How to Throw a Cocktail Party

Cocktail parties are a great way to entertain because they accommodate any kind of guest list, ranging from neighbors to business associates. Regardless of what kind of crowd you're entertaining, however, there are a few basic guidelines to throwing a fabulous cocktail party...


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    Set the appropriate time. The traditional time frame for a cocktail party is two to three hours in length held between 6 P.M. and 10 P.M. TST
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    Buy more than enough ice. Remember that you're not just using it for drinks, but also for chilling bottles and cans. Generally, having 1 lb. of ice per guest should be adequate.
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    Have a variety of glasses on hand, depending on the variety of drinks you plan to offer. You should offer wine glasses for wines, juice and water; straight-sided highballs for tall drinks; tumblers for spirits and juices; and martini glasses. In terms of quantity, be ready with approximately twice as many glasses as you'll have guests.
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    Stock your bar.
    • For the wine drinkers, have one bottle for every two people, assuming five servings per bottle.
    • For the beer drinkers, have one six-pack for every two people, assuming 12 oz. servings.
    • Get one or two liquors that can be made into a variety of cocktails (probably vodka, rum, gin, scotch, bourbon, blended whiskey, or tequila)
    • Don't forget mixers and garnishes, including orange juice, soda, tonic, ginger ale, cola, grenadine, tomato juice, Tabasco, lemons, limes, horseradish, and Worcestershire sauce. The most important mixer, however, is seltzer (club soda - if you must).
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    Prepare the menu. Aim for variety (meat, vegetarian, hot, cold, spicy, and sweet). If you're not serving dinner, estimate 6 bites per person, but remember that it's better to have too much food than not enough.
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    Offer coffee to your guests towards the end of the party as a courtesy, but remember that coffee does not help increase sobriety. Keep the number of a local taxi service handy for those guests lacking a designated driver.


  • If you anticipate your guests will be wine drinkers, you can prepare by uncorking a few bottles in advance, and then replacing the corks, however, reds are always best left to breathe.
  • If you have invited the children of your guests, have a room especially for them with books and movies, or if you have a pool, write on the invitation that swimming is available.
  • Also, if you have invited guests to a party who may not have met other guests you may consider having a bar area where you would make cocktails and entertain people who might have problems socializing with strangers.
  • Catering your cocktail party costs about $12 per person
  • Ask your guests to dress up for the cocktail party. More formal attire will add to the experience - and guests are less likely to over-imbibe and get out of hand if they feel more respectable.
  • If it is not a dinner party, a good rule of thumb is to provide 1 seat for every 2 invitees. People circulate more and have a better time.
  • For a 2-hour party where you only plan on serving wine and/or champagne, you'll need to have one bottle for every two guests. Have a mix of white and red varieties.
  • If you see a guest who doesn't seem fit to drive home, offer to pay for their taxi, or give them a ride home yourself. It's your responsibility as host not only to make sure they have a good time, but also to be certain they make it home safely.
  • At a cocktail party, it is easy to mix guests who might not feel comfortable sitting across from one another at a dinner party.

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