Whether your party theme is a cocktail, birthday or holiday party, or “I just want to get together and party” party, entertaining on a budget is not difficult and with a little careful planning, can be a fun and memorable affair.
Of the many different themes for parties, cocktail parties are not just for the holidays, as more and more people prefer to entertain at home rather than incur the cost of what are sometimes referred to as destination parties or events.
Whether you are preparing for the holidays, or any other time of the year, one very basic rule is to keep it simple. You will find that mixing drinks and cocktails yourself will certainly raise your blood pressure. The basic beer, wine, sodas, coffee, water, and a few premixed cocktails would suffice, however, if you must mix drinks, learn how to mix a few of the basic popular drinks, such as, Long Island Iced Tea, the Mojito, the Mint Julep, the Margarita, the Apple Martini, or the Cosmopolitan, and be sure to let your guests know that those are the choices for mixed drinks. The importance of having plenty of ice cannot be stressed enough as well as having a receptacle to keep it in, unless you have an ice maker that can provide a continuous flow of ice. Keep in mind that you are hosting a party, not working the evening as a bartender.
Not a Good Idea to Mix Drinks to Order
If you mix drinks you must have a very wide selection of liquor, and a shaker, and the shaker has to be cleaned each time a drink is made. Drinks made to order can create unexpected pressure especially when guests start asking for special or unusual drinks so limit the selection, and make sure your guests are aware of that. Drinks that require fresh juice can present a problem if you do not have enough, or if the fruit is squeezed too far in advance, resulting in a less than fresh taste.
If You Must
If you insist on mixing drinks, then perhaps designate a “Happy Hour” either at the start of your party, or perhaps at the end of the evening as the party winds down. This can include your very own “signature or festive cocktail” one that you know well, even prepare earlier in the day, or the evening before. Make a very large batch that can be served from one pitcher. Either way this will signal to your guests that the party is underway, or it is time to wind things down. The mixed drink menu can still be limited to the few drinks that you are comfortable with and that you know well enough to mix.
How Much Should You Plan to Serve
Always begs the question, it can be a bit challenging, but figure that many of your guests will have at the minimum, one to two drinks, whether it is cocktails, beer, wine, coffee, or even non-alcoholic beverages. A very simple calculation that may give you an idea of how much to have on hand is, take the number of hours for your party and multiply it by the number of guests, then multiply it by two, which is the approximate number of drinks per person. So if you have ten guests for four hours, you will need 80 drinks.
Finger foods work wonders, and is less formal than a buffet or sit-down affair. Crowd pleasing dips with herbs, plenty of fresh vegetables, various cheeses, breads, brioche, de-boned buffalo wings, garlic shrimp with either butter or olive oil, kebabs, spicy quesadillas, mini tacos, mini egg rolls, and different delectable side salads. The choices are endless.
A good rule of thumb for quantity when you are not serving a full meal is to count on at least eight hors d’oeuvres per guest. The menu should be balanced with room-temperature, cold, and hot items, spicy and mild items, as well as plenty of non-meat items for the vegetarians.
If you are not using a catering service, choose items that can be prepared in advance, to lessen the stress on the day of the party. Your food items should be fun, easy to prepare, and casual; color contrast makes a very good presentation. The hors d’oeuvres should be easy to handle with the fingers, and make sure you have plenty of napkins.
Decorations and Seasonal Music
Decorations and seasonal music can be as simple as decorative planters, spices, fruit, peppercorns, various garnishments, or flowers. Music should be crowd-pleasing from various genres that can also be mixed with seasonal music; and keep in mind it is not a good idea to have it at a noise level where your guests have to scream to be heard.
Encourage your guests to drink responsibly, and make sure you have plenty of coffee. Cocktail parties are a great time to enjoy family and friends, relax and catch up, and if a guest needs a designated driver make arrangements for one to be provided. An evening of fun should be just that, a memorable one of a good time.