Always have a theme! Yes it sounds cliche but it works. You don’t have to go over the top or try to come up with interesting games or costumes, the idea is more to motivate you to think outside of the box. The theme can be as simple as a colour that inspires you to make a certain drink that you love or create an atmosphere of good conversation.
I love Gin and Tonic I could drink it till the cows come home. When I drink G&T;’s they make me think of lime citrus a bright fresh green colour. That colour inspires in me thoughts of summers at the beach, walking bare foot in the sand trying not to get the top of my pants wet in the ocean. I use this as a jumping off point, to inspire me and give my imagination a boost. Pool parties with G&T;’s in the summer and jazz playing on the radio sounds easy enough to me as long as you have the right idea and good company.
Remember to pay attention to and use the seasons for inspiration. For example, I love the fall with all the rich colours on the trees and the air is just crisp enough to wear your favourite sweater and not get too hot. Orange and brown and gold, these are great colours to use if you want to have different types of beers from around the world to sample for your guests at a cocktail party. Choose the beers based on colour and where they are from, stray a bit from your comfort zones and try something new. You will find that different taste and opinion will keep the conversation flowing. If you are not a beer person try it with wine, there are some wonderful wines coming out of Australia and New Zealand, of course if you are more traditional you can stick to the French wines.
Once you have your theme, or an idea in your head of what type of atmosphere you want to create, then the rest is just planning. Here are a few things to consider when planning your cocktail party:
First and foremost, who are you going to invite? Try to invite guests that you genuinely want to hear what they have to say about topics and issues. Don’t be afraid to mix your groups of friends up. The most interesting conversations are started by just getting two very different and intelligent people together to see what they have to say. A good little tip, always have a few news papers or magazines out to stimulate the conversation when it putters out from time to time.
Once you know who is coming, of course the drinks are next. I have a few friends who don’t drink alcohol, so I always try to be aware of those guests, they will want to drink something interesting as well that is alcohol free. The simplest answer is sparkling water and mixed juices with fresh fruit. Or, if it is cold outside offering virgin “hot toddies” (lemon, honey, hot water, and a bit of cinnamon) or different types of herbal teas is always nice. For the alcohol based drinks the internet is a great place to get information. You might even find ingredients to make that inspirational drink you had one time but have no idea what is in it. Search your drinks online and most of the time those websites will lead you to great recipes for nibbles too.
When it comes to food I am the most unorganised, uninspired, and uninterested in cooking you can get. However, even I can pull off some simple little treats for the guests. Again I would like to point you to the internet, always good tips there. But if you are like me and don’t feel comfortable enough in the kitchen to experiment on your guests, then stick to the basics. Chips, dip, and lots of easy finger foods. There are some great little items in your grocer’s frozen foods section if you care to check it out. All you do is pop it in the oven for a few minutes and vuala you have perfect little h’orderves ready to be served. Hey, for the rest of you that are Gods sent from above to bless us with your culinary skills, I don’t need to give you any tips in this department!
Finally we come to presentation, cleaning, and decor. This I have to admit is my favourite part it gives me an excuse to buy those little decorational items for my house that I’ve had my eye on. For example, those wonderful incense candles and gorgeous mirror for the entryway that I always pass over for the necessary items like sheets or a new broom. Heck sometimes those things are reason enough to through a cocktail party! Keep your theme in mind when shopping and use your inspirational colours to pick out decorations. I have always felt that less is more when it comes to decor. One flower arrangement and some flowers for the food platters is enough. You don’t want to clutter up your house so much that people can’t manoeuvre around the large overtly obvious flower arrangements.
Don’t leave the cleaning till the last minute! It is extremely stressful trying to hide the washing and not burn those cute little h’orderves while taking peoples coats as they start to arrive. Then you end up getting too drunk too fast because you have forgotten to relax and have a bite to eat. That never ends well! Give yourself a whole day to clean and run errands, make sure that when you went out to get the drinks and nibbles you also remembered to pick up extra cleaning product and get the dry cleaning.
Give yourself a timeline to plan the party. If you are having the cocktail party on Saturday night, then do your errands and shopping on Friday after work and clean Saturday morning. DONT ever plan a cocktail party if you have 10 other things to do that weekend, you will blow it! Trust me I have flunked party planning 101 many times by not being realistic with my time.
You will find that in no time you are the toast of the town and people are asking you to help them plan a cocktail party or find themselves wondering when your next event will be. Always remember to keep it super simple, give yourself plenty of time, and always have a theme in mind. Good luck!