How To Throw A Cocktail Party On A Budget


Parties are always a fun time.

From the planning to spending time with friends and loved ones, getting together is a great way to make lasting memories.

While some people like to throw a regular party, others are interesting in cocktail parties.

And many times, people don’t know how to throw a cocktail party on a budget.

This is where this post comes into play.

I’ll walk you through how to throw a cheap cocktail party that won’t break the bank and is a guaranteed good time.

Here’s how to throw the perfect cocktail party that your guests will love.

How To Throw A Cocktail Party On A Budget

people drinking at cocktail party

Before you have people show up for your party, you need to first plan.

Here is a walk through of things you need and things to consider including in your party.

Planning For The Party Tips

#1. Theme

Decide on a theme for the event.

Are you going for 1930’s Great Gatsby glamour? Or a 1960’s Austin Power vibe?

Asking people to dress for the occasion will really add to the event.

It needn’t be full-on fancy cocktail dress, even just feather boas and ties makes a big difference.

You could even go the funny route and have it black tie with swimsuits!

#2. Create The Guest List

You need to start figuring out how many people you want to invite.

This is critical as the number of people you plan to have at your party will make deciding on other things much easier.

As much as you want to invite everyone you know, you have to take into account your party space.

If you have a small apartment, having hundreds of people over won’t end up being much fun.

If this is your first cocktail party, consider keeping it on the smaller side.

As you get more comfortable throwing parties, you can expand the guest list to include more people.

#3. Decide On Drinks

Drinks can be hideously expensive if you don’t plan ahead.

Otherwise you will buy every type of drink and have a lot left over.

Instead, look at your guest list and think what they tend to drink.

For example, if you are having a girls only cocktail party, bottles of wine, hard seltzer, and a bottle of champagne is good.

Buying beer is probably a waste of money.

If your guests like to drink mixed drinks, don’t forget to buy the various fruit juices along with the bottles of liquor.

Again, you have to be smart here.

The most popular mixed drink juices include the following:

  • Orange juice
  • Pineapple juice
  • Cranberry juice
  • Lemon juice

Buy only what you know most people drink.

Same goes for soft drinks when making cocktails.

As for hard liquor, again buy the staples.

Vodka and gin are probably the most popular ones to buy.

Now here are a few ideas to cut the cost of drinks down.

First, you can ask your guests to bring their favorite drink or bottle of liquor.

This will ensure everyone has something they love to drink and won’t break the bank for you.

Also, if you buy wine, only open one bottle of wine at a time.

At the end of the party, if you have unopened bottles, you can return them.

Finally, choose one cocktail and theme the night round that.

If what you serve becomes your signature cocktail, so much the better.

I once had a great night hosting a champagne cocktail party.

It actually wasn’t very costly because of course we weren’t drinking real champagne.

I detail how to make a handful of cheap drinks for your party below.

#4. Buy Plenty Of Ice

Depending on what drinks you are serving, you might not need to buy much ice.

Traditionally, you buy 1-2 pounds of ice per person.

However this only an estimate.

If you are throwing a smaller party, you can be safe with the lower amount.

Same if you are mostly serving wine to your guests.

But if you are throwing a large outdoor party in the summer with beer and hard seltzer, you are safer buying lots of ice.

#5. Send Out Invitations

You can create and send your own personalized invitations online using Evite.

Doing this saves you a ton of money on supplies and stamps.

Plus you don’t have to run to the store to buy the invitations in the first place.

As an added bonus, you can easily find invitations to match the theme of your party.

Just be certain to have your guests RSVP a few weeks in advance to give you time to finalize all your shopping lists.

#6. Stock Up On Party Essentials

Now comes time to buy the other essentials for your cocktail party.

Think of things like plates, utensils, cocktail napkins, wine glasses, and a cocktail shaker are the more common items you need.

But also consider paper umbrellas, other party decorations, cocktail cherries, olives, lemons and limes, sugar cubes and cream.

The best place to get many of these items is the dollar store.

You can find fun themed items there for cheap.

However, if you plan on throwing cocktail parties regularly, buying nicer wine glasses might make sense.

Or you might consider shopping at a warehouse club where you can get items in bulk for less.

#7. Create A Playlist

The right music is key for a party.

You’re probably aiming for a slightly retro vibe, which will be ruined in an instant if you just leave your playlist on shuffle and out pops Beyonce.

It pays to make playlists in advance.

This way you can see what music you have and what you need. If you need some music, make it a point to find the cheapest place to get it.

While you might think iTunes is the best choice, if you need a handful of songs, you might find a compilation album exists with many of the songs for much less.

Just remember that for the most part, easy listening is a good rule of thumb for cocktail party music.

#8. Appetizers And Small Plates

While a formal cocktail party doesn’t serve food, it’s your party and you can do what you want.

And most people will be appreciative of food.

This doesn’t mean you need to make a large meal.

Instead opt for appetizers and finger food.

A cheese board and crackers is always popular.

You can also go with a spinach and artichoke dip, chicken fingers, breaded jalapenos for example.

Think about who you are inviting and your theme and then create your food shopping list.

