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Cocktail parties are perfect for a range of different occasions, from formal business events to charity fundraisers or even just a sophisticated way to celebrate a birthday with friends and family. No matter what reason you have for hosting a cocktail party, everyone can agree that they can hard work to organise, but it doesn’t have to be hassle!
Decide your Budget First
Finalise the Guest List
When Should your Cocktail Party Be?
Pick your Party Venue
Hosting a Cocktail Party at Home
Get Rid of Any Clutter
The first thing you need to do to maximise your party space is get rid of all the clutter. Furniture or ornaments that don’t serve a purpose at your cocktail party need to go elsewhere. Moving clutter either upstairs or in a garage is a great way to help host a party in a small space.
Re-Arrange the Furniture
Stackable chairs are a great space saver. You can have them upstairs to keep your main party space free, and bring them out if more of your guests want to sit down.
If your living room is square-shaped, rather than rectangular, it’s best to have all of your furniture on the edge of the room and your food and drinks tables in the middle to maximise the space.
Your guests are likely to congregate around tables, so dot them around to spread people out. You can have a few different small tables to ensure your guests can move between them without creating a queue.
But if your space is narrower instead, it can be a good idea to have one long table in the centre with all your food and drink. Then you can place chairs around the edge. This will create a flow around the area that prevents congestion when your guests are moving about.
If you don’t have enough room for many chairs, you can always throw down some pillows and blankets. It’s a good space saver because more people can usually fit on a blanket than a bench and it’ll take up less room.
Have Plenty of Bins
Make sure there are enough bins at various places in your house. Number one, it’ll make the cleaning up process a lot quicker. Plus it’ll stop more people getting up and moving around creating congestion if there is a bin near them. Having a lot of people moving about is what makes your area seem smaller. When people are sat down and settled, you’re likely to feel the effects of a small space a lot less.
Stagger the Arrival Time
Another thing you can do that’ll help you host a baby shower in a small space, is to stagger the arrival time. Having a large window for your guests to arrive, stops a massive influx of people at one time. This will make it seem like the area is larger, because trying to cram everyone in at once will highlight a small space even more.
Hiring a Venue
The size, and ultimately the cost, of your venue will mostly depend on how many guests you’re inviting.
Try and choose a central location that’s convenient for the majority of guests. You might have your eye on a venue that’s quite far away, but some guests might be put off if they will struggle to get home after the party without paying a fortune for transport.
Inside or Outside
If you’re hosting a winter anniversary party, it’s probably best to go with the safe option and host inside. But if you want to celebrate the occasion outdoors, check that the venue has a plan B in case the weather doesn’t go your way.
Some venues offer drinks, but others just leave you to it. Think about the kind of cocktails you want to serve at your party and if the venue fits in with your plans.
Some venues offer additional services which might sway your decision, for example a food, decorations or some entertainment. Try and consider the whole package when choosing a venue to make sure you get a good deal.
This depends on how luxurious your venue is, how many guests it caters for, and if there are any extras included. Make sure you are strict with yourself when choosing the venue and remember our advice about sticking to your budget!
Now it’s time for the fun stuff. Of course, a cocktail party needs a great drinks menu. If you’re hosting at a venue with a bar, talk to them beforehand to discuss what drinks you would like to serve to your guests.
Classic Sour Cocktails
- Amaretto sour
- Cuba libre
Classic Sweet/ Fruity Cocktails
- Piña Colada
- Mai Tai
- Singapore Sling
- Peach Bellini
Strong Classic Cocktails
- Black Russian
- Old Fashioned
Ginger Berry Mule Recipe
- Blueberry vodka (12.5ml)
- Cherry vodka (12.5ml)
- Sugar syrup (12.5ml)
- Juice from 1/2 lemon
- Handful of raspberries
- Ginger beer
Shake the vodka, sugar syrup, lemon juice and raspberries in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Double strain and serve in a tall glass filled with ice cubes and top with ginger beer. Garnish with some fresh ginger cubes.
Chilli and Basil Crush Recipe
Ingredients per Serving:
- White rum (25ml)
- Sugar syrup (12.5ml)
- Juice from 1/2 lime
- Handful of basil leaves
- 3 slices of red chilli
Lemon and Basil Spritzer Recipe (non-alcoholic)
Ingredients per Serving:
- Soda/ lemonade 250ml
- Basil leaves
- Sugar syrup 25ml
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
Cut the lemon into quarters, add a few basil leaves and the sugar syrup and then muddle in a chilled glass. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda or lemonade.
