Choose the right invites
You’ll want to send your guests personalized invitations that accurately reflect the theme of your event. On the invite, make a note to give your guests guidelines on how to dress. For a formal cocktail party, send out your invitations about three to four weeks in advance.
Pick a few cocktails
Yes, it’s a cocktail party, but you don’t have to go crazy with the drink menu. Pick a few cocktails to focus on and make sure that you have all of the ingredients needed to make them. Jerry Gonto, owner of the online barware store MartiniArt.com, agrees, saying that his company typically has a menu with three to four drink options, and they stick to those.
Focus on hosting
Of course you want to have fun, but making sure your guests are having a good time is the top priority while you’re playing host. Not everybody is going to be in love with the cocktails you’re offering, so put beer and wine on the menu as well to satisfy a wide array of party guests. It’s also important to include at least one non-alcoholic party drink to please those who can’t or don’t like to drink.
Compare your guest list to your venue
If you’re having your cocktail party at your apartment, but have a fairly large guest list, you may want to cut back. Make sure that the number of people you invited will fit comfortably in the party space.
Make a playlist
Good parties always have great music. But the process of creating the perfect playlist doesn’t have to be complicated. A week or so before the soiree, sit down and create a playlist on your iPod. This way, you can just hook up your device to the speakers and let it play. You won’t have to keep going back to it and playing individual songs throughout your cocktail party.
If your cocktail party is set to take place during normal lunch or dinner hours, plan on serving enough food to constitute a meal. Have a menu that consists of at least five different hors d’oeuvres. As long as each appetizer has a different flavor, temperature or texture, your guests likely won’t get bored with the menu.