And to save some extra money on food, you can use the tip I offered earlier with drinks.

Ask your guests to bring a favorite appetizer.

#9. Party Setup

Before your guests arrive, turn your kitchen worktop into a bar, laying out glasses and ingredients, together with a few recipes.

Use your table as the place for food, plates, napkins and utensils.

When guests arrive, show them where everything is and offer to mix their first drink. After that, it’s down to them.

You’ll find that people start out very serious, diligently following the recipe for the perfect Mojito, then gradually become more free-spirited as the booze kicks in.

At my last cocktail party, I discovered three people in the kitchen at midnight, none of whom had known each other before, all giggling and trying to come up with the most outlandish drinks.

Easy Classic Cocktails To Try At Home


Now that you have the basics covered for throwing the best cocktail party, we need to address the drink situation.

Here are some easy, cocktail recipes for you to make for the party that will surely be a hit.

Champagne Cocktail

You’ll need:

  • A champagne flute of fizz, can be cava, prosecco or champagne depending on your budget
  • A sugar cube
  • Angostura bitters

Put the sugar cube in the bottom of the glass, then drip over two or three drops of angostura bitters and top up with fizz.

You have a cheap drink that feels expensive!


  • A measure of light rum
  • A glug of sugar syrup (this is just two parts sugar and one part water brought to the boil and allowed to cool. It keeps in the fridge for months.)
  • Three slugs of lime juice

Pour the three ingredients into a shaker together with ice-cubes, shake well and pour into a chilled cocktail glass.

Add whatever fruits you wish.

Black Russian

  • One measure of Kahlua or another coffee liqueur
  • Two measures of vodka

Pour both ingredients over ice into a lowball glass. That’s it.

Simple, delicious, and pretty cheap too.

White Russian

Make a Black Russian and top up the glass with cream for a gorgeous drink that’s as high on taste as it is on calories.

What the hell, you’re having a party!

Gin Rickey

You’ll need:

  • A measure of Gin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 4 ounces club soda
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour the gin and lime juice over the ice.

Top with club soda. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Gin Tonic

You’ll need:

  • A measure of Gin
  • 3 ounces Tonic water
  • 1 lime wedge for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a highball glass with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with the lime wedge.

The gin tonic is a simple drink and can be the perfect base to experiment with new drinks.

One common variation is to add some juice. Apple, cranberry, or orange can add a nice splash of flavor to your gin tonic.

Cuba Libre

You’ll need:

  • A measure of light rum
  • Juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 4 ounces of Dark Soda (Coca or Pepsi)

Squeeze the juice of half a lime into a highball glass. Add ice cubes. Pour the rum and cola into the glass. Stir well.

Here is one last tip for making cheap drinks for your cocktail party.

If you throw cocktails parties often, or you just like sodas, you may consider investing in a soda siphon.

With a few CO2 cartridges and a soda siphon, you can save you hundreds of dollars versus individual bottles of soda.

Cheap Cocktail Party Food


Even though your guests are not expecting any food, having some appetizers would a nice touch to your cocktail party.

Here are a few cheap party food ideas to make your cocktail party one to remember.

Veggie and Dip Bar

Creating a salad bar can be cheap if you are willing to put some work into it.

The key to a cheap salad bar is to chop the veggies yourself instead of buying them pre-chopped.

Just arrange a variety of chopped vegetables on a platter, and some dipper sauce and you are good to go.

Some vegetables that work pretty well on salad bars are carrots, celery, green pepper slices, grape or cherry tomatoes, cucumber slices.

For the dips, you can use hummus, guacamole or ranch dips.

Pasta Bar

Easy to make and an all-time favorite.

Pick two or three varieties of pasta. If you can get a variety with vibrant colors like orange or green, that would add a nice touch to the pasta bar.

Try to go for the small varieties, as those are easy to serve. You will also need two or three types of sauce.

You can try some of the tomato-based varieties like Neapolitan or Bolognese directly from the jar.

A pesto sauce with its green color would add a nice contrast as well.

Bread And Cheese Board

You can’t go wrong with bread and cheese.

Find a good and cheap selection of cheese.

For the bread use plain French bread or natural crackers.

Crackers with flavors or seeds tend to be more expensive, and they can overwhelm the flavor of the cheeses.

If you use a French baguette, slice it and serve it in a separate bowl from the cheese.

Place a different knife for every type of cheese to avoid mixing the flavors when your guest’s cut it.

Alternatively, you can slice the cheese before the cocktail party too.

Deviled Eggs

This is another cheap party food favorite of many.

And the ingredients don’t cost a lot of money. When factoring in how many eggs to buy, just remember that you halve the eggs.

So a carton of 18 will provide 36 deviled eggs.

Wrapping Up

There you have everything you need to throw a cocktail party on a budget.

At the end of the day, it really comes down to the atmosphere and that is controlled by you.

Be sure to make your guests feel welcomed and do your best to introduce people to others.

This will certainly help break the ice and get conversations started quicker.

Finally, don’t fall for the advice that you need to have games to have a great cocktail party.

The truth is, many times games take away from the good times.

By inviting great people and doing your part as a host, you will ensure everyone will have a great time.

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