At the cocktail party, one woman said to another, “Aren’t you wearing your wedding ring on the wrong finger?” The other replied, “Yes, I am, I married the wrong man.”
Some events, such as wedding receptions, are preceded by a cocktail hour. During the cocktail hour, guests socialize while drinking and eating appetizers. Organizers of these events use the cocktail hour to occupy guests between related events and to reduce the number of guests who arrive late.
Although it has been said that the inventor of the cocktail party was Alec Waugh of London, an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in May 1917 credited its invention to Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Walsh invited 50 guests to her house on a Sunday at high noon for a one-hour affair. “The party scored an instant hit,” the newspaper declared, stating that within weeks cocktail parties had become “a St. Louis institution”.
Alec Waugh noted that the first cocktail party in England was hosted in 1924 by war artist Christopher Nevinson.
A German observer of English life advised its con-nationals to import the “three fundamental rules” of cocktail parties:
- It should not last long, an hour and a half maximum, the time one can stand up, even if there are chairs for weaker constitutions.
- Guests should enter and leave freely, avoiding elaborate greetings on arrival and departure.
- Conversation must avoid passionate subjects (personal, political or religious topics) to keep a harmonious and cheerful ambiance.
This is a follow up to yesterdays thread about off premise catering. As mentioned there are dozens of scenarios that can make an event spectacular. Cocktail reception is more than about drinking, it’s really more about the pairing of food and wine. A fair bit of planning and thought needs to be put into this. Let’s take a closer look…read on for the “how to’s”, and a few recipes.
Cocktail parties are traditionally held from just before sunset. Depending on where in the world you live and what time of the year it is, this can be anything from 17:00 to 19:00. You can also put an “end time” in the invitation. Often, a cocktail party will run from “18:00 to 21:00”. But there is of course no need to limit the fun.
Weekend parties are of course more convenient for most people. An exception to this is work-related functions.
If you are planning a party at your home, booking a venue is not necessary. If you require a venue (if your house is too small, for example), make sure you do proper research into what is available in your area.
The venue should not be excessively far or difficult to reach, otherwise your guests may decline the invitation. Be sure the venue has all the right facilities you need – a decent kitchen for catering, bar facilities, facilities for music and entertainment, proper functioning rest rooms and the rest.
Your budget. Your budget determines many things and also how many people you can invite once you have determined how much the catering and other expenses will be per person.
The venue. Many venues can accommodate only a certain amount of people – make sure the guest list and venue “match”.
Hosting a cocktail party is challenging enough that you don’t have to worry about your guests too much. Organize the party with their pleasure and enjoyment in mind.
The Food and Beverages. As it is a cocktail reception, you should showcase excellent quality wines, beers, and non alcoholic drinks. And the food should also be of high quality, and pair well with what your serving. The following are a few examples of how to pair. I’ll provide a recipe for a nice hors d’oeuvres and the appropriate beverage to accompany.
Soup might seem like an odd thing to offer at a reception, however there are a number of interesting ways to present this. In one scenario it could be part of a static station. A mini buffet of sorts. Here you would present your soup with perhaps a few other items, such as a bread(s), cheese, etc… This can be served or self service. Takes pressure off the passed service items and creates an atmosphere of engagement. So what to serve with soup? Depends on the soup, in this case apple-cheddar. I would recommend a light white or red, perhaps a zinfandel, shiraz or chardonnay…depends on the cheese of course.
A classic Mexican dish. Served bite sized on a mini tortilla and passed. In this case, because this is a spicy, complex dish the beverage selection is more difficult. Keep it simple, keep it classic. Margarita’s, Gewürztraminer or Rieslings. There are domestic Mexican wines as well, consider them. Also beer and non alcoholic beverages are suitable. Remember a couple of things, low alcohol wines, light and not spicy!
To finish, dessert. Keep these simple as above. Something hand held and unique. As for beverages, not unlike a typical dining experience, finish with a good coffee and tea selection. Cheers, and happy entertaining!