Cocktail Calculator for Parties + Snack Suggestions for Casual and Fancy Parties

Planning a cocktail party? Here’s all you need to get started:

Hors d’oeuvres:

Plan on 4 or 5 pieces of each hors d’oeuvre you are seving per person, per hour of the party. Place small bowls of mixed nuts and bar snacks on your bar for guests to enjoy while their cocktail is being prepared. Fancy Chex Mix is a fun bar snack for a casual get together. Herb de Provence Cashews and Hot Honey Pecans are the perfect snacks to set at the bar for a more fancy party.

If you are serving a “fancy” food such as my Chesapeake Bay Crab Dip or shrimp with cocktail sauce, my advice is to make a bunch and refill often. There will be some guests who will eat the entire bowl or platter of seafood or beef tenderloin. I’ve seen it happen!

Offer a little something sweet later in the evening – one bite chocolate truffles are perfect – with a glass of champagne.


It’s always a special treat to greet your guests with a glass of bubbly (add a raspberry in the flute for festive flair) – chilled champagne, cava, prosecco or sparkling wine.

The general rule is that guests will have 2 drinks during the first hour and then 1 drink for every hour that follows.

Glasses – have plenty of cocktail glasses, wine glasses and champagne flutes on hand. If the party is going to be outdoors on the patio, find some pretty disposable glasses to avoid breakage and the inevitable cleanup that follows broken glasses.

Wine and champagne: 1 bottle of wine equals 5 glasses. (I discourage small pours of wine and champagne!) Magnums of champagne (equals 2 standard bottles) are impressive at a party.

1 standard bottle liquor makes about 12 cocktails.

Even if the party is small, consider hiring a bartender. That will free you up to enjoy chatting with your guests rather than tying you up behind the bar.

Beer: If your guests are a beer drinking crowd, your guests may drink one or two bottles of beer per hour of the party. If possible, check with some people you know will attend the party to find out what the guests drink preferences will be.

Don’t forget non-alcohol and low-alcohol beverages too.

Plan on leaving space in coolers (with plenty of ice) or refrigerator space at the end of the evening to store leftover bottles of beer and wine.

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