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How to host the perfect cocktail party

1) Decide on your guests
The perfect cocktail party has between 8-12 people. Any more and the cocktails don't flow quick enough, any less and until the 4th cocktail there will be some very stilted conversation! People tend to lose their inhibitions at cocktail parties, so try to get a good mix of people (a couple of workmates, a couple of friends, a couple of friends of friends).

2) Choose your drinks
This is the fun part! Where to start?
www.webtender.com is a great website for deciding what drinks to serve at your cocktail party. Go to the “in my bar” section and select the various items you already have in your pantry. There are some crazy options there, from bananas to brown sugar to chocolate syrup, but tick them all because some of the best cocktails have a ‘hidden’ ingredient. You will then be presented with a great list of cocktails you can make, and the best part is that each is given a rating by various users of webtender.com.

Other good websites to check out are those belonging to the alcohol themselves. Check out

A big hint here is to keep it simple. Pick a few key alcohols – I would choose Vodka, Midori, Bacardi, Cointrieu, Schnapps in that order. Its amazing the amount of different drinks you can make using two or three types of alcohol and various mixes!

I also think it’s a good idea to have a mix of drinks. A strong one in a martini glass, a weaker one in a tumbler, perhaps followed by a cheeky shot. Mixing it up will keep things interesting.

3) Allocate the ingredients
I find it’s easier to buy the base ingredients (cranberry juice, sprite, ice etc) yourself. But if you’re running your cocktail party on a budget, split a bottle of alcohol between two people. For example, get your two workies to bring a bottle of vodka between them, your two friends to bring a bottle of Midori. For $20 or so each, your guests will have more than enough cocktails to satisfy them!

4) Send your invites
Make up a flashy invite in powerpoint and send it off to your fellow revellers. Sending it by post is quite classy - but if its ease you’re after, utilise email. (Just make sure your invites name who is invited, to ensure you don’t have gatecrashers turn up to your carefully planned affair!) Also let them know on the invite what to bring, and what to wear. Cocktail parties are a great excuse to get all dolled up, so suggest Black Tie!

5) Sort your décor
Cocktail parties should ooze class, so invest in a few key pieces. Head down to The Warehouse, an OpShop or an Emporium to pick up some cheap items that suggest ‘old school’ glamour. Candle stick holders, silver bottle openers and cigarette lighters, and some eye catching art can make the room look great.

6) Food, food, food
Cocktail parties usually start around 8pm, so you don’t need to worry about providing a meal. Some light finger food is recommended however, not just to live up to your Responsible Host duties, but also to add to the theme. Little spring rolls, a bowl full of wasabi peas, perhaps an antipasto platter with olives, sundried tomatoes, salami and cheese. Make it look like you’ve put in effort when it’s actually only taken you minutes to prepare! Just stay away from chips & dip straight from the packet – not a good look!

7) What are your essentials?
There are a few key things you need for your cocktail party. A shaker or two, blender, a stirrer, a jigger (double sided measuring cup) and ice tongs are the bare essentials. Not to mention loads of ice and mixes. If you want to be a really responsible host, I’d suggest buying a couple of glass bottles of sparkling water, just in case your guests over-indulge a little too much! You also need some good looking glasses to serve your cocktails in. Briscoes and Kmart sell a great range of tumblers, martini glasses and more to ensure you’re looking all class without breaking the bank.

8) Music
Make sure you’ve got a good mix of music. Start with something upbeat to get people chatting, mixed with some classy mellow tunes.

9) Other helpful hints
If you’ve invited a random group of people, at first conversation can be a little stilted. The best way to get around that is to give people a drink on arrival! Good supermarkets and novelty stores sell prepared cocktail slushie mixes. Just add in your desired drop, mix and freeze. These can then be prepared well in advance, and scooped into martini glasses on guests’ arrival. Another option is to have a big bowl of punch at the ready, in case there is a gap between cocktails being made.

10) So who makes the cocktails?
You have a couple of options here. One is to employ your 15 year old cousin to dress up and make the drinks. He’ll think he’s pretty cool acting as the bartender, just be prepared for a bit of the alcohol to go astray by the end of the night!

Another option is to have guests make the drinks in pairs. One good idea is to type out instructions for each of the drinks and put them onto card. Guests pull out a card, and the name of another guest, and take turns whipping up a delicious cocktail.

Either of these options will ensure that you’re not stuck in the kitchen all night while your guests are living it up in the lounge!

By pink 15-Feb-2006
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