Hosting a cocktail party? Follow these simple tips to make it a success

Throwing a party is the easy part – invite a few friends and it’s an event! Successfully hosting your gathering and making sure your guests are well taken care and entertained, is another thing altogether.

Below are a few tips to consider as you write your guest list and menu to ensure that you create both an unforgettable experience and lasting memories.

Know Your Audience

Most of us have different groups of friends. Our weekend ball crew for sporting events, family and friends for special events and backyard cookouts, work friends and colleagues and then there’s the swanky, after-hours cocktail crowd. Keep your party theme appropriate for your guest group with food, drinks, and music, setting the overall ambiance for the evening.

  • Music is one of the most important components of the evening. Keep it just low enough to encourage conversation and in relative theme of your guests likes and dislikes.
  • Stock the bar: Knowing in advance what your guests prefer goes a long way. Whether you are setting up a self-host bar with premade cocktail pitchers and their favorite beer and wine or you’ve a skilled bartender on hand, your guests will appreciate this small attention to detail.
  • Scheduling: If you’re scheduling an after-hours networking cocktail event, weeknights directly after work are preferred. If your event is pleasure only, weekends are best. Keep in mind if your event is late afternoon/early evening dinner hour, you should have foods heavier than light appetizers available. After 7? Appetizers and dessert items should be available.
  • Special Diets: Know your guests. Allergies? Vegetarian? Vegan? Dieting? If any of your guests are following a preferred diet, make sure there are delicious food options available. Again, this attention to detail makes an impression.
  • Time: Send out invitations within one week to 4 weeks before the party. Give everyone plenty of notice and touch base with your guests 2 weeks out and again a couple of days before your cocktail event.

The Menu

Keeping your guests happy and satisfied is key to a successful cocktail soiree. Everyone should feel welcome and well attended to. Mix, mingle and pull people into conversations.

  • Make sure you cater to everyone’s needs, including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options.
  • Finger foods that can be taken in 1-2 bites are excellent options for cocktail parties.
  • Creating a beautiful and well-designed charcuterie board shows attention to detail, offers many flavor and texture combinations, and will be photographed often. If you have more than one room where guests gather, ensure food platters are sprinkled evenly throughout each room, are easily accessible and refill them before they reach ¾ empty.
  • If your party falls during mealtime, make sure you have some heavier alternatives on hand, serve with crackers and/or bread. 

The Bar

A fully stocked bar is essential.

  • Serve a variety of spirits including vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey, as well as mixers like soda, tonic, fruit juices, and syrups.
  • Make sure you have a few bottles of wine on hand. White, red, or rosé. Your wines will taste as they should as long as they are served at the proper temperature. This is why a wine cooler or beverage center is a must-have! 
  • Always keep mixers and carbonated options on hand. You may want to get a kegerator – it keeps ice cold beer on tap and allows you to serve your guests efficiently.
  • Make a signature cocktail and give it a name.
  • Have plenty of ice! You can always buy ice bags from your local store and keep them in refrigerators or make your own with ice makers.
  • If you decide against a self-host bar and don’t wish to play bartender all evening, consider hiring a professional.
  • Non-alcoholic mocktails should be an option.

These minor details may seem insignificant, yet they have the biggest potential to make or break your celebration.

The Playlist

Setting the mood is crucial. Again, know your guests. If swanky, jazzy cocktail tunes are their preference, set your playlist accordingly.

  • Your playlist should be long enough to last the duration of your event, so it never repeats.
  • If possible, use a separate device to stream the playlist instead of your phone. 
  • Start with soft music and work your way up to the bigger bounce once the party gets going.
  • Include pop or retro songs that people remember and will sing along to, for later in the evening.
  • If you’re not sure you’re up to the task of creating a successful playlist, consider hiring a professional for the evening.

Create a Master Plan List

Creating a list will take a lot of stress out of party planning. The following list types will assist in keeping you on track:

  • Menu and food
  • Spirits, beer, wine and cocktail ingredients
  • Preparations, décor, etc.
  • Timeline: Shopping day, food prep day, décor, etc.

Flow and Set-up 

To ensure traffic moves with ease, keep the following items in mind:

  • Place potential bottlenecks away from each other. The bar and food should be in completely separate areas.
  • Seating should be moved to “clusters” for conversation and out of foot traffic areas.
  • Collection trays for plates, cups, glasses should be placed in several areas and emptied often. Discreet trash bins should be in multiple locations and again, emptied often.

Visual Cues

Creating a restroom sign for your guests is a small touch that makes a big difference.
If you’ve added foods for your guests’ diets, gluten-free, vegetarian, etc., make sure they are well defined. Small chalkboards are simple and can be altered and utilized event to event.


Create a great ambiance, circulate the room and chat with your guests often. Most of all, relax and enjoy yourself.

Content provided by: Wine Coolers Empire
Edited by: Karie Engels
This is NOT paid or promoted content, basil & salt magazine did not receive compensation in any form, payment or product for publishing this post.

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