On the surface, the idea of throwing a cocktail party seems simple enough, right? Send out casual invitations, do some quick tidying around, line the counter with the type of liquor your friends like the most and maybe even throw in some pints of a local craft beer for good measure. While it certainly can be as easy as that, achieving that incredible next-level requires a little more planning. The fête that'll blow everyone away is entirely accessible--in fact, it's only a few short steps away.
In some friend groups, all that's needed is a general message in a collective chat for word to get around about your party. Even if that's the case, there's still something to be said about taking more control where invitations are concerned. You don't have to mail out formal RSVPs (though it might make for a unique throwback!). Countless online services send out invites and social media is also a valid option.
But why is this important? Because it gives you a better idea of how many people are coming--and who is coming. If you see that a lot of people who don't like a certain type of mixed drink are going to stop by, it might be beneficial to change your alcohol plans. In the case of "bring your own booze" parties, knowing who's coming also tells you what kind of liquor you can expect and you can take action to supplement where necessary. It's win-win.
If you're going to set up a proper bar where people can get primo cocktails, it's important to have a clear idea of what those cocktails are. If you send out the cocktail list ahead of time, your guests might even get back to you with some contributions. It is your party, sure, but if the crowd is going another direction, why not give them what they want?
Also, never underestimate the power of growing anticipation. Knowing some details in advance can generate more interest and confidence that your party is worth going to.
It's a party so having some food around is a good idea. Finger food, trail mix, pretzels, chips and dip and no-fuss foods are effortless party fare.
The Shopping List
When you're throwing an event of this nature, it's highly encouraged that you make a shopping list. Going to the store and playing it by ear might work--but if you can avoid forgetting things, it makes your life easier. What's more, if you don't have a lot of experience being the party architect, you can pass the shopping list around to more seasoned folks in your friend group. Ask for their input. You'd be surprised at how some minor tweaks can result in major improvements.
It's also important to note here that you have to make a reliable estimate of how much alcohol you'll need. Use these helpful tips when estimating for your party:
Cocktails: A general rule of thumb is to plan on two drinks per guest during the first hour of a party, and one each hour after that.
Wine: Estimate one bottle of wine for every two guests at a two hour cocktail party. If you are serving both white and red wine, you should have twice as much white as red.
Beer: Plan on two bottles or servings of beer per person for the first hour and another one for each hour after that.
The utensils you use come down to personal preference. Depending on how many items are on your menu, having specialty glassware for each specific cocktail could pose a huge problem with logistics. Having said that, there are many all-purpose cocktail glasses that suit an impressive amount of mixed drinks.
Also note that if you have fruity or icy concoctions on the menu, make sure to provide straws--especially if you'll be serving them in huge glasses that make it hard for people to drink from.
And for one final tip on this subject, consider getting coasters if the party will be indoors.
Although by no means necessary, it's always easier to set the mood when you've got good vibes and an exciting atmosphere. The decorations don't have to be anything painstaking or out-of-this-world--paper lamps, fairy lights, a miniature disco ball, or other novelty items go a long way. If you want to go all out, get your sound system ducks in a row and figure out a playlist. Better yet, create a collaborative one that your guests can add to before and during the party.
As the host, make sure you aren't disturbing your neighbours. Letting them know you're throwing a party in advance can smooth over a lot of potentially unpleasant situations.
The chances of your guests remaining seated for the duration of the party are pretty low, but you should still make sure there's enough room for everyone. Keep the seating areas clear throughout the party.
Once all of your bases all covered, let loose and enjoy. You deserve it.