Planning a Successful Cocktail Party!

As a event cater, cocktail parties are one my favorite .They’re easy to plan and glamorous you can serve high-priced items like caviar and still have some money left over because you’ll only be serving small bites. Plus, since you’ll be making several different types of hors d’oeuvres, there’s plenty of room to experiment in the kitchen.

When planning your party, it helps to choose a theme. This doesn’t mean all your guests have to show up dressed like pirates or their favorite movie stars—a theme can be discreet, such as a flavor or color that is present throughout the entire evening. A creative theme can make your party feel special without adding to your budget, and it will help you come up with ideas for food, drinks, and decorations.

The Food!

The more formal way to serve food at a cocktail party is butler service, which means passing hors d’oeuvres on trays. Easier and more casual is setting up your food buffet style so guests can help themselves. (Unless you have a dignitary or two in attendance, no one will think this is the least bit improper.) You can also combine these two methods, serving most of your food buffet-style and passing a few hot items.

Before you plan a single hors d’oeuvre, think about what foods are in season. If it’s summer and farmers’ markets are filled with corn and tomatoes, chances are that’s what your guests will be craving. Plus, seasonal ingredients are nearly always the freshest, best-tasting options, so the effort you put into cooking will pay off.

Almost any dish can be made over into cocktail party fare. For example, serve your favorite soup in shot glasses or bake your famous mac and cheese in small ramekins.

If your party takes place during lunch or dinner hours and will be a meal for your guests, consider constructing your menu as if it were a regular meal with multiple courses. Start with lighter, cold “appetizers” and follow with hot “main dishes.” You can even end with sweet treats such as cupcakes to signal that the party is coming to an end.

Make sure that 20 to 30 percent of your menu is meatless. This is crucial for any vegetarians in the crowd but it also adds variety for the rest of the guests.

Make sure that 75 percent of your menu can be prepared in advance. That means no heating, constructing, or garnishing—just serving. To cut down on last-minute scrambling, include several canapés in your menu. These mini open-faced sandwiches can usually be prepared fully in advance and served at room temperature.
If you’re throwing a cocktail party outside of typical meal hours, five or six types of hors d’oeuvres will be sufficient. Plan on each guests eating one or two of each kind.
If your cocktail party takes place during meal hours, your guests will be hungry and there should be enough food to constitute a meal. Prepare eight to ten types of hors d’oeuvres and plan on each guest eating two to three of each.
Also, younger men tend to eat more than women and seniors, so if you have lots of ties on your guest list, add a few extra hors d’oeuvres to your menu.

Full Bar

A full bar is by far the most complicated and expensive approach. That said, with a little planning, it’s completely doable—and a lot of fun for serious cocktail lovers. You’ll have a wide assortment of liquors, mixers, and garnishes on hand so guests can enjoy their old favorites—or discover a new cocktail

Themed Bar

A themed bar features one or sometimes two types of alcohol and a variety of mixers, plus wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks. This option is more wallet-friendly than a full bar because you don’t have to buy less popular or more obscure liquors and mixers, some of which might not be used. A themed bar works for any liquor—just serve the appropriate mixers and garnishes alongside

Signature Cocktail Bar and drinks!
My favorite way to serve drinks at a party is to offer a few signature cocktails, plus wine, beer, and nonalcoholic beverages. This is by far the easiest approach to cocktails and can cut down on liquor costs. You can mix the drinks in pitchers ahead of time, then once guests arrive, add ice and serve.
It’s best to provide guests with at least two cocktail choices, preferably made with different alcohols—one with vodka and one with rum, for example. If you’re feeling ambitious, add a dessert cocktail toward the end of the night.
When selecting signature drinks, think about the season and theme of your party. At an alfresco summer party, guests will love refreshing Mojitos or Margaritas. In colder weather, they’ll cozy up to Mulled Red Wine or Spiced Cider.
Turn your favorite cocktail, such as a Gin Fizz or a Negroni, into your own signature drink by simply renaming it for the night. Or serve a classic with a twist, such as a Pomegranate Manhattan.

For serious cocktail drinkers a beverage isn’t complete without its garnish. The basic garnishes are olives, pickled onions, cherries, lemon and lime wedges, salt, and superfine sugar, In addition to offering the basics, use garnishes as an opportunity for creativity—add chile peppers to Margaritas or sugar cane sticks to Mojitos, for example. For a unique twist, try serving a classic cocktail like a gin and tonic with a fresh herb sprig—it will add a hint of flavor and look pretty. If you’re serving specialty cocktails, be sure to include a fun garnish, such as the slice of fruit that finishes the Blood Orange Champagne Cocktail. Ice cubes can double as garnish, adding a touch of flavor and a visual appeal: Simply place fresh herbs, edible flowers, or berries in ice cube trays, add water, and freeze.


If your space is tight, use a round central table as the one and only food station. For larger rooms where guests have plenty of space, it’s better to spread the food out on smaller tables. Try to place food stations within easy access of the kitchen so you don’t have to balance trays while walking through the crowd.

Cocktail parties generally don’t demand as many chairs, tables, or tableware as other events, but depending on your menu and bar setup, you may find you’re short on something crucial, such as glassware—remember you need three to four glasses per person. If you don’t want to buy, you can rent glasses, plates, linens, and even extra tables for the bar or buffet area. The best part is that you don’t have to do any washing or feel guilty if you break something. Borrowing is another option, but if you break something you’ll have to explain it to your friend or family member.

If you have more than 20 guests and don’t want to be limited to only buffet-style hors d’oeuvres, consider hiring a staff.


About contessacatering

I went to The Art Institute of Seattle where I graduated with a full food science degree in Baking and pastry and culinary. After that working at several upscale resorts such as the Royal Hawaiian, in Oahu, The Kapalua Bay hotel in Maui and the Ritz Carlton, The Alexis and Monaco in Seattle. Then landing in Phoenix. In all of these resorts I worked side by side with some of the best chefs in the country. Making cakes for people such as Robert Mondovi’s 90th birthday. Learning how luxury and customer service can make any company successful, especially when it comes to cake and food. Cake Contessa is now the premier dessert delivery service in Arizona, we deliver cakes, cupcakes and desserts for all occasions using the highest quality ingredients. And we cater upscale events and weddings!
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