8 Rules to Follow if You Want to Host an Epic Cocktail Party

8 Rules to Follow if You Want to Host an Epic Cocktail Party

Ah, entertaining. The thought can either spark joy or send you into an anxious tailspin. And while some of us are certainly more naturally predisposed to hosting loved ones, throwing a bash is something almost everyone will do at some point in their lives. If you’d like to learn how to do it a little better, we have some expert tips – specifically when it comes to hosting a cocktail party.

According to Paolo Maffietti, bar manager at Maybe Sammy and Briellyn Turton, interior designer and stylist, who recently teamed up to work with Woodford Reserve, the era of the dinner party is dead, and we’re officially in the time of the cocktail event.

Before you exit out of this article in fear, hear us out. According to Turton, hosting a cocktail party is actually much easier, especially if you follow the tips below.

How to host a cocktail party that’ll impress

While at a recent event for Woodford Reserve, Maffietti and Turton shared their tips on how to set up a cocktail party that will have your pals begging you to host more events (which you may or may not want). In any case, here’s what they were.

Styling advice

Image supplied

First, styling, ambience and snacks from Turton. She spoke about how to nail the cocktail party brief.

  • Get the playlist right: Her advice here was to search Spotify for playlists made by, or inspired by, the bars you like most. I will literally go on Spotify – I did this the last time I had a cocktail party – [and type] ‘Maybe Sammy’. Three playlists pop up: Maybe Sammy: Opening, Maybe Sammy: 9 – 11, and you literally press play, and you have bar tunes in your house.”
  • Vibe: She spoke here about matching your event’s vibe to the space you’re working with. So, “if you’re living in an apartment, or it’s a little bit smaller, compact space – the lounge vibe is perfect. Just [a] spread on the coffee table is all you need”.
  • Stick to room temperature food: Turton shared that she opts for bar-style snacks that are room temperature so they don’t require much effort on your part throughout the night. “Once they’re down, [the] party is on… I’m relaxing.” She mentioned foods that are “easily replenished” work well here, and while you can go for canapes, “your standard charcuterie and cheese is all we need”.
  • Downlights are off: Lighting is important for achieving that bar feel, and Turton shared that the biggest mistake you can make is using ambient lighting. “Candles, lamps, anything to bring down that ambient lighting,” she shared. “We want mood lighting; we don’t want overheard lighting. It’s not gonna give us that bar feeling…”
  • Use the bar cart: Don’t leave your bar cart sitting to the side. This was Turton’s top tip of the night. She stressed that folks should “dust off the bar cart” and actually use it at their cocktail parties. “Pretend you’re a cocktail bartender, and you’re preparing for service. What drinks are we making? We’re putting all the garnishes we need on there… we’d have a little ice bucket… and I’d literally wheel this around to my guests, making cocktails for them”.
  • Mix up your tableware: Rather than use all-white crockery, “don’t be scared to mix it up”. Using different “metals, textures, heights” can bring a little more soul and character to your set-up.

Cocktail tips

Cocktail party tips. Image supplied

Now, onto the drinks. If you’re hosting a cocktail party, you’re going to be expected to whip up some cocktails. Maffietti explained here that the secret to getting this right is following two general rules.

  • Prepare ingredients in advance: Maffietti explained that you want to do 80 per cent of the work ahead of time and leave only 20 per cent to the night of your cocktail party. “You don’t want to be stressed; you don’t want to be busy,” he said. That means, get your sugar syrup and your lime juice and your garnishes in order the day before or a few hours ahead of the party, so you don’t need to be working on them when people arrive. You can also pre-batch your spirits if you want to literally pour and go on the night.
  • Get the right tools: “You want to have a nice mixing glass, a light bar spoon, a sharp knife, a good strainer, good [quality] ice…” These details will make a huge difference to the delivery of your cocktails – especially the ice. Shitty ice will melt quickly and will ruin your drink. Use large ice cubes for less dilution.

Lead Image Credit: Image supplied/iStock


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