how to host a successful cocktail party

How to Host a Successful Cocktail Party

Make sure your next cocktail party is a huge hit with the tips below.


:: Guest List

Send invites out around 3 weeks prior to your event. One week in advance follow up with guests you haven’t heard from and confirm with those who have RSVP’ed. Once you have your headcount locked down you can start planning the menu and room set-up. Remember though, only 60 percent of invited guests tend to show up and men show up even less, so invite a few more than you are planning to host.


:: Bar Set-Up

Place the bar in an easily accessible location. Most guests will congregate here, so make sure there is plenty of space surrounding it. Place wine and beer in an ice bucket partially filled with water and a little bit of salt to chill 30 minutes before the start of the event. Put bottles of several types of alcohol in the middle of the table, then arrange ice, mixers and garnishes around them, so they are easily reached from all sides.



:: Room Set-Up

Place your seating and food away from the bar area to avoid congestion. Arrange furniture so guests can mingle freely and leave enough furniture against the walls to sit about 10% of your guests. Set the food up on a central table, buffet style, so you’re not swamped with serving during the event. Then, create mini food stations by placing dishes on smaller tables to encourage movement throughout the room. Extra points for setting your thermostat about 8 degrees below what is comfortable to counter the extra warmth of having your home full of guests.


:: The Drinks

Pick a cocktail with no more than four ingredients, so its easy for you or your guests to make drinks quickly and easily. In addition, serve drinks that can be made in advance and served in a pitcher. Think sangria, margaritas and mojitos. The more hands-free during the event it is, the better. Lastly, don’t forget to serve water or hint water, to help prevent cocktail hangovers.


:: The Food

You should be serving around 5-6 appetizers and plan on a guest eating 1-2 of each. Add a few more, if your cocktail party is taking place during mealtime. The perfect menu is a mixture of preparing things you know and love, and serving something new and exciting. So downsize old favorites.

Serve your famous soup in a shot glass or your best taco mix on a tortilla chip. But also feel free to try out a new recipe. Since there are so many appetizer options, if you don’t hit it out of the ball park, it won’t be the end of the world.

When planning your menu, take inspiration from the traditional multi-course dinner. Start with lighter, cold appetizers, followed by hot main dishes and close with sweet treats.

Remember the vegetarians by making sure 20% of your menu is meatless. Stock up on fillers such as nuts, olives, breadsticks or dishes. The backups will come in handy if an unexpected guest pops in or your guests are feeling extra hungry.


:: Last piece of advice

Enjoy the party! Your guests will take cues from their hostess. So if you are enjoying yourself, they will too.