By Dawn Sandomeno & Elizabeth Mascali
Host 12 people for $80... that’s less than $7 per person!
We’ve got a solution for those yearning for “good times” on a budget. Instead of dining out in a bar or restaurant and sharing appetizers and a big bill, bring the party home and ask guests to share their favorite “small plate” while you serve up cocktails.
Our modern twist on “Your Parents’ Potluck” combines the spirit of potluck (everyone shares in the expense and effort) with a fun style of eating, “small plates”.
Our Potluck Cocktail Party avoids the potential pitfall of a traditional potluck (a table of uncomplimentary entrees and sides that leave you feeling full, yet unsatisfied) by substituting “small plates” (dishes intended to be shared in small appetizer portions).
Although this party celebrates coming together to freely share and enjoy each other’s creations, company and cocktails, there are a few criteria we suggest you follow:
- You can give your guests the freedom to bring one of their favorite “small plate dishes”, it must be a dish that can be prepared prior to arriving and served room temperature or cold. You don’t want guests showing up with a dish you need to assemble and heat up or cook. Remember the objective is to spend time together with less expense and effort.
- As host, you get to choose a “theme” for your Potluck Cocktail Party. The options are endless, go casual and pair beer cocktails with comfort food, make it international with Tapas and Sangria cocktails, or keep it classic and host a Martini Party. Whatever your choice, communicate the theme to your guests in your invitations, explain the potluck style and the details on what they need to bring, plan your “cocktail menu” and coordinate your decor, music and ambience with your theme.
- Give your guests proper credit for their creations. Ask each guest to create a label for their dish listing the name and any interesting information/story about the dish. This is a nice way to let everyone know who to compliment for each dish.
- This is a great way for everyone to enjoy a special night out without blowing their budgets! The Martini Party is one of our favorites and we are happy to share our practical tips to help you host a fabulously fun party easily, inexpensively and confidently!
How To Host: The BasicsClassic Cocktail Party:
Martini Party, potluck style
- Time: 4 hours start time 6/7PM
- Food: Special Party Snacks prepared by your guests
- Dress: Cocktail Attire or Fun and Festive!
- Atmosphere: Swanky and Sophisticated
Cocktails 101Martini Making:
The king of all martinis is the “basic martini”. It is a symbol of elegance and adult recreation. Those who are passionate about their martini fall into one of 2 camps: (1) those who believe there’s only one real martini and it’s made with gin, and (2) those who believe a vodka martini is a real martini. Since the camps are always split, make sure you serve both versions at your party. *FYI, the original martini was gin, vermouth and an olive. James Bond as 007 introduced the vodka martini making it the symbol of ultimate sophistication. There are many variations of the basic martini and endless types of “martinis”. To save money, time and effort, keep it simple by only offering a few martini variations at your party.
Shaken or Stirred or on the Rocks? Preparation of the martini is really a personal choice and many enjoy the ceremony surrounding it. Whether you shake or stir, the execution is crucial in creating a great martini. Whatever method you choose,the goal is to mix it very cold!
Shaken: Add ingredients to the cocktail shaker only when you are ready to serve it. Give it a shake over each shoulder and pour immediately. Allowing it to sit even a few moments will result in the drink becoming “watered down”, the ice melts quicker than you think. Overshaking the drink will cloud the martini, a no-no for real martini enthusiasts. If someone asks for their martini shaken, they most likely are a “purist” and don’t want a watered down or cloudy martini! There are some people however that will want a vigorously shaken Martini and enjoy the “skating the martini” or sipping through the small pieces of ice that coat the top of the cocktail.
Stirred: A convenient and easy method for preparing martinis for a crowd. The “razzle dazzle” of shaking cocktails has overshadowed the traditional ceremony of preparing a pitcher of martinis for guests. Introduce your guests to the sophisticated and stylish preparation of a pitcher of martinis. While they chat around your bar area, pour the ingredients into a glass martini pitcher and stir with a stir rod until it is nice and cold (remember, don’t overdo it). Using a strainer, pour martinis into martini glasses, garnish and serve.
On the Rocks: some guest will need to drink their martini on the rocks and enjoy it watered-down.
Given you are serving a few different martinis, you can make a pitcher of martinis, vodka martinis and specialty martinis and then let guests help themselves. You can offer your guests both options by serving martinis by the pitcher and presenting a “self shake” station where they can make their own individual martinis – just have fun with it!
Simple tips for making your martinis:
- Put your liquor (gin and vodka) in the freezer the day before you’re making martinis.
- Ice glasses (if you don’t have room in your freezer, pour cold water into glasses before serving martinis).
- The amount of vermouth in a martini makes or breaks a martini. The ratio of liquor to vermouth ranges from a 4:1 to an 8:1 ratio. The less vermouth the drier the martini.
Martini RecipesBasic Martini
Dirty Martini Recipe
- 2 1/2oz gin or vodka
- Dash of dry vermouth.
- Shake or stir and serve cold with garnish.
- 2 1/2oz vodka or gin
- 1/2oz or less of the brine from the cocktail olives depending on how dirty you want to be.
- Dash of dry vermouth.
- Shake cold, serve in a martini glass. Garnish with olives.
- 2 1/2oz gin or vodka
- Dash of dry vermouth.
