Cocktails, appetizers and good music is the perfect Cocktail party and planning one is not as hard as one might think. Cocktail parties are a great way to gather a group of friends, co-workers or a way to get acquainted in a new neighborhood and adding the tasting element will give your guests something to talk about and help to break any ice that needs to be broken. Let’s start with the cocktail recipes, you might have some favorites, found some online or in an old bartenders book. Jot them down and you may even want to give your guest the recipes at the end of the party.
The anatomy of a good cocktail tasting party is pretty simple, choose the type of tasting, choose the theme, plan the menu, create the invitations and then the day of the event bring your theme to life in little ways or you can go over the top with your decorations. With so many ideas on Pinterest, you can decide how big you want to go.
TASTING TYPE: Choosing the type of tasting: there are many options when choosing your tasting, here are a few to help get the ideas flowing. We did a little research to help you make your decisions. These websites have done a super job curating terrific recipes, with beautiful pictures, we cannot say we have made and tried them all, so you will have to make them before you serve to make sure you approve.
1. Martini tasting – offer a range of different martinis from sweet to savory – perfect to offer tastings in small martini glasses. You can offer a different appetizer for each of the martinis. Here are some classic martini recipes to choose from on Delish.com
2. Margarita tasting – there are so many types of tequila and they range in quality and price. Choose a range of tequilas and make the same type of margarita with each one, see which is the winner, is it by price, intensity or does each guest have a different taste preference. Here is a little insight into the best tequilas as told by Men’s Journal and you can choose your margarita recipe for one of 26 featured on the Cooking Channel.
3. Vintage cocktail tasting ‘shout out to the classics’ – classic cocktails are back in favor, offer mini tastings of some of the very classic mixed drinks such as the Old Fashion, French 75 or a Manhattan. For more great classic drinks jump over to this great article on Food & Wine. Of the classics see which ones will become modern favorites and which may remain classic.
4. Tropical drink tasting ‘the scents of the drink’ – many tropical drinks can be made with fresh ingredients and take us quickly to the beach. Blindfold guests as they smell and taste each one, having them guess the fruits, spices and other scents of each drink. Here are some suggested Caribbean Cocktails by island, which you can also educate your guests about. The guest who guesses best is the winner. You can even have a bottle of run for the prize.
5. It is all in the shot – choose some well known shots and have your guests taste one at a time and guess the name, those guessing the most is the winner. You might not want to serve each guest a full shot if you are doing many, that could make things a little crazy. These recipes might get you started Top 10 Shot Recipes, with pictures, each one is a work of art. These are great simple recipes to share with your guests. This is easy to do with our blank Mixology Tasting Cards.
Dana created these colorful recipe cards with photos of each drink attached – grab one and try something new. To see the entire project here.
6. Try it ‘neat’ – which liquor is the fan favorite? rum, vodka, whisky, scotch, gin, etc.? choose a nice quality of each have your guests taste each, rating them each for smell, taste, after-burn and smoothness. Here is an article about the basics of hard liquor that you might find very interesting. See which is the winner among your guests.
7. Drinks from around the world – where were drinks invented? where are the alcohols made, choose places from around the world and feature a drink or the alcohol made there. We found a good place to start when looking for cocktails from around the globe 30 Drinks From Around the World
8. Girly Drinks – everyone makes fun of the foo-foo drinks, but everyone loves them. This tasting is not just for the girls, separate the guys and the girls, but make the same drinks and have them taste and rate each of them. Add up the scores and see which drink it is the top with the guys and which is the top with the girls. For some great recipes on foo-foo drinks we found this great website, Drinking Made Easy.
9. Cocktail Pairing – like a wine pairing, some drinks are suited to pair with food. Choose your menu and serve drinks with each course. Your guests can decide if the drinks enhanced the foods. In this article we found on Epicurious, they Dare to Pair Cocktails with Food, stating that you can tweak the cocktail to enhance the food and actually have more flexibility than wine.
10. Cocktail Supper Club – just because your are hosting the party does not mean you need to do all the work and do all the purchasing, you can host an event where your guests participate. You can choose any of the above themes or blend them and then ask for your guest to participate, i.e. you can host the Cocktail pairing asking each of the guests, couples to bring one of the courses and the cocktail, when you break it down it is fun for everyone to do a small part and then share with the guests what they made (or brought) and how they choose their cocktail, you can have each guest write down their recipe and the drink recipe and share with the other guests, at the end of the party each guest will have a recipe collection of all the foods and drinks, what a great keepsake. Another option is the ask each guest to bring a different beverage such as the Neat Challenge, list out each type and have your guests choose one to bring so that you have a good assortment, request that they disguise the bottle so that it is still a surprise when that bottle is tasted, they might know their bottle, but they will not know the others. You can also have your guests bring a dish that is best paired with their choice and do a ‘neat’ pairing. Part of the fun here is tasting the foods prepared. If you love the idea of having or starting a Super Club visit sheknows.com for ideas on Forming a Super Club.
We hope these ideas have given you an idea or two of the type of tasting you would like to have. You can try one of these, do a variation or try something completely different. If you decide to rate the drinks, you can use our Tasting Cards and adapt them to your tasting. Know you audience and if anyone really does not care of a certain alcohol, you might want to have an alternative. Also if you have anyone pregnant or who does not drink alcohol, consider making a virgin option.
You might want to choose a welcome cocktail that sets the tone of the event to offer your guests when they arrive. A few details to think about when it comes to your drinks, consider renting or borrowing enough glasses and to choose drink specific or mini glasses. When deciding the number of drinks, think about how much you will be giving each person for the tasting, offering smaller portions and then pour additional servings after the drink is tasted. Chilling your bottles before the party is a good way to serve cold drinks and to preserve your ice. You will want to still make sure to have plenty of ice on hand.
