The Cocktail Party and the Dinner Party



Send invitations three weeks in advance for a cocktail party.  The typical hours are 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm or 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm.  When cocktails precede a dinner party, the cocktail party is 45 minutes to 1 hour in length.

Serve a wide range of drinks both with and without alcohol.  Non-alcoholic drinks and mixes include mineral water, spring water, soda pop, and juices.  The most common alcoholic drinks to include are white wine, red wine, beer, vodka, gin, and rum.  Popular cocktails are martini, cosmopolitan, Caesar, and mojito.

For a cocktail party, choose a menu of finger foods,  because they can be easily eaten with one hand while the drink is held in the other.

Drinkware is crystal or glass, and there should be a variety of styles available:  wine glasses, cocktail glasses, highballs, and rocks glasses.  Plates are usually china or glass.  Paper cocktail napkins are acceptable, and they come in a variety of colours and patterns.

Here are some methods for mixing cocktails:

BLENDINGA blender is used when the cocktail is made with eggs or fresh fruit; the consistency becomes frothy.  Cracked ice works best with this method.
MIXING/ STIRRINGUse a glass beaker (approx 1 pint) that can easily pour.  Use cracked ice or cubed ice, and stir the drink with a long mixing spoon.
SHAKINGUse cracked ice or cubed ice, and shake vigorously.
FLOATINGA recipe may include a spirit or high proof that can be floated at the top of the cocktail.  The spirit that floats can be poured over a spoon that rests against the side of the glass.  Another method is to layer the drink by adding the ingredients in order of density.
MUDDLINGCertain ingredients are crushed with the heel of the muddling spoon until they are dissolved in the liquor.  Muddling and mixing are sometimes used together.
POURINGA drink poured over ice is called ‘on the rocks’.  Do not pour higher than ¼ inch from the top of the glass.


Send invitations 2 – 3 weeks in advance for an informal dinner, and 4 weeks in advance for a formal dinner.  Dinner is served at 7:00, 7:30, or 8:00 pm.  Let guests know what time to arrive, and at what time the meal will be served.  At a formal dinner, guests are invited by written invitation only and arrive 5 to 10 minutes before the appointed hour.

Ask if there are food allergies or restrictions, but do not discuss the menu with guests.

For more information, please check out our Etiquette book at

Karen Brunger is President of International Image Institute Inc. and a Past-President of the Association of Image Consultants International

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