Planning a Successful Cocktail Party

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Step-by-Step Tips and Planning Strategies For Your Next Cocktail Party
Have you ever wanted to throw a successful cocktail party like the one you see in the movies, but are not quite sure how to do it?  Do you think you do not have the time or the money for one of those fabulous events and do not want something reminiscent of your college day parties?  They are easy to plan and can be relatively inexpensive.
Plan to have a theme, and I am not talking about a "costume" like the roaring 20's.  Choose one or two signature drinks, build a menu around the drinks and then go with colors for plates, candles etc that will reflect the feeling.  ie mojito inspired night can have everything served on green plates and platters.  Remember you are supposed to have as much fun as your guests.  Follow the step by step instructions and you will have a stress free and successful cocktail party.

Choose the theme
A theme can be as simple as a color or be inspired by a drink.  A good example would be a "Tropical Heat" theme. Plates and cups and candles would be orange or red.  Menu would be "tropical". The theme sets the mood.  It does not mean you have to bring in palm trees and beach sand. 
Picking the drink or drinks and plan the menu
A themed bar focuses on one type of liquor and an assortment of mixers. A signature cocktail bar features one or two mixed drinks. Regardless of the way you choose to serve cocktails, be sure to include an appropriate amount of wine and beer. Remember to always have plenty of water, still and sparkling.  Freeze some fruit slices to make it more festive.  These can be used in place of ice cubes.

Themed Bar

A themed bar features one or sometimes two types of alcohol and a variety of mixers, plus wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks. A themed bar works for any liquor.  Make sure you know which mixers go with the alcohol you choose.

Signature Cocktail Bar

Offer one or two signature cocktails, plus wine, beer. A signature bar is the way to go if you do not want to buy unneeded alcohol and by far the easiest on your wallet. You can mix the drinks ahead of time, then once guests arrive, add ice and serve. If guest are pouring make sure the ice and garnishes are laid out in an easily reachable manner.
You may want to provide at least two cocktail choices, made with different alcohols, for example, one with vodka and one with rum.
 Plan the menu
Here is  the one place that all or any of the items do not necessarily have to go with your theme. Try and have the party outside of the dinner hour or make sure you have enough food to replace a meal (6-8 types of hors d'oeuvres).  We will talk later about how many of each to prepare. 
If you have any "old stand-by" recipes this is a good time to break them out.  If they are "meals", don't be afraid to scale down the size to serve as one of the hors d'oeuvres.  Try some new recipes-don't be afraid remember these are on a small scale.
Our rule of thumb is half hot, have cold or room temperature.  A fruit and cheese platter is always a winner.
When with a theme pick a couple of the foods to that are theme oriented ex. Caribbean or beach theme--spicy tequila shrimp with tapenade on crustini, grilled chicken and pineapple skewers with sweet/spicy dip.  These are both served room temperature.
Pick foods you can prepare in advance.  We will offer some make ahead selections at the end of the article.
Everyone loves nuts, make your own candied spice nuts or mix.  Hit the gourmet olive bar for some extra munchies.
Enlist the help of a friend or two to help serve if you are doing passed hot hors d'oeuvres.
How to determine how much food and alcohol to have
Remember, cocktail parties are normally hosted before or after the dinner our.  The food is not meant to replace a meal.  A good rule of thumb is three to five different types of hors d'oeuvres planning on two to three of each per person.
If your cocktail party takes place during meal hours, there should be enough food to replace the meal. Prepare six to ten types of hors d'oeuvres planning on two to three of each per person.
Guys tend to eat more than women, so if you have lots of up and comers on your guest list, plan on a few more of each hors d'oeuvres.

Beverages-alcohol and non

• Each guest will drink an average of two drinks the first hour and one drink each hour thereafter.
• Figure on four to five glasses per bottle of wine and two to three glasses per person.  That means one bottle will serve two guests.  Try to find out if your guest prefer red or white.  Right now red is more popular.
• There are approximately 26 shots per a one-liter bottle of alcohol.  Calculate two to three cocktails per person.
• Plan on having two litres of mix per litre of alcohol.  Mixers to plan on having would be club soda, tonic, cola, diet cola, lemon lime soda.  If you are featuring martinis get one bottle 750ml of vermouth(dry) per four to five bottles of vodka or gin.  Same for manhattans except also get a bottle of sweet(red)vermouth.
• Garnishes are just that a garnish and not part of a meal. Plan on one lemon or lime per guest 1/2 orange and nine olives, 3 cherries per person. It never hurts to have a little extra for those guest that inevitable nibble on the garnish.
• Plan on one and a half pounds of ice per person. This sounds like a lot, but you will need to ice down the beer and wine unless you have a small refrigerator by the bar.
Creating a guest list
Keep it simple.  We have so many online options today. Facebook, Myspace, regular e-mail or even online services like Evite.   Electronic invites make keeping track of RSV P's easy. Telephone and in person works well to and can make your invitees feel special. 
Count on 6 out of 10 people you invite that say yes to actually show up.  Ladies are more likely to attend when they say they will.  Invite more guys if you want the sexes to be evenly represented.
If you have a lot of time and some extra money on your hands or are really organized theme, use the theme of your party to set the look of your invitations. For example, in lieu of a traditional invitation send an object that communicates the theme of your party. If you're hosting a beach themed party go to the dollar store and get flip flops and send the invite on one of them to each of the people you are inviting.
Let the guests know if you want them to show up in themed attire.  A prize for best three would really help to get them in the mood.  Be sure to mention that on the invitation.
Setting the mood

Choosing and Arranging the Space

Set up your area the day before the party so you have plenty of time to make last-minute changes. Make sure guests can move throughout the room easily.  Remove furniture if you need to.  Remember you want enough seating for about 1/4 of the guest.  People have a tendency to just sit and not move.
If you do not have much room use one centrally located table or buffet for your food.  If you have plenty of space create "food stations" around the room.  This helps the guests to move about and mingle.
Have plenty of waste bins for the trash and have a couple of places to deposit dirty dishes and plates. You may have to put a used glass on them just to give everyone the "subtle" hint.

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