Hosting a Christmas get-together, an NYE party, a summer barbecue, or simply toasting a special occasion with loved ones? Here’s our checklist to help you create a stress-free and delicious cocktail party all year round.
In this guide you will learn:
What type of cocktails to serve ✓
Whether you should pre-batch cocktails ✓
How to make your ingredients go further, beyond the party ✓
Take a Seasonal and Strategic Approach To Your Cocktail Menu
Are you thinking of serving cocktails alongside food, or as aperitifs or digestifs? Is it a celebratory occasion? What’s the weather like and are there seasonal ingredients you can use, for a more sustainable approach? What’s your budget? How many people are you serving and what will be practical to serve with this in mind?
All of these are questions you need to consider before curating your cocktail lineup. As a general rule of thumb, we recommend sticking to a maximum of three serves.
Autumn and Winter Cocktails
The colder months call for warming serves, seasonal ingredients and garnishes that will bring a cosy feeling to proceedings such as oranges, cinnamon sticks and spices.
You can also go hot with your cocktail selections during this time of year too, with warming serves such as a Whiskey Hot Toddy with Green Spot Irish Whiskey. Alternatively, a Hot Buttered Rum with Chairman's Reserve Spiced Original rum makes an excellent dessert option.
Spring and Summer Cocktails
Sunnier and warmer months call for fruity and refreshing sips. There’s the classic allure of Margaritas, with their tangy citrus notes and tequila kick perfectly complementing the sunshine. Or why not venture further into the realm of tantalising flavours with exotic options like a Single Malt Whisky Piña Colada?
Classic Aperitifs and Digestifs
No matter the time of year, there are classics which will always work before and after meals.
You can opt for simplicity with a single ingredient. Vermouth on ice or with tonic water for example stands as a timeless choice for an aperitif. This fortified wine, flavoured with botanicals, herbs, and spices, carries a unique and versatile profile that makes it an excellent prelude to a meal.
For coffee lovers, the Espresso Martini takes centre stage as a digestif. Blend the bold Belvedere Pure vodka with the delicate sweetness of Mr Black coffee liqueur and the rich, aromatic notes of illy espresso coffee for a classic treat with a modern twist.
Make Sure You Have No and Low ABV Options and Good Quality Mixers
For guests who are moderating or don’t drink, nothing is more thoughtful than incorporating no and low-ABV cocktail options. Head to our ABV calculation guide if you want to create a cocktail that can be scaled up or down in terms of strength to save on additional prep or head to our library of no and low ABV cocktails.
It’s also important to ensure you have a pitcher of water to keep guests hydrated throughout the event and to invest in good quality mixers if your budget will allow for it, to truly elevate your complete menu!
Perfect Your Pairings
If you’re serving food, make sure you’ve looked into pairing suggestions for each of your selected cocktails, to ensure you’re not overwhelming your guests’ taste buds.
Don’t forget - each of our spirits is accompanied by the perfect food pairing to help you plan your menu with ease!
Pre-Batch Your Ingredients and Make Sure You Have Plenty of Ingredients and Ice
We’ve all been in this scenario: despite best-laid plans - that dish you’ve been prepping has gone sideways and set you back, or a guest has arrived early just as it dawns on you that you forgot to prepare the appetisers…and they need a drink. Cue the ultimate party hack, pre-batching.
Head to our guide on pre-batching cocktails to find out how you can take a more efficient and no less flavourful approach to prepping your cocktails. As part of pre-preparing your cocktails, according to Drinks Distilled Spirits Guide Emily Chipperfield it’s also wise to:
‘Make sure none of your ingredients are above room temperature (chilled is best if you’ve got time to pre-plan). Warm ingredients will dilute ice faster and by the time you achieve perfect dilution, your drink won’t have cooled down enough.’
Calculate How Much Ingredients You Need, to Avoid Waste
Take a calculated approach to your supplies whilst ensuring you have stocked up on everything you need, to avoid a panicked dash to the corner shop or waste.
On average guests will consume at least one drink per hour so plan for 3-4 serves per person for an event lasting 2-3 hours for example. Make sure you have plenty of ready-made, high-quality ice to hand to last throughout the evening. You can check out our ice guide to understand the importance of and learn how to create quality ice!
Create a Cocktail Station
If you don’t have a home bar, make sure you have a clear stage set out for cocktail creation, with any bar tools, pre-prepared garnishes and your chosen glassware close to hand to make the process as stress-free as possible.
We recommend using a Boston cocktail shaker which allows you to shake up 2-3 cocktails at a time for any pre-batched ingredients that require shaking. If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to the tools you need, check out our beginner’s guides to barware.
Cocktail trays are also a handy companion when it comes to hosting, we’ve curated a range of vintage options to help you serve with ease.
Where possible it’s also worth encouraging guests to serve themselves by creating pitchers or punch bowls of serves that can be refilled throughout the event.
Add a Touch of Personality to the Evening With Eye-Catching Glassware
Choose glassware that’s in keeping with the occasion and shows off your personal style. For example, our range of vintage glassware will help you bring a unique touch to your guests’ cocktails, whilst our range of quirky cocktail picks and stirrers can be used for both garnishes and finger food presentation.
However, keep in mind that it’s also worth taking a look at which glassware is practical to offer up to your guests. Remember - stemmed glasses have a higher spill potential than other options, so opt for a lighter-coloured cocktail if you’re concerned about that white rug of yours…
A Warm Farewell: Wrapping Up the Evening
As the night winds down, transition from cocktails to comforting beverages. Try offering digestif serves, or offer warmer drinks such as a hot toddy to create a cosy conclusion to the celebration.
The Clear Up
What ingredients are leftover that you can preserve or repurpose in future? For example, you can consider creating a cordial with your seasonal ingredients or freezing those extra lime wedges and herbs for future use.
Remember, the heart of a successful cocktail party lies in creating a welcoming atmosphere, serving delightful drinks, and engaging your guests with simple pleasures. With these tips, you're ready to host a memorable celebration that captures the true essence of the occasion. Cheers to a night filled with warmth, joy, and delicious memories!