers.





Lighting can also help steer guests into the rooms you want them in and keep them out of the rooms you do not wish to occupy. Set a trail of light leading to the bathroom. It suggests which bathroom is primary.

It is always nice to pamper your guests with a well-stocked powder room. Be sure to stock lots of easily accessible toilet paper, hand towels, Kleenex, liquid soap, lady products, and whatever else you think your guests may require for hygienic comfort. You should place a scented candle or diffuser in this room alone.






Unless you plan to play bartender all night, I suggest you set up a DIY cocktail bar. This allows guests to make their own drinks. Just lie out a few of your favorite recipes on cards and make sure to stack the bar with all the required ingredients and supplies. Have a few cocktails already made for when the guests arrive. This will prevent crowding of the bar when the party begins.



TIP: Be sure to include at least 3 shakers and do place the bar area close to a sink for quick shaker rinsing. Be sure to have more than enough ice because no one enjoys a warm cocktail.


To select your cocktails, think of the personalities of your guests. Select 8 of the strongest personalities and try to include a drink that represents each one of them. For a collection of cocktails, view my Sinful Libations section.



Since the focus of a cocktail party is more on the drinks, serve only byte-sized appetizers and set out your smallest buffet plates. This will prevent your guests from loading up on food. A full belly encourages sitting and fatigue. You 2009_07_10-Fancywant your party to be lively and exciting.

Because there is no main dinner, you can make your appetizers as fancy as you like. You could even pair them with the cocktails you select, which will encourage more sampling. Also, be sure to serve food on white plates, platter, and bowls. This will showcase the interesting visual of your appetizers. Stick with clear and consistent glassware.

Set out a variety of decadent, byte-sized deserts farther into the night. Set out some wedged fruit as well.

stock-home-bar-cocktail-party-350x263 One last TIP: Find out how each guest is getting home at the  end of the night BEFORE they begin drinking. Offer places to crash if you can provide it. If you see a guest who doesn’t seem fit to drive home, offer to pay for their taxi. It’s your responsibility as a host to make sure your guests get home safely.

And last but not least, have fun! After all, the time and effort that went into planning and executing this party has paid off. You deserve another drink, or two.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s