Cocktail parties are a fun way to catch up with old friends, or entertain people from work. And they are so much easier to plan and execute as these parties last for mostly an hour or two, and as the menu has only drinks and appetizers, perhaps some desserts, they do not require a lot of work! The other thing I love about cocktail parties is that they can easily be hosted inside your house, out on a patio or club-house, or you can choose to host a happy-hour at a restaurant or cafe, which can be a great option for someone who is short on time or doesn't need the pain of planning a party. Whatever your incentive, here are a few tips that can help you host a successful cocktail party, and master the art of entertaining! (img source: wikimedia )
Know Your Guests
This is extremely important because you have only a couple of hours to dazzle your guests and play the perfect host! So think ahead about who your guests are and their preferences. Are their vegetarians in the group, or people who'd prefer virgin drinks and sodas over cocktails? Is this a conservative work group or a gathering for friends? Will they prefer loud music or soft instrumentals in the background? Think about these things and consider it while deciding on the venue, decor and the menu. Check out online resources or entertaining magazines, or good old food-network for ideas and tips; this helps to give shape to what you might have in mind!
The Purpose and Occasion
The success of a party depends largely on what you plan to accomplish by hosting it. If you are just trying to catch up with old school friends you haven't met in quite some time, you'd have to go for neutral choices in food. If you are entertaining your boss and his family, or colleagues from work, trying to attract a promotion or get into someone's good books, it pays to take an extra step in knowing their favorites so you can impress them! If its just a bunch of people hanging out on Friday night, or a high-tea with movies and games, you don't need to fret that much as you know your friends and their taste.
No matter what kind of a party it is, it always pays off to maintain a list of your invitees, and another task List that you can check-off as you finish things. Keep sections like guest list, catering options, menu items, tableware, grocery list, contact numbers, etc so you know what's missing and you don't get frantic at the last minute! If this is a formal or theme party with a dress-code, make sure you inform everyone about it, as well as check to see that you are ready for the theme party too! I've seen so many instances where parties turn sour because some of the guests did not know you were supposed to be "dressed formally", or because they think "Jeans" is "formal", while others are dressed in tuxedos and blazers! If this is an event aimed at having fun, think about simple drinking games that you can enjoy while talking and lounging, not something you have to rack your brains for!!
Hiring Caterers or Bartenders
Again, based on why you are entertaining, choose a location to host the party. Your house works fine for casual gatherings, but if you need this to go perfect, try hiring professional caterers as they are trained for this! Here's a site that can help you find places that host a Happy-Hour. They also have a wider range of food and drink options to choose from, and you don't have to worry about anything except paying them and impressing your guests! if you have a fancy bar in your house that you are keen to show off, consider hiring a bartender who's familiar with several drink recipes.
Food and Drinks
A cocktail party menu is generally more stress-free than other parties as you mostly serve appetizers or finger-foods, drinks and desserts. Choose 3-4 entrees, at least one of them vegetarian, bring out your wine racks and a bottle opener, and choose individual desserts, mainly petit-fours or tarts and cakes. Decide on what you want to cook at home and what you'd rather order from outside. It's good to balance between time and money. If you are doing this at your house,it might be a good idea to ask for help your family or friends or guest so they can come in early and help you with the cooking, cleaning, decoration and setting up the place. As Cocktails are the highlights, decide on what you'd like to serve. Here's a cocktail drink-dictionary if you are not familiar with the gazillion options available; mixed drinks with seasonal fruit flavors, coffee or shakes work best. Also keep room for sodas and virgin drinks for people who do not take alcohol. Select strong or mild alcohol depending on the time of the party. You can't serve whiskey at 4 pm!! Wine goes best with any kind of food as long as you pair it well. Here's a good read on wine-and-food-pairing.
Playing a host doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy yourself. Planning ahead is crucial so it leaves you to mingle with your friends and entertain without being stressed. After all, its your gig, and you control the way you want the party to go! So keep these effective tips in mind the next time you plan a cocktail party and you can be sure to win accolades for being a perfect host!
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