- If you like it “dirty” add 1/4oz or less of onion juice, i.e. the juice that the cocktail onions are packaged in.Shake or stir ingredients cold, strain into a martini glass and garnish with cocktail onions.
- 2 1/2oz vodka or gin
- 1/4oz lime juice.
- Shake or stir cold, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a lime wedge.
The bar: Tools
- Plenty of martini glasses and rocks glasses (pre-chilled or have ice/water available for quick chilling)
- 2 cocktail Stainless Steel shakers
- 2 Martini Pitchers with stir rods
- 2 Jigger or 2 Shot Glass with ounce measurements
- Citrus Knife (for creating twists)
- Hawthorne stainless steel strainer
- Garnish picks or toothpicks
GlassesMartini Glass Holds:
4 to 6 ounces. The Martini glass is design with a few basic functions in mind: keeping the ingredients cold, keeping them from separating and infusing the garnish with the flavor of the martini for a nice treat at the end. You will need 1.5 per guest, borrow what you don’t have – they don’t need to match.
Rocks Glass: Holds: 4 to 8 ounces. Rocks glass or lowball glass is short with a base diameter of the same size as the rim. These glasses are most commonly used for serving “straight” drinks “on the rocks”. You will need 1.5 per guest, borrow what you don’t have – they don’t need to match.
Provide a martini garnish buffet. Garnishes are what personalize and make your martini glamorous. Include lemons, limes and oranges for making twists or slices, Maraschino cherries, herbs such as rosemary for skewers, pearl onions, olives*, stuffed green olives and hard candies which are great for infusing flavor. Make sure to include toothpicks, cocktail skewers and garnish picks. When making the garnish use odd amounts like 1,3 or 5 they are lucky. *note on olives: rinsed olives for basis martini, leave olives in juice for a dirty martini
Clean Ice is of the utmost importance. Regular ice cubes in your freezer can absorb the odor and flavor of anything else in your freezer. Store ice in an air tight container.
How much to buy
Make a list of the ingredients (including garnishes) you’ll need for each type of Martini you are serving and multiply times 3 (that is the average number of Martinis per person during 4 hours) and then multiply again by the number of guests. A good rule of thumb is one 750 ml of gin or vodka for every 6 guests per evening. Remember to purchase your garnishes. Always provide non-alcoholic beverage options at your party. Encourage guest to drink responsibly and always designate a driver.
This is the easy part! You may want to put out some salty nuts at the bar, but this is where the guests come in. Let them know with your invitation that this is a Potluck Cocktail Party and Martinis are the cocktail of the evening. Ask each guest to bring a favorite dish that can be eaten appetizer style. If anyone asks a general rule is that spicy and salty foods pair well withMartinis. Since the cocktail is basic the foods can be complex. You will need to provide cocktail plates and napkins and utensils. Save money and use what you have, borrow some from one of your guests if you don’t have enough.
Simple and swanky is key to the atmosphere of this party. In a few quick steps you can easily and inexpensively achieve the right vibe.
Step 1: Choose the spot for your “cocktail lounge”. Ideally, pick a room or two in your home that is conducive to mingling and provide for some comfortable seating. Make sure there’s a spot for guests to rest their martinis while seated. Display coasters on these surfaces to avoid damage to surfaces..
Step 2: Set up the bar. Position a folding or dining table against a wall and cover with a white tablecloth.
Step 3: Stock your “Shake Your Own” bar. Display all the necessary tools, glasses, liquors, other ingredients, garnishes and ice bucket (see list above). Note: If you have the room in your freezer, chill your glasses and shaker about an hour before the party.
Step 4: Identify various flat surfaces in your “cocktail lounge” where you’ll place the cocktail food your guests will bring. Prepare the surface with a trivet, pot holder, placemat, etc. to protect it from scratches, spills, etc. When your guests arrive, they can simply find an open spot, deposit the dish and guests can help themselves. This not only makes it easy for you, but will encourage your guests to circulate as they seek out the food. All too often guests convene around the bar all night resulting in a “non-mingling” atmosphere.
Step 5: Stretch a bouquet of flowers throughout your cocktail lounge. Gather any small bud vases/containers you have and fill them with an individual flower. Scatter vases throughout the “lounge”. You can also buy 3 roses and sprinkle the petals around any votives or candles you have at home.
Step 6: Create your vibe with music and light. Make your guests feel sophisticated and glamorous while sipping their martinis. Prepare a music mix that you can play for the entire duration of your party. Depending on your theme, you may choose jazz or “cocktail lounge music” from the 50’s or 60’s. Further enhance your atmosphere, by dimming the lights, and lighting votive candles throughout your cocktail lounge. You can also swap out a few light bulbs for colored ones to give the room the feeling of a swanky lounge.
Dawn Sandomeno and Elizabeth Mascali are party and lifestyle authors, bloggers, and social media hostesses. Dawn and Elizabeth are partners in Party Bluprints Inc. and co-founders of Partybluprints.com the first-ever website to provide online electronic party plans and The Partybluprints Blog. They have provided party related content for iconic brands such as Microsoft, Hershey’s, Hunt’s, Kroger and Clorox, as well as, several national and regional magazines, newspapers, and television.