Being a great party host is a compliment to cherish – a badge to be worn with honour. Everyone remembers a great party. And as the host, you have a great responsibility to make sure people have a good time, the bar is stocked, and everyone get home safely. But without thoughtful planning and preparation, hosting a party can be a stressful affair. There’s a lot on the line. Without properly planning for your party, guests could arrive confused and the bar could run dry.
In this article we’ll break down your shopping guide as a party host. We’ll cover everything from glassware to decorations, with an emphasis on the important stuff – the liquor store checklist!
Before you start shopping for your party, its crucial to draw up a plan. This step will go a long way in easing your party-hosting anxiety. The very first thing you have to figure out is the number of guests you’re expecting – getting this wrong could throw a wrench into everything. As an example, let’s plan for a 40-person party. That’s a house full of people to be sure, but far from a ‘Project X’-style evening of chaos.
Once you’ve determined the number of guests that will be attending (roughly), it’s important to consider your budget. Whatever that number is, it will be useful when determining what type of drinks, food and decorations you’re comfortable shelling out for.
Next, you’ll want to plan the beverages. The general rule of thumb is that people will consume an average of 1-2 drinks during the first hour of the party, and continue on at a pace of 1 per hour after that. To be safe, let’s assume 2 for the first hour. That means if you plan on having 40 people in your home for 4 hours, you’ll need about 200 drinks. In reality, you’ll probably end up with a healthy leftover count, but it’s better to be safe then dry.
Once you’ve determined how many drinks you’ll need, it’s time to plan what you’re going to serve. If budget is less of an issue, you could just play it safe and stock your bar completely. Or, you could choose two or three cocktails to serve, along with selections of beer and wine. Not only will this strategy be friendlier on your wallet, it will also be more efficient when it comes to storage and serving.
Food is another big consideration. To remove much of the hassle, plan your party for 8pm or later to avoid serving a big meal. Then, you can have fun with appetizers or just snacks. If you do want to serve a meal, consider getting your party catered. Otherwise, you’ll be too busy!
What you choose to serve will impact what kind of glassware and serving dishes you’ll need. Depending on your guestlist number, it’s probably worth the expense to order some rental glasses from a local company. That way you won’t have to worry about dish washing either.
The last thing you’ll want to plan for is the theme. Every party needs a theme – at least at the most basic level. The theme will impact the decorations you need to stock up on, from napkins to drink ingredients to festive decorations to food. If you’re planning a NYE party, you may want to consider special invitations, balloons, noise makers, sparklers, champagne labels and more.
Once you’ve got a complete party plan in place complete with what you’re going to serve, it’s time to start the shopping. Whether you plan on doing a complete bar stock or just enough to serve a few cocktails, this list contains what we consider the essentials. But first, here are a couple numbers to keep in mind:
- A 750ml bottle of alcohol contains 25 ounces. That’s 25 single servings or about 12 double servings.
- A 750ml bottle of wine contains 6 servings (5 if you’re pouring heavier).
- A 2L bottle of soda/soda water contains 67 ounces. That’s enough for roughly 22 servings (given a 3:1 mix to alcohol ratio).
Here are some essential items to consider stocking for your party:
- Vodka: Vodka is a bar essential that you should probably stock regardless of what your plans are. Used for vodka sodas at the very least, vodka is an important ingredient in many cocktails.
- Gin: Gin is another essential clear alcohol, used for making the Negroni, Gin Fizz, Gimlet, Gin & Tonic, and more.
- Whiskey: Whiskey may be the most important dark liquor to stock. It’s used in classic cocktails like the Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, Manhattan, Mint Julep, Godfather and more. Rum would also be a worthy dark liquor to stock.
- Liqueurs: These can bring your cocktails to the next level. Liqueurs have some huge range, so you’ll want to figure out what you need first – it’s easier to just shop for 2 or 3 cocktails. But the flavour options are nearly endless, from nutty to fruity to coffee to chocolate. If you don’t know where to start, grab some Vermouth. It’s an inexpensive option that’s used in many cocktails from the Negroni to the Manhattan to the Martini.
- Bitters: If you’re serving cocktails, bitters are extremely useful and versatile.
- Wine: Many party guests will be completely satisfied with wine. Wine is a host-saver because it’s relatively easy to serve and prepare. Make sure you have at least one red and one white – you can’t go wrong with Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
- Beer: Beer is another easy option for parties, and many will be happy with nothing more than a few beers. And there’s no shortage of options. To play it safe, try stocking a Lager, something stronger like an IPA, and an Ale or Pilsner.
Your non-alcoholic options also require very intentional planning, and should not be slept on. Not only do you have to consider cocktail mixers, but you have to assume not everyone will want to drink alcohol. It’s important that everyone has something to drink, whether they’re choosing alcohol or not. But let’s start with the mixers.
If you’re planning to serve just two or three cocktails, purchasing the mixers will be much more straightforward. You just have to make sure you’ve got enough. But if you’re hoping to do more of a generic, all-around bar stock, there’s lots to consider.
You’ll definitely want to make sure you have some type of cola and lemon/lime soda. Soda water is another absolute must for many cocktails. After you have those, it’s nice to stock a couple juices – maybe orange, pineapple, lemon and cranberry.
Aside from stocking a healthy supply of mixers for cocktails, you’ll also want to purchase ingredients for mocktails. We can’t forget our non-drinker friends! Many of these will use ingredients already mentioned above, but it’s important to be intentional with these beverages, making sure you have enough for at least one or two mocktails. Don’t forget to grab some simple syrup!
Ice & Garnish
Last but certainly not least is the ice and garnish. Ice is absolutely essential for many cocktails, so make sure you really stock up. Bagged ice works great for storing drinks in a tub or cooler, and cubed ice will be necessary for cocktails. Make sure you’ve got a good amount of ice trays locked and loaded!
Garnish is what will tie your cocktails together. They can also add a splash a festive elegance. There are a variety of difference garnishes to stock up on depending on what type of cocktails you’re preparing, but here are a few basics to keep on hand:
- Oranges (for peels and slices)
- Lemons (for peels and slices)
- Maraschino cherries
- Course salt
- Granulated sugar
- Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg
- Herbs like rosemary and mint
Closing the Party
When it comes time to close down your party, you as the host have the important responsibility of making sure people get home safe. That means no drinking and driving. Do what you can in advance to help people arrange rides and cabs, and make sure people have directions for public transit. It will also help to have a set closing time, so people can easily arrange for their own transportation home. Otherwise, people are left guessing and making decisions in the moment.
To go the extra mile as an amazing party host, you can have little rewards on hand for designated drivers. It doesn’t have to be much, but a small gesture of appreciation can go a long way. Consider gifting some chocolate, a box of popcorn, or some baked goods.
If you’re hosting a party in the near future, stop by any Springs Group liquor store near you to stock up. We’ve got every type of alcohol you could ever need to host a part, plus exciting monthly deals and promotions.