From the heyday of the Rat Pack to the modern resurgence, cocktail parties have always been (at least in theory) a great way for adults to mingle. Apart from being great fun, cocktail parties are suitable for almost any occasion, from social gatherings to work functions. They can be elegant or simple, depending on the host's preferences. Scroll down the page for cocktail party planning, decorating and food ideas.
Music and Entertainment
Jazz, easy listening and classical music playing quietly in the background will help set the tone of the party. The music should be background ambiance and not overwhelm the conversation.
Cocktail Party Outfits
Cocktail parties have traditionally had a semi-formal dress code. Stylish clothing and accessories are a must.
For humorous cocktail outfits, see the Adult Party Costumes page.
Cocktail Party Products
Cocktail parties are meant to be sophisticated and the decor should reflect this. Black, white, red and silver colour schemes suit this theme. Choosing or 2 of these colours and using them for the decorations and partyware is an easy way to set the mood. White or colour-coordinated tealights are a cheap and easy way to add ambience.
Using drink charms helps people to keep track of their drinks and will reduce the number of glasses used
Cocktail Party ideas
Invitations – These will set the tone for the party. If you are having an additional theme (such as black and white) make sure that the invitations reflect this. Use the invitation to specify the dress code and give party guests an idea of what to expect from the party. Remember to provide your details so guests can RSVP.
Decor – There is no specific decor associated with a cocktail party, but there are certain arrangements that make for a more pleasant experience. Having gentle lighting and appropriate music (like jazz or classical) playing quietly in the background will help set the mood. For the comfort of your guests make sure there is plenty of room to move and provide adequate seating.
Food – Only light food is needed at a cocktail party. It is best to make refreshments ahead of time and refrigerate them until they are ready to be eaten. Some suggestions include: simple canapés, antipasto and platters with gourmet cheese, crackers, nuts, cold meats and fruit.
Drinks – Cocktail parties require more thought and effort being put into the drinks than other parties. Below are some hints to get you started.
- Decide ahead of time what drinks you will be serving and have several lists drawn up for guests to look at. Restricting the number of spirits you use will make the bartender's job easier.
- Make sure you have the equipment you need to make specific cocktails (eg mixers and blenders) before the party starts. Don't forget the ice, sugar, salt, mixers and garnishes.
- Have plenty of glasses on hand and get someone to collect and wash glasses periodically. Using drink charms helps people to keep track of their drinks and will reduce the number of glasses used.
- Finally, have some easily accessible non-alcoholic drinks available for those who are not drinking.
Side Note – Have a contingency plan for guests who consume a little too much. Have designated drivers and taxis available. Be prepared to drive or accommodate guests if they have no other way to get home.