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Cocktail Parties

Throw a cocktail party for a more relaxed and relatively inexpensive way to entertain.

Cocktail 101

VIDEO: How to Throw a Cocktail Party >>

If you have a fully stocked bar, great. But you don't really need one to throw a terrific cocktail party. A more practical and inexpensive approach is to offer one or two signature cocktails, along with beer, wine, and some non-alcoholic choices.

Standard cocktails use 1.5 fluid ounces of spirits per drink, so plan on getting 16 cocktails from each bottle.

Figuring one cocktail per guest per hour, plus beer and wine, the beverage shopping list for a 4-hour party featuring martinis and Manhattans for 20 guests might look like this:

  • 4  750-ml bottles of gin (and/or vodka)
  • 3  750-ml bourbon
  • One bottle (750 ml) dry vermouth
  • Two bottles (750 ml) sweet vermouth
  • Bitters
  • Pimento-stuffed cocktail olives
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Cocktail napkins and picks
  • 6 bottles of white wine
  • 4 bottles red wine
  • 24 12-oz bottles of beer--a mixture of light and dark beers
  • Water, still and sparkling
  • A variety of soft drinks
  • Ice, at least half a pound per person

Tippler's Tip: Clear alcohol (such as vodka) tends to go faster than brown (such as whiskey), and white wine is more popular in party settings than red.

Cocktail Party Tips

Tip #1: Never skimp on the ice. A good rule of thumb is half a pound per person in a cool climate, and two pounds per person in warm weather.

Tip#2: Print out your drink menu, including the featured cocktails, wines, and beers you'll be serving.

Tip #3: Use your space creatively. Put the drink and food stations away from each other to encourage your guests to spread out.

Tip #4: Consider hiring a bartender if your guest list exceeds 20. It will free you up to enjoy your guests, and minimizes post-party clean-up.

Tip#5: Rent glassware. Choose styles that suit the drinks you'll be serving and plan on providing wine and beer glasses for the other drinks. Rent a total of four glasses per guest, and have plastic glasses on hand as back up.

VIDEO: How to Throw a Retro Cocktail Party >>

Don’t Forget the Ice!

The best tasting cocktails are made using fresh ice from pure, filtered water. "Fresh" means the cubes haven't been lounging around for weeks in the freezer soaking up the stale essences of long-lingering foods.

Make cocktail ice the morning of the day of your party, and you’ll enjoy the freshest, most delicious cocktails.

Ready to shake up some cool cocktails?

    Jan. 12, 2010 9:58 am
    Jan. 13, 2010 2:39 am
    great advice!
    Mar. 7, 2010 3:35 pm
    This was a great tip - I am having a Birthday Cocktail party for St. Patty's Weekend....and I have already taken care of Tip#4 - hire HELP a must.
    Feb. 24, 2011 12:10 pm
    Make sure to have appetizers that can easily picked up and eaten instead of something that needs a plate. With only one free hand, it makes it difficult for people to stand, mingle, eat and drink. I spread the appetizers around my house so no matter where people are, there are sweet and savory finger-foods!
    good cookie 
    Dec. 31, 2011 5:03 am
    This is great info. Thanks and Happy New Year!!
    Apr. 30, 2012 1:14 pm
    I never know how much alcohol & mixer to have on hand.. this helps!
    Jul. 22, 2012 12:10 pm
    Keep it simple, wine & beer are always most popular; the hard stuff is very expensive and leads to problems. Prepare in advance, preferably the day before, so YOU can enjoy your party!!!
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