image1 - How to Host a Small Cocktail Party at Home
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How to Host a Small Cocktail Party at Home

For some time now, having friends over has been a more casual, spontaneous affair with beers and wines. But lately, there has been a resurgence of cocktail parties. While beer and wine are still very much enjoyed, mixed drinks have gained in popularity, offering a more formal gathering, complete with appetizers and small bites.

If you’re looking to create a more upscale celebration and host your own small cocktail party, don’t be intimidated about learning to make the cocktails and creating delicious food. In fact, it’s actually easier–and a lot less stuffy–than it sounds!

While you can still dress up in cocktail attire with shapewear and fancy heels, it can be very relaxed, too. From discovering new craft cocktails to creating a delectable spread of appetizers, here are our top tips for hosting a small cocktail party at home to entertain all your closest friends.

Tips for Making a Cocktail Party Home Bar

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When hosting your first cocktail party, it helps to know a few tips to ensure everything is successful and your guests enjoy themselves. Here are some extra essential tips and tricks to remember and keep in mind.

  • Stock up on ice–A good rule of thumb is to have one pound of ice per guest. While many ice makers can’t keep up with this demand, you can easily grab a few bags at a convenience store and store them in a cooler. 
  • Keep a variety of glassware–Serve your cocktails in their respective glassware. From highballs to wine tumblers to coupes and martini glasses, keep a few on hand for each type of drink you plan to serve to guests.
  • Double your glassware–Besides having a variety of glassware, you want to ensure you have on hand twice as many glasses as guests. For stemware, charms help guests keep track of their glass and reduce any unnecessary cleaning for reuse.
  • Calculate enough alcohol–Assuming your party is two hours long, have one bottle of champagne or wine for every two guests. Make sure to have a variety on hand, as well–like both red and white wines. For cocktails, grab a bottle each of vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon or whatever your cocktail recipe calls for. 
  • Stock up on mixers–Don’t forget the mixers! Stock up on orange juice, sodas, tonics, lemons and limes. Some cocktails even call for bitters and spices, as well as herbs like mint or rosemary for garnish.
  • Hire a bartender–If you have the means, hire a bartender. A dedicated bartender allows you to mingle and socialize with your guests, taking some of the weight off your shoulders. Many bartenders offer glassware rental as well, so you don’t have to invest in random extra glasses you’ll find buried in your cabinets one day.

Basic Cocktails to Make

With an endless array of cocktails you could make, and a list that could go on forever, try your hand and practice some of these classic recipes. Better yet, if you find a new cocktail you really enjoy, create a signature cocktail for your party for everyone to try.

Cocktail Party Appetizers and Hor D’oeuvres

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One of the best parts of a small cocktail party at home is how easy food can be. The food doesn’t have to be involved. You can find an array of frozen apps that can be quickly heated and served. Or you can even hire a caterer or order some appetizers and takeout from a favorite restaurant. Regardless of how you go about creating small bites and nibbles for guests, here are some basic rules and tips to keep in mind when planning your cocktail party menu.

  • Offer a variety of foods–Create a menu with a variety of meats and seafood, as well as both hot and cold dishes.
  • Put out a few sweets and desserts–Although a cocktail party is more about the canapes and savory bites, it’s good to put out a small spread of fruits, chocolates and small cake bites to settle a sweet tooth. It also gives a subtle hint that the party is coming to an end.
  • Estimate enough food–Make sure to have enough food for everyone. As a good rule of thumb, aim for six bites or apps per person per hour. For dips, estimate one ounce as one bite.

Remember, however, that it’s always better to overestimate than underestimate your servings. If you’re unsure of how many guests will actually make it to your cocktail party, have a few spare boxes of frozen apps on hand, just in case.

Cocktail Party Menu Ideas

Need more ideas? Here are some easy and classic cocktail party bites and appetizers that are sure to please everyone:

  • Meatballs–Whether you prefer the sweet jelly-based or gravy-like Swedish version, meatballs are always a hit. Just keep a glass with toothpicks nearby for guests to pluck them up.
  • Shrimp and cocktail sauce–A timeless cocktail for a cocktail party, you can pick up pre-cooked shrimp and a jar of cocktail sauce at the store. Fancy it up by transitioning it to a bowl instead of the plastic container.
  • Bacon-wrapped dates–This adds a nice blend of savory and sweet, pairing wonderfully with wines. If you want more of the bacon taste, substitute the dates for mild water chestnuts. 
  • Charcuterie board–Create a platter of deli meats like salami and prosciutto, along with a few blocks of nice cheeses like an aged gouda or brie, along with crackers, fruits, jams and mustards.
  • Bowls of nuts–Nuts are a great complement to cocktails. Make it something classic like roasted peanuts or take it up a notch with candied walnuts.
  • Bruschetta–Another classic party app and easy to make ahead of time, bruschetta is an elegant and popular hors d’oeuvre.
  • Warm artichoke dip–Another great app is artichoke dip. Keep it by the charcuterie board so guests can find the crackers.

Extra Tips for Your Small Cocktail Party

Besides the cocktails themselves and your food spread, consider these extra tips for your party. When you invite guests over for a small cocktail party, request it to be adults only. Encourage any guests with kids to leave the kids at home and find a sitter for the night. A cocktail party should be a means to allow the adults to cut loose and relax without being distracted.

Hosting a small cocktail party at home is a wonderful way to invite over all your friends, neighbors or family members. But as a host to what are soon-to-be buzzed guests, take the liberty to make sure they get home safely. At the end of the party, brew some coffee to perk everyone up. You can also keep on hand the number for a local taxi or request an Uber or Lyft for those who shouldn’t be driving.

Remember most of all to have fun! While a cocktail party was all the rage in the ’50s and ’60s, you can make it your own and be as formal or casual as you want it to be.

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2 Comments

  1. Krista says:

    Love these tips! I would love to hire a bartender for the night.

  2. paige chandler says:

    I’ve never had a cocktail party. Now I may have a very small one. Thanks for sharing.

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