It's All About the Details
Cocktail Party Food
Every cocktail party needs some food too. Canapes and buffet style food works best for this type of event, rather than a sit-down meal. You’ll first need to decide if you will sort the food yourself, or hire a professional caterer.
If you’re hosting at home, think about a DIY approach to your cocktail party food to save money for your drinks. You don’t have to do everything yourself though. Think about asking close friends and family for a bit of help to take the pressure off.
But if you’re hosting a more formal corporate cocktail party, then consider hiring a caterer. Chances are the guest list will be too large to sort everything yourself, and choosing a cater allows you to serve high quality food without the hassle.
Take a look at our ultimate party food guide for some ideas and serving size suggestions.
10 Savoury Cocktail Party Food Ideas
- Deviled eggs
- Stuffed mini peppers
- Tomato and mascarpone pinwheels
- Chicken satay skewers
- Mini goat’s cheese and red onion tarts
- Crab cakes
- Halloumi and chorizo skewers
- Smoked salmon and cream cheese toasts
- Baked vegetable samosas
10 Sweet Cocktail Party Food Ideas
- Individual lemon meringue pies
- Vanilla cheesecake bites
- Salted caramel truffles
- Peanut butter brownie bites
- Chilli and chocolate tartlets
- Red velvet cupcakes
- Millionaire’s shortbread
- Cheese and water crackers
- Lemon sorbet
- Minature chocolate soufleé
Cocktail Party Theme Ideas
All About Martinis
This classic drink is perfect for a formal black tie event. Serve traditional martinis and throw in some variations like the espresso and rosa martinis. This theme is sure to create a sophisticated vibe when paired with fancy hors d’oeuvres and a black and white colour scheme.
Essential Cocktail Party Supplies
- Cocktail shaker
- Ice scoop
- Shot measure
- Tea strainer
- Hand juicer
- Serviettes/ napkins
Think about what kind of cocktails you’re serving and decide on the shape of glasses you’ll need. Here’s a quick guide to cocktail glasses to help you out.
This glass is designed for small drinks served without ice and the long stem ensures your hand doesn’t warm the drink up. Serve drinks in this glass without a straw.
Short and strong cocktails Fashioned are best served in rocks glasses filled with ice. Examples include the Negroni and Old Fashioned.
High Ball Glass
This glass is preferred for large drinks that tend to be on the weaker side and include a mixer and plenty of ice. Examples include the Mojito and Cuba Libre.
Flutes are specifcally designed for cocktails made with Sparkling Wine such as a Kir Royale or Peach Belini.
Define the Dress Code
Music Sets the Mood
Apple Music is the perfect way to create a party playlist. It’s intelligent recommendation feature makes it really quick to add songs to create the perfect track list and it’s cross fade feature makes seamless song transitions. It’s only $9.99/ £9.99 per month and you can get a free 3 month trial to check it out. And don’t worry, you can use it on Android devices too!
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Think About your Invitations
- Date and time
- RSVP instruction
- Dress code
- Plus one policy
Cocktail Party Order of Events
Cocktail Party Hosting Tips
As the cocktail party host, you have a lot of responsibility to make sure the event runs smoothly. If you’ve followed this guide to the letter, you should be in a great position to relax and enjoy the evening. But we’ve still got a few tips you should keep in mind during the party to make sure it’s a success!
- Have a backup plan. If disaster strikes with the food, entertainment or even the drinks, try and have a plan B ready in your head just in case.
- Thank your guests for attending and introduce them to each other.
- Offer everyone a drink when they arrive.
- Keep their drinks topped up if you can.
- Spend a little time with every guest.
Cocktail Party Planning Timeline
You should have hopefully started thinking about your cocktail party around 8 weeks in advance. But don’t worry if you’ve left it later, just use this checklist to help you prioritise everything.
8 Weeks Before
- Set a budget
- Make your guest list
- Book the venue
- Choose a theme
4 Weeks Before
- Send your invitations
- Create your cocktail and food menu
- Shop for your party supplies
- Decide on the music
1 Week Before
- Prepare a speech if you need to
- Follow up with any guests that haven’t responded to your invites
1-2 Days Before
- Shop for all your food and cocktail ingredients
Day of the Party
- Prepare the food
- Decorate your venue
- Prepare the tables
So there you go! Now you all the ideas you could ever need to plan the perfect cocktail party.
Don’t forget to take a look at our party planning timeline to make sure you’ve got everything covered. It’ll tell you everything you need to do at each stage of the party planning process so you can create an amazing party without any stress or worry about forgetting anything! It even includes a free printable party planning checklist to make sure you stay on track.