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Cocktail Party 101: Your Guide To Hosting the Perfect Cocktail Party

Mon, Aug 14, 23  |  entertaining

Cocktail parties should be fun. That includes the planning part. The key is to keep things simple and focus on what’s important. We’ve got a few ideas in this guide. And, remember, celebrate responsibly.


While drinks are the stars of any cocktail party (after all, it is right there in the name), your guests are going to expect some nibbles to go along with their beverages. These don’t have to be elaborate, Instagram-worthy bites. Keep it simple with a few go-to apps.

Of course, you don’t have to cook to have a successful party. Pull out your serving dishes and fill them with:

  • Seasoned popcorn

  • Artisanal dips

  • Chips, pretzels, nuts, and other crunchy snacks

  • A veggie / fresh fruit tray

  • Meat/cheese tray

Check out our blog post dedicated to the amazing piping bag and the delicious creations it can help you make.


Don’t get stuck behind the bar at your own party. Even if you have some serious mixology skills or your party is relatively small, it’s best to let the shaking happen on the dance floor and mix with your friends instead of shaking and mixing cocktails on-demand. 

Consider the season. Spring is the time for minty drinks like the southern classic Mint Julep or a Kir Royale. During the extended growing season of early to late summer, consider the fresh berries, fruits, and aromatic herbs that abound at that time of year. Fall is the season of heavier drinks with a little warming Bourbon or Scotch; and winter is the perfect time for a hot toddy. Make it simple and fun.

OPTION 1: Self-Serve Bar Cart

A bar cart is the perfect way to create the glamour of cocktail hour at home. Don’t have a cart? A counter or table can work just fine.


Click here to acquire some bar cart basics, including a list of essentials to keep stocked and a guide to glassware.

You can keep it simple by including just the ingredients for a few classic cocktails. Or put an easy-to-make recipe in a frame on the bar with all of the ingredients nearby. Fun!

OPTION 2: Pitcher Cocktails

Here are a few cocktails you can make beforehand in pitchers.


TIP: The industry standard for calculating the number of drinks at a typical party is 1 ½ drinks per guest, per hour. Use this as a rough guide to plan when shopping for your event.

Pimm's Original Cup

  • 16 oz. PIMM’S No.1

  • 1 ½ liter lemonade

  • mint, orange, strawberries – enough for 10 - 15 drinks

  • cucumber to garnish

  • ice


Slice orange and cut slices in half. Halve strawberries. Slice cucumbers for garnish.

Combine Pimm’s No. 1 and the lemonade. Mix and refrigerate.



Use highball glasses. Add a bottom layer of ice, then the mint, orange half wheel and strawberry halves. Add a little more ice and pour the cocktail over the fruit and ice. (If you fill a standard highball glass with ice, you will probably get about 15 drinks from the recipe.)

Classic Mint Julep by the Pitcher

  • 2 cups sugar

  • 4 bunches mint, ends trimmed

  • 2 ½  cups Bourbon 

  • crushed ice


Note:  Best made a day before and refrigerated.


Combine the sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat and submerge 3 bunches of mint. Let stand at least 1 hour, or preferably overnight. Strain.


Stir together the mint simple syrup (you should have 2 ½ cups) and Bourbon in a pitcher. Add a couple of sprigs of mint for garnish. Back in the fridge again until ready to serve, up to 8 hours.


Pack 8 mint julep cups (or rocks glasses) with crushed ice. Pour 4 ounces of the mint julep mixture into each; garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a straw. When the outside of the cup has frosted over, it’s ready to enjoy.


Here are a few other ideas for a perfect party:

  1. Place a basket by the door for people to store their phones 
  2. Create food and drink stations throughout your space to encourage mingling

  3. Curate a playlist for your party

  4. Don’t forget the ice

  5. Have non-alcohol drink options.

  6. Celebrate responsibly – We recommend a ride share service.

For more ideas, visit Colonial and we’ll help you develop a signature cocktail for your party.

By Clark Trim

Tags: cocktail party