Learn how to host a cocktail party during the holiday season,
complete with copious recipes to get you through with a few simple steps!
Who’s ready to learn how to host a cocktail party?!
Hosting a cocktail-style party is a great way to gather people without a lot of effort, especially during the holiday season!
Our family hosts a great post-Christmas Cocktail party each year, to gather people near and far for an evening of good eats and cheers!
We have a great time with a table filled with food and a kitchen filled with all kinds of beverages.
If you’ve ever hosted a cocktail party, you know it’s kind of the best in the hosting world. You have everything out and ready, and you get to enjoy the party.
I mean, what is not to love?!
How to Host a Cocktail Party:
First, choose a theme for your party.
Whether it’s the holidays or summertime, choose a theme for your party. That could be an actual theme like Mexican or Luau; or, it could be a type of food, a color, seasonal, etc.
Next, choose the time you want to host your cocktail party.
We love hosting ‘Drop-Ins’ – since you can have a rotation of people come through your door over the course of the time span.
Drop-In Party – this is great for smaller homes/apartments. Set the time span, and invite your people in. Make the time a bit longer than you might want, just so it gives people the freedom to come and go. ((This is what we have on our invite card: Drop in between 7 & 11 – people stay for some or all of the time. It’s a good span to get people right after dinner, after the movies/outing, etc))
Morning 9:30 – 12:30 PM
Afternoon 2:00 – 5:00 PM
Evening 7:00 – 11:00 PM
Our home isn’t large enough to hold 100 people at a time, but over the span of four hours, that’s how many faces we’ll see.
One thing you have to remember: you don’t need a large house with a large space.
Cocktail parties are perfect for gathering a lot of people since you don’t need seats for everyone around the tables.
Now, one of the most stressful parts of planning a cocktail party, or any party for that matter, is choosing the menu.
I have learned some great lessons along the way, and I’m here to share them with you now.
What is most helpful is opting for a buffet-style menu. And not the kind of items you’ll need to ‘fill up’ over and over. A couple of those are okay, but definitely not the whole menu.
Helpful Tip: If you do have ‘fill-up’ items, ask a friend to be in charge of keeping that one item stocked. You’ll have other things to do, and they can handle it! Plus, we all have those friends who want to help out in any way they can (thank you enneagram 2s!).
Here are a few tips for choosing a buffet menu for a cocktail party:
Keep it simple!
Choose 6-8 items, nothing too fancy, and nothing that requires more than one hand.
When choosing proteins, go for seafood, meat/poultry, and a vegetarian option. (Hummus is always a great option!)
I know it may seem lame, but everyone REALLY does love a veggie and fruit tray. These should be staples on any cocktail buffet line.
Arrange the table with hot foods first, ending with cold. However, it is best to choose items that can be served at room temperature, just so you don’t have to think about how to keep things hot or cold.
Now, let’s break each of those down…
Choosing 6-8 items:
Depending on how many guests you have coming, depends on how many items you should determine.
Less than 8 people, I would only do 3 or 4.
10-12 people, 5-7.
12-18 people, 7-9.
18+ people, 8 items.
You may be wondering how on earth you are supposed to choose 8 fooditems to make…
Choose 4 to make, and 4 to buy. Take a hint from your specialty food stores and purchase cheese, nuts, dried fruits, olives, and charcuterie items to ease your life!
If you need Cheeseboard Inspiration, head over to this post that’s got 45 different kinds of cheeseboard ideas. Everything from charcuterie to dessert boards!
If you need help Arranging a Buffet Table head on over to this post. It’s a step by step guide to setting up your table for a fabulous cocktail party.
Finally, you’ll need copious amounts of drinks to keep on hand! There are 32 options below — get ready to be inspired!
A great way to keep yourself “free” during the party is to make them in a drink dispenser like this one. You may need to refill it, but that’s okay! Like above, you can always ask friends to help you keep things “floating.”
If you need a super yummy non-alcohol drink, try this Vanilla Almond Iced Tea. I make decaf tea (people WILL ask… after the sun goes down, people are extremely wary of caffeine!) and mix it with Simply Lemonade. The tea doesn’t need to be sweet since the Lemonade is. You’ll add almond and vanilla extract and it’s just delightful. And looks so good in a dispenser with orange and lemon slices.
This cranberry mimosa is a festive and easy holiday cocktail. With just three ingredients, it’s simple to keep everything on hand for impromptu gatherings. And of course, cranberry mimosas are a perfect fit for Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or Christmas get-togethers.
Cranberry Moscow Mule is the perfect holiday cocktail recipe, be it Thanksgiving, Christmas or 4th of July! Easy to put together, easy to tweak, fun to drink and so delicious! Non-alcoholic version provided.
A festive time of year calls for a festive cocktail, right? Donner and Blitzen: A Ginger Brandy Cocktail makes a lovely addition to your holiday cocktail party… Combine ginger simple syrup, brandy, pomegranate molasses, and pomegranate juice with ice in your cocktail shaker, pour into your favorite glassware, top off with ginger beer, and a few shakes of orange bitters. Garnish with an orange slice, and crystallized ginger. Bellissimo!
This fun Pomegranate Peach Bellini Cocktail requires only a few ingredients and comes together in only a couple of minutes. Perfect for the holidays, brunches and easily scaled up to quench the thirst for a crowd
An easy white wine sangria recipe featuring gorgeous fall and winter ingredients like cranberries, apples, and oranges. This drink is refreshing, not too sweet (you can adjust it to your taste), and even slightly healthy with the addition of 100% unsweetened cranberry juice. It's elegant enough to serve at a holiday gathering, yet simple enough for a low-key weeknight dinner.
What better way to bring on the good cheer than with a Christmas cocktail named after the jolly old elf himself? With it's coconut rim and bright red color, this Santa's Hat Christmas Cocktail will most certainly bring on the holiday cheer!
The fruity cherry and cranberry notes in this Cran-Cherry Rye Whiskey Sour Cocktail complement the spicy rye for a perfectly sweet and refreshing cocktail. Add in some lime juice and egg whites and you’ve got yourself a drink you’ll love and enjoy all year long.
The Christmas cookie cocktail recipe is perfect for holiday parties, gatherings, or a quiet night at home by the roaring fire! Oreos, Bailey’s, Kahlua, and Peppermint Schnapps make one tasty drink.
Alright, y’all! It’s time to savor the season with cocktails and friends, lots of eating, and twinkle lights.
If you’re hesitant about hosting something, remember this: It doesn’t need to be perfect. People don’t have more fun or create better memories when everything is perfect. What you have and what you use are enough!
Save this graphic to your favorite holiday board on Pinterest!
I’m Ashley! The Sweetpea behind Sweetpea Lifestyle! The hostess with the mostest who is ringing in the new southern belle! Let’s edit out the mess of the over complicated dinner party so we can cultivate community! As an avid host, I love sharing dependable, easy recipes that help you gather your people around the table and share a delicious meal with others.