Cocktail Party Etiquette


  • For a small guest list, the invitations can be made by telephone.
  • If the party will be larger, invitations should be written.


The time is usually stated: "Cocktails/from 5:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M."


"R.S.V.P" is often omitted. If there is an R.S.V.P, the telephone number provided. This type of invitation may be answered by telephone.

stocking the bar

the basics

  • scotch,
  • bourbon,
  • a blended whiskey,
  • gin,
  • vodka,
  • rum,
  • white wine,
  • red wine, and
  • beer.

Consider the season. The following choices are popular in their respective season:


  • martinis,
  • whiskey,
  • scotch, and
  • bourbon


  • white wine spritzers,
  • cold beer, and
  • vodka, rum, and gin mixed with tonic or fruit juices.

The two most important things have enough and to mix the drinks properly.


For a large party, make sure to have plenty of chairs. You don't have to have chairs for everyone except if there are few (six to 10) guests. Then, most people gravitate to couches and chairs.


Serve any sort of hors d' oeuvre or appetizer. One-bite foods, mini appetizers, and morsels that can be picked up with a toothpick are all perfect cocktail party foods.

  • small puff pastries,
  • stuffed mushrooms, and
  • dips and crudites.

Have plenty of paper napkins.

Have a number of vegetable choices. Offer a range of choices.

hosting - bartender and server

Hors d'oeuvres can be passed around or offered on a table for the guests to help themselves.


  • ask each guest as he arrives what he would like to drink. If your cocktail selection is limted say, "Will you have a martini or Scotch?" not "What would you like?"
  • You may have guests refill their own glasses. Have a jigger, for measuring quantities, readily available.

The host or the hostess should stay within sight of the door to greet arriving guests. Try not to greet new guests at the door with drinks in your hands.

hiring bartenders and servers

For a cocktail party with more than 18 or 20 people, consider hiring a bartender.

  • One bartender can serve between 20 and 30 people.
  • If the party is larger, hire two bartenders and locate each at separate bar areas.
  • If you have two bars, you can designate one as strictly a cocktail bar and the other for wine, beer, and nonalcoholic drinks only.

Stock plenty of ice, cocktail glasses, wineglasses, and beer mugs.

If you have two people to serve drinks, but only one bar,

  • have one person making the mixed drinks and the other pouring wine.
  • Or have one person be on cleanup duty, discarding any empty glasses or dishes.

Instruct the bartender how you like your drinks mixed and have hime use a measure, or jigger. Allowing the bartender to measure by sight may result in running out of liquor before the party is over.

Instruct the bartender to wrap a napkin around each glassl.

  • Napkins prevent drips and make holding the glass more comfortable.
  • Have plenty of coasters in sight to prevent damage to table­tops.

cocktail buffets

A cross between a cocktail party and a buffet dinner party, cocktail buffets are a good choice for most informal groups.

The cocktail buffet should have plenty of food, so guests won't need to leave for dinner and can stay longer. Thus, a cocktail buffet invitation usually states only the hour of arrival.

The menu may vary from simple to elaborate, more than just hors d'oeuvres are required however.