Cocktail Party

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How to Host a Memorable Cocktail Party

According to Wikipedia, in May of 1917, a woman named Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. invented the first cocktail hour when she invited 50 guests to her home in St. Louis, MO for a one-hour celebration. The party was so popular that it was written about in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and eventually became a trend, and then a staple. Since then, the cocktail hour has extended beyond people’s homes into hotels, bars, and eateries as a way to invite customers to enjoy specials within a certain timeframe. A common prelude to wedding receptions, cocktail hours are used to occupy and entertain guests as they wait for the happy couple to make their grand entrance. Today we are talking about everything you need to know to host your own cocktail hour. From drinks to etiquette, we have you covered.

Before You Plan, Ask Yourself These Questions…

First, figure out the specifics of the cocktail party you would like to host. What kind of food would you like to serve? Is there a theme? Would you like guests to contribute food or drinks? Will the event be hosted inside or outdoors? Is this a casual event or a business affair? How many people will you be hosting? What is the budget?

Also, you may need help depending on the size of the party. You can volunteer friends or family to bartend or serve food so that you can socialize and greet your guests. Another option is to hire a caterer or bartender to handle the drinks and food.

Cocktail Party Drinks

If you already have a full bar at home, all you will need is a restock of the essentials. Then, you can leave it up to your guests to DIY their own drinks. You could also have a few premixed cocktails prepared in large pitchers to leave the work for your guests to a minimum.

Don’t have a full bar? Don’t fret! Create a specific drink menu with one to two signature cocktails. Add a print out of the menu near the drinks so that guests know exactly what is being served.

In both cases, have beer and wine on hand as a backup just in case the cocktails you prepare are not well received.

Cocktail Party Food

Snacks should be served at cocktail parties and not a full meal. This makes it very easy as you can prepare a simple assortment of finger foods, charcuterie, fruit, and other appetizers. Some common cocktail hour treats include:

• Deviled eggs
• Cocktail shrimp
• Pretzel bites with dipping sauce
• Sushi
• Sliders
• …And of course, pizza!

If you are intimidated by planning the food, hire a caterer to prepare a delicious spread.


Set the mood with good music. This may be a simple playlist you prepare beforehand that has hours of your favorite tunes. You can also hire a DJ to entertain and keep the party alive.

Thank guests with a small parting gift. Give them something memorable that will not go to waste such as chocolates, cupcakes, truffles, cookies, or popcorn, a small package of your favorite coffee, or even a little morning after hangover kit with headache medicine and a bottle of water.

Additional Advice

• Invite guests 2-3 weeks in advance. This can be a digital invite by email or social media if you would like to save on paper.
• Stock up on reusable utensils, glasses, napkins and serve ware. This will save you a trip to the store the next time you host. You can also rent these items if needed.
• Plan on 2-3 drinks per guest.
• Have non-alcoholic beverages on hand such as sparkling water, coffee, or juice.
• Stock up on bar tools such as wine corkscrews, bottle openers, cocktail mixers, and more.
• Lastly, don’t forget the ice! About 1 pound of ice per guest should suffice.


If you can, feed yourself beforehand just in case you are too busy chatting to stop and eat. Once the guests arrive and your cocktail party begins, do your best to enjoy the moment and the company. Cheers!