How to Throw a Really Great Cocktail Party

May 27, 2016

The name says it all…… COCKTAILS are a must at a cocktail party. While you can wait a bit to serve the food, you should have the drinks ready when the first guests walk through the door—it gives people something to do and gets them mingling

There are three main approaches to serving drinks and each has merits :

  • full bar includes a wide variety of liquors and mixers.
  • themed barfocuses on one type of liquor and an assortment of mixers.
  • signature cocktail bar features one or two mixed drinks.

Regardless of the way you choose to serve cocktails, be sure to include an appropriate amount of wine and beer to determine how much to buy and see our tips on selecting wine, below. And always have plenty of water (make it special by serving sparkling water with lemon or berries) and at least one other nonalcoholic option, such as Tarragon-Spiked Lady Grey Ice Tea or Ginger Pineapple Sparkling Punch

Full Bar

A full bar is by far the most complicated and expensive approach. That said, with a little planning, it's completely doable—and a lot of fun for serious cocktail lovers. You'll have a wide assortment of liquors, mixers, and garnishes on hand so guests can enjoy their old favorites—or discover a new cocktail

Guests

10-25

25-35

35-60

60-100

The Spirits (bottles)

-

-

-

-

White wine

7

7

8

11

Red wine

2

3

5

6

Champagne

4

5

6

6

Vermouth dry

1

1

2

2

Vermouth red

1

1

1

1

Vodka

3

3

3

4

Rum

2

2

2

2

Gin

1

2

2

3

Scotch

1

2

2

3

Whiskey

2

2

3

4

Bourbon

1

1

1

1

Tequila

2

2

2

3

Brandy/cognac

1

2

2

3

Aperitif

1

1

2

2

Cordial

2

2

2

3

Beer (bottles/cans)

50

75

80

100

The Mixers (2-liter bottles)

-

-

-

-

Club soda/seltzer

3

3

4

5

Ginger ale

2

2

2

3

Cola

3

3

3

4

Diet cola

3

3

3

4

Lemon/lime soda

2

3

3

4

Tonic

2

2

3

3

Juice quarts

-

-

-

-

Tomato

2

2

3

3

Grapefruit

2

2

3

3

Orange

2

2

3

3

Cranberry

2

2

3

3

Extras

-

-

-

-

Grenadine

1

1

1

2

Angostura

1

1

1

1


Note: If it's a crowd under age 35, increase vodka, rum, and beer

 

Kinds of hors d'oeuvres

Number of each

Party Takes Place Outside of mealtime

5 to 6 choices

1 to 2 of each/person

Party Takes Place During mealtime

8 to 10 choices

2 to 3 of each/person

Themed Bar

A themed bar features one or sometimes two types of alcohol and a variety of mixers, plus wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks. This option is more wallet-friendly than a full bar because you don't have to buy less popular or more obscure liquors and mixers, some of which might not be used. A themed bar works for any liquor—just serve the appropriate mixers and garnishes alongside

My favorite option for a themed bar is Champagne because it's festive and offers so many mixing opportunities. For classic Champagne cocktails, set out sugar cubes, bitters, and liquors. The Bellini, which is made with peach purée, is a classic Champagne cocktail, but you can use other fruit such as kumquats or blood oranges. Or, put scoops of sorbet on the bottom of Champagne flutes and add your favorite bubbly. Prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine, and cava, a Spanish sparkler, are less-expensive alternatives to Champagne

Signature Cocktail Bar

A very classy way to serve drinks at a party is to offer a few signature cocktails, plus wine, beer, and nonalcoholic beverages. This is by far the easiest approach to cocktails and can cut down on liquor costs. You can mix the drinks in pitchers ahead of time, then once guests arrive, add ice and serve

It's best to provide guests with at least two cocktail choices, preferably made with different alcohols—one with vodka and one with rum, for example. If you're feeling ambitious, add a dessert cocktail toward the end of the night

When selecting signature drinks, think about the season and theme of your party. At an alfresco summer party, guests will love refreshing Mojitos or Margaritas. In colder weather, they'll cozy up to Mulled Red Wineor Spiced Cider

Turn your favorite cocktail, such as a Gin Fizz or a Negroni, into your own signature drink by simply renaming it for the night. Or serve a classic with a twist, such as a Pomegranate Manhattan

Garnishes
For serious cocktail drinkers a beverage isn't complete without its garnish. The basic garnishes are olives, pickled onions, cherries, lemon and lime wedges, salt, and superfine sugar—consult the drink quantity chart above for information on how much to buy

In addition to offering the basics, use garnishes as an opportunity for creativity—add chili peppers to Margaritas or sugar cane sticks to Mojitos, for example. For a unique twist, try serving a classic cocktail like a gin and tonic with a fresh herb sprig—it will add a hint of flavor and look pretty

If you're serving specialty cocktails, be sure to include a fun garnish, such as the slice of fruit that finishes the Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail. Ice cubes can double as garnish, adding a touch of flavor and a visual appeal: Simply place fresh herbs, edible flowers, or berries in ice cube trays, add water, and freeze

Choosing Wine

Cocktails might be the main attraction, but you're guaranteed to have at least a few non-cocktail drinkers in your crowd. Use these guidelines to stock the right wine

  • Food and wine from the same region tend to go together, so if your menu focuses on food from a specific country, serve wines from the same place
  • Red wine is traditionally served with heavier foods, such as steak and game, and white with lighter dishes, like poultry and fish. For a cocktail party where you're most likely serving both, choose a heavy white and/or a light red to go with most options

Have a great time! Your guests are sure to!





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