How to Host a Cocktail Party

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Learn how to host a cocktail party during the holiday season,
complete with copious recipes to get you through with a few simple steps!

how to host a christmas cocktail party

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!

christmas buffet recipes

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.

christmas cocktail party

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:

  1. Keep it simple!
  2. Choose 6-8 items, nothing too fancy, and nothing that requires more than one hand.
  3.  When choosing proteins, go for seafood, meat/poultry, and a vegetarian option. (Hummus is always a great option!)
  4.  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.
  5. 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 food items 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!

how to arrange a buffet table

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.

Favorite Christmas Cocktails

the weary world rejoices

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!

how to host a christmas cocktail party

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  1. Love how easy and delicious this recipe is. It’s perfect for a gathering or a party.

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