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Cocktail Parties have been a popular social gathering for years and a great way to catch up with clients, associates, friends and family.  Summertime cocktail parties on the lawn or on the terrace are such fun occasions and a great way to showcase a wonderful garden.  During the cooler months, historic houses and contemporary venues are great spaces to host cocktail parties and create an added element of interest too.

Cocktail parties usually last for 2 to 3 hours during which time guests enjoy finger food, refreshments and cocktails whilst chatting with other guests. It's actually quite a fun event to plan and there are so many options available.

A Cocktail Party can be as simple or as complicated as you wish to make it. There are a few options that you should consider in the initial planning stages:

1.    How many guests will be attending?
2.    Is this a casual event for friends or a formal business networking event?
3.    Is there a theme to the party?  
4.    What is the purpose of the event?
5.    How much time and effort do you want to put into it?
6.    What facilities are available at your preferred venue?
7.    Will the party be indoor or outdoor? If outdoor, is there a wet weather solution?
8.    Will you be serving food and if so what type of food will be served?
9.    What is the budget?
10.  Would you like to have a signature cocktail at the party?
When hosting a Cocktail Party you should have some kind of food available though a full three course meal is certainly not necessary.  Simple foods, such as light easy to eat finger food or appetisers is ideal as it allows guests to graze throughout the event whist mingling with the other guests.  When planning your food, make sure you consider portion size, varying dietary requirements and especially important in warmer weather storage and serving conditions.  Naturally The Orde Food Company have catered for a vast range of Cocktail Parties and with wonderful selection of local produce in the Scottish Borders and Northumberland, we have created wonderful platters to complement many a party.

Obviously, the drinks are a very important element of the Cocktail Party and you can provide a simple drink offering or go to town with a wonderful range of cocktails and include a mixologist to add theatre if the event requires it. 

You can opt for a full bar service, this gives your guests the option to choose their drink of choice. This is great if there is a well-stocked bar and suitable bar staff, it can however be a slow and complicated process and might take away from your event depending on the ultimate purpose of the event and it is harder to budget for.  In some respects this does depend on the venue where you are hosting the event.
A more popular option is to offer a range of drinks, from champagne to a signature cocktail such as at many summer garden events Pimms is a very popular offering and at winter parties mulled wine is a welcoming warmer.  Increasingly popular is a local ale or lager such as from Tempest Brewery, Born in the Borders and Broughton Brewery.  We have a number of signature cocktails we have created for previous parties which are always well received by our clients and their guests. 

Also very important at any party is to offer a refreshment for those not wanting an alcoholic drink and we are really encouraged at the wonderful range of Mocktail options now available.  Bon Accord, the soft drink of many of our Scottish childhoods, has been relaunched by one of the original founder's great, great granddaughters. The Bon Accord range offers wonderful non acholic options of incredible flavours, real ingredients and 100% naturally sweetened with no refined sugar - perfect for grown-up tastes everywhere.  Of course with the revival of gin, new tonics and lemonade combinations this has introduced another light refreshment option which offers those not taking alcohol exciting alternatives to ‘water’ or fruit juice.  Drinks and cocktails should be garnished with fresh herbs, flowers or fruit to finish off the overall presentation.

•    Send invitations early, but not too early, 2-3 weeks should be sufficient unless it's a busy time of year.  Include a finish time, make the instructions clear.
•    Themes are useful, this helps to link the event to the food and drinks whilst considering the time of year and venue.  A well thought through theme will also help too to make the event memorable.
•    Have plenty of napkins, plates and glasses available.
•    Plan on 50-75% of invited guests to attend to estimate the number of drinks you'll be pouring and how many bottles you'll need (a general rule of thumb is you get 6 glasses to a standard bottle).
•    Estimate 2-3 drinks per person.
•    Add a "WOW" factor. This could be a drink, garnish, food dish, activity, display or whatever fits your party.

Happy planning and enjoy.