Cocktail parties are an easy bet for hosts because guests don’t expect to be fed, other than a few nibbles, making them far cheaper than hosting a dinner party and, at the same time, more memorable. Bonus!
Here’s how to throw the perfect cocktail soirée:
Theme: Decide on a theme for the event. Are you going for thirties Great Gatsby glamour? Or a sixties Austin Power vibe? Asking people to dress for the occasion will really add to the event. It needn’t be full-on fancy dress, even just feather boas and ties makes a big difference.
Decide on drinks: Cocktail parties could be hideously expensive if you had to provide all the drinks yourself. Instead, decide in advance what drinks you’ll serve and ask friends to bring certain items when you invite them, so you know you’ll have enough for three or four great choices. Alternatively, just choose one cocktail and theme the night round that. If what you serve becomes your signature cocktail, so much the better. I once had a great night hosting a champagne cocktail party. It actually wasn’t very costly because of course we weren’t drinking real champagne – you don’t need to because you’re going to add other ingredients anyway – but it gave the party a real air of decadence.
Send out invitations: You can create and send your own personalised invitations online using evite.
Stock up: Trawl charity shops for cheap glasses – it really doesn’t matter if they don’t match. Beg, borrow and steal cocktail shakers. Remember to stock up on all the things that guests probably won’t bring but which make a cocktail party such fun: paper umbrellas, cocktail cherries, olives, lemons and limes, sugar cubes and cream. You’ll need lots of ice too, which you can buy in big bags from the freezer section of most supermarkets, though I’ve always just asked the bar downstairs to fill a couple of bags for me – they’ve never refused.
Create a playlist: The right music is key. You’re probably aiming for a slightly retro vibe, which will be ruined in an instant if you just leave your iPod on shuffle and out pops Beyonce. It pays to make playlists in advance. Because you’re going retro you probably won’t need to buy much new music – just rifle through what you’ve already got, as well as in secondhand shops. Easy listening is a good rule of thumb for cocktail party music.
Set out your stall: Before your guests arrive, turn your kitchen worktop into a bar, laying out glasses and ingredients, together with a few recipes. When guests arrive, show them where everything is and offer to mix their first drink. After that, it’s down to them. You’ll find that people start out very serious, diligently following the recipe for the perfect Mojito, then gradually become more free-spirited as the booze kicks in. At my last cocktail party, I discovered three people in the kitchen at midnight, none of whom had known each other before, all giggling and trying to come up with the most outlandish drinks. Cocktails are a terrific icebreaker.
It’s showtime: Being the host/hostess with the mostess at a cocktail party is terrific fun. You get to wear the most glamorous costume and generally be a bit over-the-top. You also get lots of credit for organising a great party without really doing much work at all. Now that’s what I call a result!
Easy, Impressive Cocktails To Try At Home
- A champagne flute of fizz – can be cava, prosecco or champagne depending on your budget
- A sugar cube
- Angostura bitters
Here’s how: Put the sugar cube in the bottom of the glass, then drip over two or three drops of angostura bitters and top up with fizz.
- A measure of light rum
- A glug of sugar syrup (this is just two parts sugar and one part water brought to the boil and allowed to cool. It keeps in the fridge for months.)
- Three slugs of lime juice
Here’s how: Pour the three ingredients into a shaker together with ice-cubes, shake well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass. Add whatever fruits you wish, strawberry being a favourite of the SATC girls.
- One measure of Kahlua or another coffee liqueur
- Two measures of vodka
Here’s how: Pour both ingredients over ice into a lowball glass. That’s it. Simple and delicious – and pretty cheap too.
Make a Black Russian and top up the glass with cream for a gorgeous drink that’s as high on taste as it is on calories. What the hell, you’re having a party!
Skint in the City writes about living the stylish life on a shoestring budget, such as how to buy Pucci and decorate apartments even when you’re living on a starter’s salary. Mixing down-to-earth personal finance with tips on budget style, entertaining and home styling, Skint in the City is for those who haven’t given up on their dreams of living the stylish life – even if their budget’s currently tighter than their skinny jeans.