Create party favors for your guests by writing the cocktail recipes onto our blank Mixology Cards, set up an adult coloring station, with Tattered Angels Glimmer Glaze, watching your guests paint after a few drinks should be quite entertaining for everyone.
THEME: Once you have decided the type of tasting, you might want to choose a theme, we recommend it as it. It makes making choices much easier and helps to create a cohesive look for your event. By theme we don’t mean a costume party (which you can do), but we suggest themes such as ‘night in the tropics,’ ‘fiesta,’ speakeasy,’ night at the bbq,’ ‘survivor,’ or ‘night on the town.’ Guest can dress up or you use these themes to choose your decorations, appetizers, invitations and drink choices.
MENU: Depending on the party time and the choice of tasting and beverages of choice you have many options for the foods you serves.
1. Appetizers – simple finger foods that can be eaten standing or sitting and hot or cold. You can carefully choose the foods to pair with the tasting or choose to offer a variety of options. You can plate them and have them around the event space or you can create a buffet with the food options on display. Consider having cheese, fruit and veggies on display as they are quick, easy and look great, allowing you to create more specialty appetizers as the focus. You can choose appetizers that are specific to your theme or offer choices that pair with each cocktail served.
2. Small Plates – a little more focused than an array of appetizers, you can pair your cocktails with specific foods that are plated for each person or a tray with one serving for each guest. You can get more specific with the pairing if you choose a pairing tasting option and can bring one food at a time.
3. Set a Buffet- prepare a beautiful display of foods with a focus on the main course(s), side dishes, salad and bread. This offers your guest a variety to choose from. This option is better suited when you are doing blind tastings or guess tastings. You can serve a welcome cocktail, open up the buffet and then begin the tasting. If you go this route you will want to mark each of your foods with food markers, we offer a wide range of options to support your theme from chalkstock tags you can jot each one down with chalk, to kraft paper place cards, food themed tags with room to include the name of each food or place food on our blank paper placemats and write or chalk the food names and fun sayings or silly things. Look for creative ways to show off your silverware and napkins.
4. Course Dinner – prepare a full meal with a cocktail you create for each of the courses. It is best to start with an appetizer, soup or salad or both, main dish and finish with dessert. You can be very clever in your choices and adjust the foods to match your drink choices or make your cocktails to match your food choices. If you are doing a sit down dinner you can be creative with the place settings, designing your own placemats (burlap, canvas or paper), crafting place cards, creating a printed menu and making a centerpiece.
For recipe ideas here is a great article from Delish. You may want to place bowls of nuts, chips and snack mix around for guests who need a little something in-between courses or during the tastings.
INVITATIONS: No event is complete with out a custom themed invitation that sets the tone for your event. They can be as elaborate or simple as you choose, but coordinating them with the theme of the event is the way to go. If you have a crafty side, grab you craft tool and supplies and design the perfect invitation that is both fun to design and fun to create. Keep in mind if you are used to making one card at a time, you will want to design your invites to easily be duplicated, whether you are making 5 or 50. Your invites should reflect the party atmosphere you are looking for fun, casual, trendy, formal, vintage, classic, etc. and if it is for a holiday event then you can add the element of the holiday along with the atmosphere. Even if this is not your design style, you will want to reflect the party theme. Here are a few great examples of invitations to get the ideas flowing. Our collection of papers offers you a wide range of choices when designing your invitations. You can view them all here.
To see more invitation ideas, hop over to our Your’re Invited Post, so whether you are rolling up your invite into a specimen bottle or hand writing it on the inside of your card you will want to include Who is hosting the party, Where the party will be, When the party will start (and end), What to wear (if that applies to your theme), What to bring (if that applies to your theme), Why you are hosting this event, is it a fundraiser, a way to meet the neighbors, holiday celebration, office get together, supper club, celebration, birthday party, anniversary, going away party, his & hers bridal shower, bachelorette party or just because. If you are hosting a costume party, would like to have people dress for the occasion or want people to know they can come comfortably, let them know in the invite. You don’t want to catch anyone off guard with the wrong attire as they may feel uncomfortable for the eventing.
PARTY DECOR: A lot or a little, the decorations are up to you. You can simply choose to deck out the table for your guests or you can transform you home or event location into your theme of choice. If you are going the elaborate way you can do it all yourself or you can work with a party planner or party rental outfit and they can help you with all the details, rentals and decor options. If you are going to keep it a bit more low key we suggest you start by searching on Pinterest and the Web for ideas. If you do not have a Pinterst account, this is a great time to set one up. We found this great Pinterest Tutorial on Youtube on how to sign up, check it out. You can “Pin” all of your ideas to one board whether you find them on Pinterest or on the web, helping you to stay organized and keeping your ideas in one place. You can also print off your ideas, but many of the images have links and how tos to help you when you begin to create.
You can set a rustic tone with burlap, vintage bottles and simple decor pieces or you can show your crafty side and embrace the theme with hand painted bottle bags, DIY recipe cards and even making personalize drink or place card tags for each person. The ideas are endless.
There are a number of ways to do the place settings.
Setting up a drink station or placing water and wine bottles in the center of the table is a simple way to create centerpieces for your event, you can design them to fit just about any theme or style.
If there is a cocktail tasting party in your future we hope our ideas gave you some inspiration and even a little check list to cover all the details. A fun way to try your creative ideas cooking, mixing drinks, designing the invites and creating your party decor. Have fun and secretly send a toast our way.
At the end of the day, there are so many options for hosting your cocktail party, don’t overthink it, just have fun, create the parts that are fun to you and enjoy your friends.
Happy Creating and Happy Tasting!!!