The Casual Cocktail Party
It is inevitable that the Gentleman will at some point host a casual cocktail party. Perhaps for friends on the weekend, celebration of a friend's accomplishment or for necessary business networking.
When the time comes to host this event, there are a few general rules that the Gentleman should keep in mind so as to host in a way that causes your guests to leave feeling great.
Our general rules for the casual cocktail party are by no means an exhaustive list. However, it is a good starting point to cover the basics and get you thinking in the right direction.
One general rule to remember when hosting anything is that attention to detail is the key. Assume the role of an attendee and think about ways to ensure your guests comfort and enjoyment.
1. Keep it Intimate
Intimate in this case is relative to how much space you have for hosting the party. Nothing is more uncomfortable than a casual cocktail party where guests are unable to move about comfortably or talk with ease. So, be sure that you plan for the space you have available and ensure that you invite the appropriate number of people that can move and associate in the space comfortably.
2. Set Expectations
When you invite your guests be sure to give them details that allow them to plan well for attending. Since we are speaking of a casual cocktail party, be sure to let them know that casual attire is acceptable. Also, be sure to include expected start and end times along with the type of food you plan to offer. For a casual event of this nature, we suggest keeping the food options simple and not too extravagant. By letting the guest know this in advance they can plan for full eating arrangements prior to arrival if they need to. Also, don't forget to let them know if they can bring a guest (or not).
If you live in a gated community or an area with reserved or difficult parking, be sure to inform your guest that are driving as to where they may park and how to access a gated community. Also, for those traveling by city transportation or taxi, inform them of how to get your location on those modes of transportation.
3. Prepare Your Location
This is a simple spot check to ensure that your location is both clean and accessible. Ensure that bathrooms which will be accessible to your guests are pristine and fully stocked with necessary supplies. Plan a list of the items you will offer for refreshments (see items 3 and 4) and make sure you shop for them in advance.
Have plenty of ice, cups and plates on hand and in a location that makes it easy for guest to access them. Be sure your location is clean and any items that you do not need or want visible, hide them before your guests arrive. When they walk in, it should be the first impression you desire and set the tone for the casual cocktail party.
4. Provide Refreshments
Even though it's a casual event, since you will be serving alcohol you must also be sure to provide refreshments of some sort. Here is where your taste and discretion come into play. We suggest keeping it simple by providing a good assortment of finger foods that are light on the sauces and not too messy to eat while socializing. However, if you have that amazing dish you love to make (and you have time to do it correctly), perhaps you can include it as part of the refreshment menu.
Just remember to keep it simple and casual. Do not create an environment where formality is required and that goes against being able to actually socialize with your dinner guests. Make it appropriate to the time of day - for example, if you have a few friends over after an evening theater performance you are likely going to want to keep the refreshments lighter due to the lateness of the hour.
One quick note to mention when it comes to refreshments. Do not forget that your guests may have particular eating requirements, so while meat is an appetizer favorite, remember to have a little variety that includes vegetables and a sweet treat (or two) for those with a sweet tooth.
5. Include Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Be sure to provide non-alcoholic drinks for those guests that may not drink alcohol, are designated drivers or may want to take it easy on the drinks for the evening. This should include plenty of water.
6. Setup a Serve Yourself Area
For such a casual event you do not need the formality of a bar tender or servers. Your role is to make sure you have your location setup in a manner that the refreshments and drinks are easy to access. There are many ways you can do this - use the kitchen as the one stop shop for all refreshments and drinks or you may decide to sprinkle different refreshments throughout your location which allows guests to walk and chat while snacking.
If you do not have a bar for guests to use when making drinks, you can conveniently use the kitchen counter (or island if you have one) to locate the alcoholic drinks and beverages to make it easy for your guests to mix a drink.
7. Host and Mingle
When your guests arrive, be sure to host them by always being attentive to any requests or questions they may have - especially about the location of certain items (although, this will not be a problem as you will have already made sure everything is very accessible).
Most of all, be sure to mingle and enjoy their time. After all, this is why they are your guests. So, don't become so consumed with hosting the casual party, that you do not get to enjoy time with your guests.