Throwing a great cocktail party is a delicate (and fun) balance. Semi-casual mixers thrown at friends’ homes are a wonderful opportunity to mingle with pals old and new for a good time, no matter the time of year or occasion.
If your only exposure to cocktail parties has been work functions that are less than fun, allow us to open your mind to everything a cocktail party has to offer. A well-thrown cocktail party can help you meet new people, make stronger connections with friends, and enjoy some delicious homemade cocktails.
Cocktail parties have been around for decades, and for good reason — they’re a blast!
Hosting a fun cocktail party that you and your guests love is easier than you may think. As long as you’re ready to do your research, you can make your cocktail party a major success.
This guide of helpful tips and must-know information will give you all the answers you need to plan your next cocktail party with ease.
1. Plan Your Invite List
The first step of throwing a cocktail party at home is understanding the importance of the perfect group. If you have too many or too few guests at your cocktail party, it could throw off the group dynamic.
With fewer than five guests at your cocktail party, it will feel like more of a cocktail hangout. Any more than 15 people, and you’re getting closer to a regular party where mingling can become challenging across circles.
You should aim for a group size of around ten to promote conversation and sidebars while providing enough entertainment for the entire evening.
2. Choose Your Cocktails
Another crucial consideration is which cocktails you plan to serve throughout the evening. You want to offer drinks that are fun, unique, and familiar. Striking the perfect balance can be a blast if you’re up to the challenge.
You should always make sure to serve something simple like an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan that most everyone will know (and like). Oak & Eden whiskeys are a tasty choice for any classic or adventurous whiskey drink. Our whiskeys are smooth and flavorful while still being approachable, subtle, and delicious straight or in a mixed drink.
Plan for just two or three cocktails to make life easier for yourself as a host, but try and offer at least two different types of liquor. You should also serve some wine and beer for any guests who prefer other alcoholic drinks.
Of course, don't forget guests who may not want to drink! Having a non-alcoholic drink or cocktail on offer for them can be a thoughtful way to keep them involved in the action.
3. Serve Up Appetizers and Snacks
Just as important as your drinks are your appetizers, snacks, and other food offerings. You aren’t expected to serve a full dinner or even a substantial food spread, but it’s always nice to have finger foods for guests to munch on.
The key is picking foods that are easy to eat, small enough to serve in one to three-bite portions, and pair nicely with the cocktails you’re serving. You should also try to serve foods that won’t make anyone’s breath smell, as cocktail parties are mainly about talking to other people.
To keep things simple, one homemade appetizer is more than enough. Then, offer a cheese board of some sort and perhaps a few store-bought snacks like a veggie spread or a bowl of nuts.
As long as your food is yummy, your guests will be happy.
4. Pre-Batch Your Cocktails
Another planning secret that can make cocktail parties so much easier is to pre-batch your cocktails before your party. When you’ve got house cocktails on offer, you're going to have a lot of drinks to mix. If you don’t want to be stuck behind the bar all night, you’re going to need an inventive solution.
The best way around this issue is to pre-batch your cocktails so that they are easier to serve. Batching cocktails involves scaling up the recipe and mixing some beforehand. This way, it can be easy to pour, stir/shake, and serve instead of building drinks from scratch all night.
You can even just put out your cocktails premixed in a pitcher or punch bowl with glasses and ice as another option to simplify your evening.
5. Decorate Your Space
You can’t have a great cocktail party without a little bit of decoration thrown into the mix. Whether you are hosting a cocktail party to celebrate an anniversary, birthday, milestone, or holiday or you’re just feeling inspired, putting extra thought into the decorations at your party can provide a sense of festivity.
For birthdays, you should focus on decorations centered around the honoree. For holidays, decorating in the theme of the season can add a fun and festive element. You can even theme your cocktail offerings if you want to go the extra mile.
6. Plan Some Games
Even the best cocktail parties can have a pause in the conversation or a moment where the energy dips. Having a few games in your back pocket can help revitalize your cocktail party and bring the fun to a new level. Not all party games are created equal, however, and having the right games can make or break your evening.
Murder mysteries were a hit in the nineties and are coming back around as a trend now. These can be super fun for cocktail parties and help get people mingling.
If you’re just trying to break the ice for a cocktail party with guests who are meeting for the first time, then getting to know your style games like two Truths and a Lie or Never Have I Ever can be fun ways to get the party started, too. As long as you have two or three games ready, then you should be good to go.
7. Don’t Neglect the Music
The final piece of must-know information to help you throw the perfect cocktail party at home is to be sure you aren’t forgetting about music. Every restaurant or bar you go to has music in the background — it helps cut awkward dead noise that can kill conversation.
Be sure to curate a playlist themed around the party, the holiday, the theme, or just music that you and your guests enjoy and can listen to passively in the background. You want your music to be fun but not distracting or so loud that it limits your ability to hear each other. Think of it as an accompaniment to your conversation when selecting songs.
Cocktail Party at Home: Takeaways
Throwing a cocktail party at home can be a super fun way to get to know your friends and mingle with new people.
Start by inviting the ideal number of guests so that you have enough people for fun but not too many to cause chaos. You should also plan out cocktails you plan to serve in advance.
Oak & Eden whiskey is a great choice for your cocktails, for its smooth taste and robust flavors. Oak & Eden whiskey is made with our first in its industry in-bottle finishing technique, which allows our whiskey to continue developing and improving its flavors while it sits in the bottle.
Make sure you have planned some food for your party as well. If you want to enjoy your party yourself, pre-batch your drinks so you have time to spend with your loved ones. Decorate for your cocktail party to set the mood and try and have a couple of games ready to go in case there is a lull in the conversation or you need an icebreaker.
Last but not least, think about your music choice. If you can do these three things, then you are ready to throw the best cocktail party possible. Cheers!
How to Batch Cocktails for a Crowd | Serious Eats
Cocktail History in America: The Age of Entertaining (1933-1980s) | Virginia Tech
Cocktail Party Hosting Tips, Food and Drink Menu Ideas | The Spruce Eats