Since I sling drinks for a living, I get to hear quite a bit about people planning soirées at their houses. These descriptions of upcoming cocktail parties always come with an implication that they are looking for feedback on how to better throw their party. So, since many of you likely have the same burning questions, here are my tips on how to throw a great cocktail party.
Keep it simple! I know you want to look generous with a full bar, but you're already generous by inviting folks over and giving them drinks. Remember, Martha Stewart has an army of assistants! Keep your drinks to one or two choices, providing contrast if you have two offerings. When in doubt, pick two of the following: accessible beer (lager or light to medium ale), white wine, and a batch of cocktails made in advance (more about that later).
On average, a guest has two drinks, one of each if you have two offerings. I've done all kinds of parties; it always works out this way. Stock up on bottled water, one bottle per person. If you have some left over when the party winds down, offer it as people leave. Remember the ice, have 1/2 pound of ice per person plus some to chill bottled drinks. Oh, speaking of drinks on ice: use your washing machine to store iced bottled drinks. After the party, run the rinse cycle to drain.