You set out in November thinking it’s a great idea but as the date draws closer it dawns on you that you don’t know the first thing about hosting and your idea of a cocktail is pouring some Stoney Tangawizi into a cup half full with Kenya Cane. Don’t fret, with these simple rules, you are bound to make a great impression and save yourself a lot of stress.
Invite: It’s so easy to make your cocktail party a Facebook event. You choose a great picture, write down all the details, send out the invites and voila’! your party is automatically a success! The truth is that people don’t always necessarily check their Facebook notifications, so take the time to reach out to people individually, let them know that you have invited them on Facebook but that you wanted to make sure they were aware and could make it. People really appreciate the extra attention.
Booze: This might seem like a no brainer but it deserves a moment’s repetition. A cocktail party is NOT a cocktail party with inadequate amounts of booze. While at barbecues it is perfectly acceptable to ask people to bring their own bottle, when hosting a cocktail party you are expected to keep your guests drinking for at least two if not three hours. So make sure whatever you buy is plenty. On average calculate that a bottle of wine gets you 5 to 6 glasses and a bottle of spirits makes about 12 to 15 drinks. Oh and unless your guests are super thirsty, calculate about an average of two drinks per head per hour.
Bar: There are really two ways to go here. The first involves having a stocked bar with all of the different spirits (Vodka, Gin, Brandy, Tequila, Rum and of course Whisky), a few that can be mixed in for cocktails (Campari, Vermouth, Cointreau, Triple Sec), mixers and some beer and wines for the rest. People are then free to make up their own concoctions of choice. The second option involves coming up with three or four cocktails of your own. Think a bubbly cocktail, a light punch and something dark for the dark spirit lovers. Get creative and make something memorable, guests will appreciate the effort.
Barman: It might be worth paying someone to man the bar all night. One great benefit with this is it will curtail those people who are prone to pouring two thirds of the glass with booze but he or she can also help to keep the mess in check, so you aren’t faced with total chaos the moment everyone leaves. Ask the bartender to come early so they can spend some time preparing for the cocktails, chopping lemon wedges, slicing fruit and making sure all the garnishes are in place.
Non-boozers: Spare a thought for your friends who do not drink alcohol. They too like to hold a pretty drink in their hand and to get a chance to say cheers once in awhile with something more than a glass of water. Trust us, they will be very grateful if you take the time to make something specially for them and it will make them more willing to be the designated drivers later on!
Food: Your guests need something to absorb all that alcohol and nuts and crisps are just not going to cut it. One way around this, is to invest in some white focaccia or baguette which you can slice and spread with an easy cream cheese and chive pate’, some cold cuts, cheese, hummus or an olive tapenade. Whatever you serve make sure it is finger friendly and if it is on a stick, make sure guests have somewhere to dispose of it afterwards!
Ice Ice Baby: How many times have you had to call a friend and plead them to bring ice to your party? This one is easy to forget but don’t. You only realise how important ice is when you don’t have any and all the shops are closed.
Surfaces and Lighting: Make sure there are enough surfaces for people to place their drinks on and create some nice seating arrangements so that when people get tired they can rest their feet. Your lighting shouldn’t be too bright so consider putting some light coloured fabric over your lamps or putting up some pretty fairy lights! That said, don’t go too far with this, this isn’t a wild house party so people don’t need it to be completely dark.
Music: If you can’t afford or can’t be bothered with a DJ that is fine but don’t under any circumstances allow your music to be hijacked by guests who really want to play the latest Trap hit hell-bent on celebrating killing machines and female dogs. Take the time to make your own playlist or make sure your streaming platform of choice has a playlist that is perfectly in tune with the ambiance you have in mind.
Conversation: It pays off to be a reasonably well informed host, so at a minimum make an effort to read up on the headlines of the day, even if it is just the sports page! Another important conversation tip is if you have been talking for over three minutes and the other person is simply nodding, consider the fact maybe you are talking too much; this is especially important if you have been talking exclusively about yourself and your amazing abilities. Don’t be that guy/gal who always has to one-up people by telling them that whatever they are saying you have already done/ seen/explored/become an expert at. Remember to listen, ask people questions about themselves and try to avoid making politically incorrect jokes with people you have just met. In the words of someone on the internet: “Be bright. Be brief. Be gone”.