By Allrecipes Staff
May 14, 2015

Throw a cocktail party for a more relaxed and relatively inexpensive way to entertain.

Cocktails! | Photo by Meredith

If you have a fully stocked bar, great. But you don't really need one to throw a terrific cocktail party. A more practical and inexpensive approach is to offer one or two signature cocktails, along with beer, wine, and some non-alcoholic choices.

Standard cocktails use 1.5 fluid ounces of spirits per drink, so plan on getting 16 cocktails from each bottle.

Figuring one cocktail per guest per hour, plus beer and wine, the beverage shopping list for a 4-hour party featuring martinis and Manhattans for 20 guests might look like this:

  • 4 750-ml bottles of gin (and/or vodka)
  • 3 750-ml bourbon
  • One bottle (750 ml) dry vermouth
  • Two bottles (750 ml) sweet vermouth
  • Bitters
  • Pimento-stuffed cocktail olives
  • Maraschino cherries
  • Cocktail napkins and picks
  • 6 bottles of white wine
  • 4 bottles red wine
  • 24 12-oz bottles of beer--a mixture of light and dark beers
  • Water, still and sparkling
  • A variety of soft drinks
  • Ice, at least half a pound per person

Tippler's Tip: Clear alcohol (such as vodka) tends to go faster than brown (such as whiskey), and white wine is more popular in party settings than red.

Cocktail Party Tips

Tip #1: Never skimp on the ice. A good rule of thumb is half a pound per person in a cool climate, and two pounds per person in warm weather.

Tip#2: Print out your drink menu, including the featured cocktails, wines, and beers you'll be serving.

Tip #3: Use your space creatively. Put the drink and food stations away from each other to encourage your guests to spread out.

Tip #4: Consider hiring a bartender if your guest list exceeds 20. It will free you up to enjoy your guests, and minimizes post-party clean-up.

Tip#5: Rent glassware. Choose styles that suit the drinks you'll be serving and plan on providing wine and beer glasses for the other drinks. Rent a total of four glasses per guest, and have plastic glasses on hand as back up.

Don't Forget the Ice!

The best tasting cocktails are made using fresh ice from pure, filtered water. "Fresh" means the cubes haven't been lounging around for weeks in the freezer soaking up the stale essences of long-lingering foods.

Make cocktail ice the morning of the day of your party, and you'll enjoy the freshest, most delicious cocktails.

How to Throw a Cocktail Party

Fifth of What?

Alcohol has been bottled by metric measurements in the U.S. since 1979, with the 750 ml bottle replacing the previous standard bottle size popularly known as the "fifth."

History of the Cocktail Party

Cocktail culture grew out of Prohibition-era America during the 1920s. Speakeasies soon arose to satisfy society's thirst for illegal drink, inventing whimsical cocktails, many long-forgotten, such as the Mary Pickford and No. 21 Punch.

Of course, the other option was to host private parties in homes or hotel rooms. The skill of properly preparing a cocktail soon was on par with other flourishes of home entertaining.

Though it's fallen in and out of favor throughout the 20th century, the cocktail party's back in style!

Ready to shake up some cool cocktails? Find recipes for classic cocktails.