Cocktail Party Etiquette

Cocktail Party Etiquette

There's nothing better than a cocktail party to get friends, family, and colleagues together to socialize -  you guessed it - over cocktails.

The Cocktail Party has been a popular social event tracing back to the early 1900s. Often hosted with business associates and a guest list of around 10 people, this kind of event creates an air of intimacy and revelry. It’s a more manageable event to host compared to a full dinner party, but without skimping out on a good closing drink to end the night. But today, cocktail parties are fantastic for large-scaled events like open houses and receptions.

This gathering usually lasts a shorter period of two to three hours, just short of a full dinner immersion. You can host this universally loved get-together at your home, outdoors, or at a venue event. For the sake of this post, I’ll be highlighting the kind of party you can host at your own abode with an intimate crowd of under 20 people.

If you’re looking for guidance on how you could throw your best house cocktail party yet, here are some tried and true methods from your local cocktail party connoisseur to make it easier.

All About the Details

Before anything, you should be clear with the logistics.

Although free socialization is the name of the party, you want to set things to plan first before you even think of hosting. As they say: failing to plan is also planning to fail.

So, if you want to host the kind of cocktail party your friends, family, or peers will rave about and have them asking, “When’s the next one?” always, always remember to plan.

Here’s your checklist for what to plan for:

  • Location: Where will you host this event? Will this be inside or outdoors? Will you reserve a venue – and if it’s outdoors, do you have a back-up place for inclement weather?
  • Budget: How much would you like to spend for this party?
  • Guest list: How many people will you invite?
  • Event Type: Is this a casual friendly get together or a professional networking event?
  • Timeline: When do you want to host this? How will you jot out the planning for this event?

Bar Preparation: The Heart of Your Cocktail Party

A diverse bar is the heart of any cocktail party but listen, you don’t need a full bar. Not at all. Unless – of course, this is a cocktail party for bartenders – now, that’s when the bar is set higher.

Setting up a bar costs a fortune and you’d need a very well-versed mixologist to run it. If this is the kind of event you’d like to have, you can book us for an event. Otherwise, we’ll give you the rundown of how to prepare your home bar for a special cocktail party.

We recommend stocking your home bar with the essentials – various spirits, mixers, and a few special ingredients for that 'wow' factor. Consider your signature drink and the pertinent ingredients that come with it. From there, you can build up on other cocktails that can be made with the same ingredients you’ve used for your signature cocktail.

If you’re looking to build your home bar, we’ve got just the blog posts for you on essential bar tools and glassware

Choosing a Signature Drink

A signature drink is like the main dish for cocktail parties, and having one definitely is a way to make the planning much, much easier – making your cocktail celebration more enjoyable for you and your guests.

This holiday season, when it’s getting a little chilly outside, I love myself a Beltline Bonfire, it’s this well-balanced whiskey weather cocktail with a hint of spice from both the rye whiskey and the ginger liqueur.

You can definitely consider making big batch cocktails that you can make ahead of the night, maybe a good old-fashioned, a negroni — or a classic Sangria. Be as adventurous as you’d like and incorporate seasonal elements into the mix.

Guests may show up with bottles of wine as a thank you gift, but as a general rule, don’t consider those bottles into the inventory. As much as possible, overestimate how much alcohol you’ll need to avoid running out mid-party. 

Also, remember that not everyone is a cocktail connoisseur. Include some non-alcoholic options that are just as exciting. Having a cocktail party isn’t just about drinks, it’s about making everyone feel included.

Invitations: Your Party's First Impression

And now, it’s time to roll out your invitations. 

Your invitations are like the trailer to your blockbuster party. Make sure to include all the vital details – time, theme, dress code – in a fun and engaging way. Whether you opt for snazzy digital invites or classic paper ones, make sure they scream "This is a party you can't miss!"

Show people what they can expect from your cocktail party. Cocktail attire used to have a strict code. But now, if you want to have a certain dress code, you would have to let your guests know — whether that’s Christmas, cozy fireside, or black-tie among many other themes you can consider.

Whether hosting a casual gathering among friends or a business networking event between peers, understand your audience and curate your invites accordingly.

And that’s how you throw a one hell of a cocktail party!

Grab a drink, relax, and let’s get the party planning started!

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