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Cocktail Event Planning
Setting Up A Bar
Cocktail Party Planning
The Party Layout
Planning A Birthday Party
Get This Party Started
Lighting & Aroma
Disaster Planning TIps
Choosing A Theme
Cocktail Party Checklist
Setting Up A Bar
Party Shopping Lists
Cocktail Party Planning Guide: How to Create & Setup The Bar
In this section:
Creating A Bar
Stocking the Bar
Creating A Bar
Cocktail party magic
is the fun and surprise of
intricately decorated hors d'oeurves
appearing right before your eyes.
For this reason, it is important to
hide the cocktail preparation
magic (and mess) behind a
raised serving shelf
A table is not a bar
, therefore your cocktail party bar should, ideally, have a
mixing area from 28-36"
in height and a
serving side from 38-42"
If you plan for guests to
make their own drinks
, just allow a little
more room behind
the bar. Invariably,
someone will step up to play bartender
. And service should be a snap when you have pitchers of your
signature drink pre-mixed
and ready to pour.
If you don’t own a bar,
for your party
using the following:
A very sturdy table
Suggested: 48"W x 28"H x 24"D
Suggested: 31"W x 11"H x 11.5"
Non-slip carpet grid
Rectangle tablecloth for draping base table
Suggested: 60" x 84" or 104"
Alternate: 66" x 96" twin flat sheet
Square tablecloth for draping shelves
Suggested: 52" x 52"
2 twist ties
Base and Mixing Area
Start with a
. You may use a very stable fold-out table, but a card table is not strong enough to support the weight and activity of a bar.
If possible, use
tablecloths that complement
and coordinate with
, otherwise you may use
, such as white, tan, or black.
Drape the base table
with the rectangle tablecloth. A 60" x 104" tablecloth will drape the table to the floor on the front and two sides completely.
A 60" x 84" tablecloth will drape the table to the floor on the front and will be about 8" short on each end. Or, if one end is against the wall, you may adjust the tablecloth to cover one end and leave the other end mostly open.
To drape the table
Center the tablecloth on the table
Slide the tablecloth forward over the table until it almost touches the floor.
Measure 28" (or the height of your table, if different) along the floor, back from the front corner of the tablecloth.
Lift this point of the tablecloth up to the side edge of the table and pull taut.
Adjust position so that the tablecloth almost touches the floor along the front and side.
Optional: If the tablecloth does not completely cover each end, you may slide the tablecloth to one side to cover one end to the floor while leaving one end mostly open.
Use straight pins (alternate: thumb tacks or velcro) to pin the tablecloth to itself along the edge of the table to the cloth's end.
Repeat steps 4-7 for the other end of the table.
use organizer shelves
, or similar,
to create a serving side
to your bar. White organizer shelves by ClosetMaid measuring 31"W x 11”H x 11.5"D are the right size and add shelf space behind the bar. They are available for less than $15 online (2010) and at most discount stores.
, cut a piece of
non-slip carpet grid
to a size slightly larger than the width and depth of your organizer shelves. Spread this piece out in one of the two forward corners of the draped table.
Place the organizer shelves on the non-slip carpet grid so that the
front is flush
with the edge of the table. The
at the left or right end of the base table.
drape the organizer shelves
with your square tablecloth. Center the tablecloth over the shelves then slide the cloth forward to leave 3-4" overhang on the backside of the shelves. Use your duct tape to secure the tablecloth to the inside bottom of the top shelf and to the inside of the sides.
gather the corners
on the front side of the tablecloth to
create a swag in front
of the shelves. To do this, from the corners of the tablecloth measure 3 inches toward the center.
From this point, gather the cloth in 3-inch pleats angling toward the same-side top corner of the shelves. Stop at the top of the table/bottom of the shelves. Pull the cloth tight across the side of the shelves and use a twist tie to secure the gather.
Repeat for the other side of the tablecloth and shelves.
optionally decorate the corners with beads, ribbons, greenery
, or anything else related to your theme.
Nothing cheapens your party like plastic, so
always use real glasses for cocktails
indoors. Bar glasses are relatively cheap, but if you can’t afford them, rent them. Virtually all cocktails can be served in a
double old-fashioned glass
, which is a short tumbler that holds 12-14 ounces.
should be used for any
drink served "up"
(chilled, without ice), such as martinis, Manhattans, and cosmopolitans.
should be used for
are festive, but
If you are not serving wine, double old-fashioned and martini glasses are all you need on hand for a cocktail party.
FYI: The purpose of stemware is to allow you to hold the glass without affecting the temperature of the cocktail or wine.
