Bar and Beverage Guide / Cocktail Parties

Every party needs a well-equipped bar. Make sure yours includes the following items: cocktail shaker (if serving cocktails), bottle opener, corkscrew, water jug, ice cubes, ice bucket and tongs or scoop, small knife, garnishes for drinks (lemons, limes, cherries, olives, onions) and napkins.

Make sure to have sufficient glasses to cover both the range of drinks you are offering and also the number of guests attending your party. Generally we would recommend that you allocate 1-2 Slim Jim glasses per person. These glasses can be used for water, minerals, spirits with the 12oz size taking the equivalent of a bottle of beer. For wine glasses it is always a good idea to have at least 2 glasses per person. While most people will refill their glass some will require a change of glass particularly if changing from red to white or vice versa. If serving champagne you should make sure to have 1 glass per person, not all of your guests may take the champagne but it would be awful if you were short.
It is a good idea to plan on serving approximately two drinks per guest, per hour at your event. Based upon a party for 40 guests your minimum stock of beverages should be approximately:
  • Champagne or Cava x 12 bottles
  • A case of both red and white wine. Depending upon your guests preferences it may be appropriate to have more red than white
  • 3-4 cases of bottled beer. By offering bottled beer you may be able to reduce the number of glasses required
  • Approximately 16 litres of bottled water, mix this between still and sparkling
  • Limited spirits for example Vodka x 2 bottles, Gin x 1 bottle – don’t forget the mixers
  • Some soft drinks – particularly for the drivers
* Note that these figures are approximations. Consider your guests, their tastes and the weather to help determine your specific beverage needs.
Cocktail parties bring to mind old-school Hollywood, so play up the retro glam factor by turning off the overheads, lighting silver candlesticks and scattering a few vases of roses around the room.
You want everyone mingling, so push couches back to the wall to make more space to circulate. If you want to give guests a spot to break off and engage in hire some high bar tables with coloured spandex covers and high bar stools or create small sitting areas with dining chairs and a couple of small folding tables to serve as drink parking places. Just don't line up chairs one after another against the wall.
Next, set up an area for your bar and stock it with booze, juices, diet drinks, ice, fruit garnishes, pimiento-stuffed olives, assorted glassware, shot glasses, a cocktail shaker, stirrers, swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins and a cocktail recipe book for flashes of liquid creativity.
If you want to pull out all the stops, go on a shopping spree at your local off licence, then hire a bartender for the evening along with a stylish Bash Bar. On a budget and don't want to get stuck behind the bar all night? Multiply a single classic cocktail recipe by 10), mix them up in pitchers, and label each one — then all you have to do is set out an ice bucket and tell guests to help themselves. Or buy a few favourite liquors and mixers, print out a fancy drink menu with recipes, title it "Specialties of the House" and let guests mix their own.
Whatever you decide, don't bother with beer and wine. Half of what puts the party in cocktail party is the novelty of downing fancy drinks you don't drink the other 51 Saturdays of the year.