Hosting the Perfect Cocktail Party at Home
Everyone loves the thought of hosting the perfect cocktail party in the comfort of their own home.
The perfect theme, colourful drinks and laughter all round. As a gracious host you want to make sure everyone has a great time and your soiree goes off without a hitch.
We have spent many a year perfecting the art of hosting cocktail parties from home. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind when planning your perfect event.
When you think of cocktails it will instantly conjure up an image of your perfect social scene. On the beach? In sky high heels perched on a bar stool? A dashing tuxedo? Giggling into a shared fishbowl?
Over the years the more popular themes we have hosted are (in no particular order):
Hen's Night (feathers and phallic straws galore).
Remember the beauty of cocktails is they come in many colours. Contrasting, fading or complimentary themes look great too.
Straws, stirrers and garnishes can be incorporated to help create or boost a theme.
The selection of cocktails you offer your guests is perhaps the singular most important aspect of your cocktail party.
Your cocktail choice should compliment the theme of your party. James Bond was not portrayed sipping on a Chocolate Bunny or indulging in Sex on the Beach - per se.
Remember the season. Milk based cocktails are more popular in winter. Fruit in Summer. Also consider seasonal availability of fruit and garnish. Limes can be MEGA expensive!
Options are essential but can become pricey. Try to keep your cocktail selection within the same family so similar ingredients can be used in more than one drink. i.e. Vodka and pineapple juice are a commonly used base.
Once you settle on a cocktail selection create a menu so your guests are aware of their choices. Inevitably your party will be so amazing that your guests will forget they are at your home and start ordering Singapore Slings, Slippery Nipples and Whiskey Sours at will. A menu of available cocktails avoids disappointment and gives your crazy friend Lisa a challenge to work through.
Calculate the approximate number of cocktails each person is likely to consume (remember this is just an estimate) and calculate the quantities you will require of each ingredient. PRO HINT: people are always surprised by how little alcohol and how much mixers are required.
Consider asking your friends to bring along an appointed bottle of alcohol or mixer to share. Just make sure you have a plan B if they don't show up!
We all have that family member we have to invite to every function. But, if you are planning a cocktail party for a group of teetotaller friends, the event will not be as successful as you'd hoped.
Consider your guest list carefully and ensure you have invited a group of people who will get involved in the theme.
Too few people will mean you have a lot of excess stock left at the end of the night. Too many and your night could be over before you finish greeting everyone.
A trap for young players. Glassware becomes the bane of the party time and time again. Here's a list of pros and cons to consider:
Hired Glasses or Polycarbonate
They look great.
Come in a range of colour, shapes and sizes.
Are reasonably cheap to hire.
Guests may not fancy reusing their vessel and you will find yourself elbows deep in washing up liquid mid way through your event.
You must collect and wash all glasses prior to return.
You are liable for any breakages.
There WILL be smashed glass to tidy up at some point. Let's hope it's not near your pool...
Single Use Plastic or Biopak
They don't need washing.
They are cheap to buy.
They come in a range of sizes.
They will not shatter and cause certain havoc if dropped.
You do not have to drain your pool if one accidentally falls in.
Not ideal for the environment … unless biopak.
They feel a bit cheap... but no one cares after a few drinks.
After many many many home based cocktail parties we recommend our event planners purchase ~400ml clear plastic cups. They just work the best. Martini glasses look flash but are simply not practical for such affairs.
There are few occasions where you can get away with having a flamingo, umbrella and piece of pineapple in your glass and fit right in. Garnishes can be as sophisticated or ostentatious as you desire. A good rule of thumb is to use a garnish (straw, stirrer, fruit, herb or flower) which contrasts in colour to the beverage. The internet is full of amazing cocktail garnish ideas.
As a responsible host ensure your guests have a non alcoholic option and access to water.
Ice ice baby. Vanilla Ice was onto something. You will need ice, lots of ice. Ice for people to plunge their drinks into and separate drinking ice to chill the cocktails. On average, a party of 60 people will consume 6 bags of ice in cocktails over a 4 hour period. The ice works as a chilling agent to activate the true flavour of the cocktail.
The conundrum of who will make the cocktails and how will they be served is generally one which arises on the night. A host may find themselves playing bartender and with very little time to socialise. With a little forethought and planning this need not be a cause for concern. Here are a few concepts we have seen over the years and a food for thought:
The Serve Yourself Option
You have bought all the alcohol and mixers, put pourers on all the bottles, displayed bottles in size order, provided jiggers, cut up a heap of pineapple and lemon wheels, laminated how to guides and displayed the perfect bar set up. It looks AMAZING. Everyone starts to arrive and heads to the novelty bar to build their first drink.
They follow the instructions, garnish their beverage and proceed in an orderly fashion to socialise.
Time for a second drink. There is a bit of a line at the cocktail station this time. Some of the bottles have got a bit low and people are improvising. The jigger is missing so free pour it is. Nanna ate all the garnish and the how to instructions have gone missing... meh, that will do.
Drink #3... Oh no! Paul got tired of waiting for his turn so poured shots for everyone. With the bits that are left someone has poured them all into a jug and your brave guests are now indulging in mystery rocket fuel.
Appoint or Hire a Bartender
This is a field where we have spent a lot of time. We have pulled off many a special function with a single cocktail bartender and a glassie. It isn't impossible but it does have its obstacles.
A glassie must keep a close eye on stock levels and refill them before they run out. They must ensure the glasses are available and if stock runs low, be prepared to roll up their sleeves and get to washing.
Most home bars are a portable table, hired impractical (albeit pretty) bar or kitchen bench. The bartender will need to clean out their shakers and wash the jigger and muddle stick between drinks.
A great cocktail bartender can make a cocktail every 2-4 minutes (a couple at once if you're lucky). Over a 4 hour hire period that works out to be around 20 drinks an hour - 80 drinks for the night.
As people consume more alcohol they will begin to haggle your appointed bartender.
Ensure this person has thick skin and isn't your friends 16 year old son who made a great punch once. For a professional service expect to pay $100+ per hour.
Great option if you don't mind the ice, limited artificial flavour options and the possibility of the machine not freezing properly if you live in a hot climate like good ol' South East Queensland.
*insert joke about Frozen Movie "let it go" here*
Premade Jugs are a popular solution.
We have been asked to provide this service many times.
Because we are pedantic about the integrity of the drinks we serve, we have refused for the following reasons:
The drinks become too watered down as the ice melts
The condensation makes a mess
The drinks separate when they sit for too long.
Fear not!!! If you are in the Brisbane ~ Sunshine Coast ~ Gold Coast region, a solution is at hand. After years of trial and error in nightclubs, lounge bars and private functions we have solved many of the issues plaguing the humble home cocktail party.
We have imported sleek machinery from Italy which chills, agitates and dispenses 18 litres of your chosen cocktail. That's 70+ drinks per machine - Perfect every time!
Picky Flair Bartender approved.
The benefits of this service are:
The machines can serve a cocktail in 5 seconds.
The machine will chill, agitate and dispense your drinks. No separation, no condensation and no watering down the cocktails.
Tap That Hire delivers and mixes your cocktails in the sexy, sleek machine (or machines) and leaves you to enjoy your party.
Tap That provides ALL non alcoholic contents, garnishes and straws.
Tap That calculates the quantities of alcohol you will require to make your cocktails.
Best of luck with your party planning! We look forward to being of service.