How to Throw a Cocktail Party!

These two- to three-hour parties are back in style. Make yours a smash hit!

By Familytime


Cocktail parties became fashionable at the beginning of the 20th Century but lost favor during its last 25 to 30 years. They now are back — with a vengeance!

There are any number of reasons why cocktail parties are popular again, and heading the list is the fact that they are easy. Plus, you can entertain a relatively large group of friends and neighbors (or business associates) with minimal fuss.

This is not to say that cocktail parties don’t take planning. They do! No party is mindless.

Here’s how to have a great party — and enjoy it at the same time!

  • Decide how many guests to invite. Be realistic about how many people your house or apartment can accommodate. While most folks stand during cocktail parties, older and infirm guests will need places to sit.
  • Mail or email invitations two to three weeks ahead of time. If it’s holiday season, do this one or two weeks earlier. Figure that 60 to 75 percent of those you invite will attend. This will help you make plans.
  • Cocktail parties traditionally last for two to three hours and are held between 5:30 and 10 p.m. On the invitation you need only indicate the starting time: “Come for cocktails at 7:00!”
  • While you can serve a sliced ham and turkey for little DIY sandwiches, simple finger foods and other hors d’oeuvres are appropriate. You should have five or six selections, as well as bowls of olives, nuts, and crudités. A cheese tray is a good idea, too. Make at least two of the offerings hot hors d'oeuvres.
  • Figure on your guests eating two or three of each hors d’oeuvre. If the crowd is young (20s and early 30s), you might want to serve a little more. Young men devour food!
  • If you plan to serve actual cocktails, make sure you have enough liquor and mixers. On the other hand, you may decide to serve only wine and beer.
  • Insist that your guests have designated drivers lined up, and also keep the names and numbers of taxi companies nearby. Don’t let your guests leave if they are inebriated with no one to drive them home.

There are reliable guidelines for how much liquor, wine, and beer for a party of 30 or 40 guests:

  • White wine: 7 to 8 bottles
  • Red wine: 2 to 3 bottles
  • Vodka: 3 bottles
  • Rum: 2 bottles
  • Whiskey: 2 bottles
  • Tequila: 2 bottles
  • Beer: 1 ½ to 2 cases
  • You will also need 2 to 3 liters of cola, ginger ale, and 7-Up, as well as 3 liters of seltzer and 2 of tonic. Don’t forget orange juice, cranberry juice, tomato juice, and lemons and limes.
  • Figure on 1 ¼ pounds of ice per person (some for the glasses, some to keep the wine and beer chilled). And if the crowd is young, buy a little extra rum and vodka.

Got it?

Find some people to help with the party. This means setting up (move furniture against walls; make sure guests know where to put their coats; address any outdoor lighting problems; clean the bathrooms and put out fresh soap and towels), as well as helping during the party.

It’s important to replenish trays and platters with food, to heat up items that need to be hot, and to pick up discarded cocktail napkins and glasses.

If you can afford to hire someone, all the better, but otherwise, a willing sister, responsible teen, or next-door-neighbor should be recruited to help.

The measure of a great party is when the host has as much fun as the guests. Make that a goal and your next party will be a rollicking success!