A quick search found that you can stock your bar with 36 double old-fashioned glasses and 12 martini glasses for about $80 + shipping from
. (Search for "double old fashioned" and "martini")
, taller and narrower than the double old-fashioned glass, are also nice to have on hand, but
. These are best for mixing a
drink that requires several ingredients
, such as a Bloody Mary, Goombay Smash, or Long Island Iced Tea.
glass is a tall, skinny highball glass and is more about style than function.
2 double old-fashioned glasses per person
when serving on-the-rocks cocktails. Keep a
minimum of 4 martini glasses on hand or 1 for every 6 people
For a martini party, 1 martini glass per guest
is usually sufficient, and they are quick and easy to wash if you need more. You will also need at least one martini pitcher for a martini party.
If you are offering wine in addition to cocktails, multiply 1.5 times the number of guests you believe will choose this option. Alternatively,
stock 1 wine glass for every 4 people
You may also wish to include shot or cordial glasses, which may be used interchangeably. If you ever plan to have a dinner party, stock enough cordial glasses for the maximum number of guests that your dinner table will accommodate. This should be more than enough for your cocktail party, otherwise stock
6-8 cordial/shot glasses
Once your party comes to life, never be surprised of what it can do. Trends catch on and suddenly everyone in the room may want a martini.
supply of disposable, clear, thin-plastic cups
at the bar as a
. They will do the trick should you run out of glasses.
The art of making cocktails utilizes a few mandatory and optional supplies as listed below:
Ice Bucket & Tongs
Liquid Waste Pitcher
Knife & Cutting Board
Backup Plastic Cups
Cashews or Peanuts
A bowl and plastic cup are suggested for serving ice at a redneck/trailer park party, otherwise,
do not attempt a cocktail party without an ice bucket & tongs
. Even with an ice maker in the bar area, a filled ice bucket at the bar is recommended.
For a 2-hour cocktail party, plan on using
1-2 beverage napkins per guest
. However, it largely depends on if the bartender hands them out with each cocktail. It is always a good idea to
keep backup napkins behind the bar
Stocking the Bar
When planning how much and what kind of alcohol to purchase, remember that it is always better to have too much than not enough. Allow for
3 cocktails per person for a 2-hour cocktail party and 2 martinis per person for a 2-hour martini party
It is perfectly
acceptable to use mid-grade liquors
for mixed drinks. Few people can honestly tell the difference when using Svedka Vodka, Jim Beam Bourbon, Seagram’s Blended Whiskey, Cruzan Rum, Gilbey’s Gin, or Sauza Tequila instead of premium brand liquors
when mixed with juices or sodas
However, what they see you pouring is a different story and many claim they can tell the difference. Choose your liquors based upon what is important to you.
always use premium brands for cocktails served without juices or soda
such as martinis, Manhattans, scotch on the rocks, bourbon & water, etc.
Below are prioritized lists of liquor and liqueur
selections to fully stock your bar
Sour Apple Pucker
Bailey's Irish Cream
Buying 1.75 liter bottles for your primary liquors is much more economical, plus this size features a built-in pourer.
Mixers and Garnishes
freshly opened carbonated mixers
, if there is even an inkling that there is less than maximum fizzle, throw it out. For your cocktail party, 1- and 2-liter bottles are acceptable as mixers.
stocking a ba
r for impromptu parties, it is best to
store 12-ounce bottles or cans
to reduce waste and ensure fizzy sodas.
Not all juices are equal
. Know your juices and what brands taste best, then stock those brands. Canned orange juice is not acceptable, while canned pineapple juice tastes great as long as it is immediately transferred to a glass or plastic pitcher after opening.
Some juices stay fresh tasting longer
, such as orange and cranberry juice, while others have a much shorter shelf-life, such as pineapple juice.
For everyday use, stock your bar with individual size servings of pineapple juice.
Juices made from concentrate take much less room to store
and are handy for a spur of the moment gathering for cocktails. And remember, limeade is not lime juice, lemonade is not lemon juice, and
a lemon is not a lime
Use unsweetened lime juice
, whether fresh squeezed or from a bottle.
Sweetened lime juice has a distinct flavor that should only be used if the recipe specifically calls for it.
Coke or Pepsi
Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi
Sprite or 7-up
Simple Syrup (sugar water)
Unsweetened Lime Juice
Sweet & Sour Mix
Bloody Mary Mix
Cream of Coconut
Lemons & Twists
For Bloody Marys:
For a 2-hour cocktail party, stock a little less than one pound of ice per person.