notes from maggie's farm
How to Throw a Cocktail Party
Text by Linnea Johansson
Everything you need to host a fabulous fête, including setting up a bar, easy hors d'oeuvres, and planning tips.
These guidelines are designed for a full bar, but with a few adjustments they can be applied to the smaller setups required for a themed bar or signature cocktail bar (for a full explanation of each type of bar, go to the Drinks section). The main difference is that for a full bar, you'll set out one or two bottles of each alcohol and mixer, while for a themed bar or signature cocktails, you'll put out several bottles of your chosen spirits and mixers. If you're serving signature cocktails, it's even better if you can have the drinks premixed in pitchers, which you'll place on the bar along with ice and garnishes.
• Unless you have an actual bar, use a large (approximately six- to eight-feet-long and 30-inches-wide) table and place it in a spot where guests will have easy access to it and room to mingle.
• Place alcohol—at least one bottle of each and a few bottles of more popular items like vodka—in the middle of the table so that they can be reached from different angles. Arrange ice, mixers, and garnishes on both sides of the alcohol so that guests have two mixing stations. Glasses and napkins should be set up on both ends of the table where they are easily accessible. If you only have one set of bar tools (see our checklist below), arrange them near the middle of the bar so guests can share. If you have two sets, place one on either end of the bar.
• Use an ice bath to chill beverages like wine and beer (this will leave your refrigerator open for food storage). Fill a tub or large bucket with one part water, three parts ice, and a handful of salt—salt causes ice to melt at a lower temperature so the water will get colder faster. Be sure to fill the bucket only about halfway so that it doesn't overflow when you add drinks. Put in beverages at least 30 minutes before the party starts. You'll find information on how much ice to purchase in our drink quantity chart.
• To help guests mix their drinks, have a bartenders' guide handy or print classic drink recipes on cards and place them at the bar. (Epicurious recipes can be printed on 3- x 5-inch and 4- x 6-inch cards.)
• Throughout the party periodically check to see what needs to be replenished.
You will need a total of three or four glasses per guest. Different cocktails call for different glasses. If you want to use a style of glass that you don't own enough of, consider renting what you need.
• Martini or cocktail glasses are used for all "up" cocktails, which are drinks that are shaken and then strained into a glass, such as Martinis, Cosmopolitans, and Sidecars.
• Highball glasses are used for all mixed drinks served with ice (Screwdrivers and Caipirinhas for example) as well as for soda and beer.
• Rocks glasses, which are also called old-fashioned glasses, are used for drinks served "on the rocks," which means a single spirit is poured straight over ice cubes without any mixers.
• Wineglasses are used for red and white wine and frozen cocktails. Technically there are different glasses for red and white wine, but feel free to use one medium-sized all-purpose wineglass.
• Port glasses are used when serving port, liqueur, or a top-shelf spirit "straight" (without ice).
• Champagne flutes are used for Champagne, sparkling wine, and Champagne cocktails.
• Try serving cocktails in unexpected containers, such as Mason jars, vintage teacups, or hollowed-out coconuts.
Epicurious: Cocktail Party