How to throw a cocktail party that doesn’t cost everyone a fortune

Words: Shamim de Brún
Artwork: Paul Smith

Soirées have been curtailed for all but the most organised 50 per cent. Throwing your own always sounds like a nightmare, but sometimes it’s the only way to go. 

Hosting a festivity is fundamentally more work and there’s always something you forget. This list however will make you entirely great at it. Between us, we’ve thrown enough bad bashes to know the pitfalls and have condensed the hard learning curve balls into this guide to prevent you from getting snagged on the stumbling blocks. 

Hosting a cocktail party has basic prerequisites that feel more extra than a run of the mill gaff sesh. Own the basic and get your biodegradable cocktail umbrellas if you want, but all you really need is Ice, booze, bowls, and elevated mixers with optional glassware. 

Glassware is one of those things that make you feel like you are a functional member of society. It’s common knowledge that the marker of being an adult is throwing a party where no one breaks a glass. 

I’ve yet to attend such an event let alone throw one. Sometimes you can surrender to the universe and let the shards fall where they may, others you can pack the cristal Zalto glasses into the back of the hotpress and hope no one finds them. Faced with the choice you now have to decide.

When in doubt, lean in. Go all in. Coupe on you know you want to. These will work well for both the margarita and the martini, so it’s a no-brainer really. If you have sloppy friends and you’re nervous about using your beloved glassware, just look them dead in the eyes and say “I’m trusting you with this”. The intense guilt they’ll feel when they inevitably break your glass (partially inspired by the pressure you put them under) means they’ll definitely replace it for you.

Ice. You can’t get away without it. And you need loads of it. If you think you only need three or four bags, you are wrong. You’ll end up running the gamut to Spar at 9:55 and you’ll probably miss them. Get loads of ice. Tell every guest to bring a bag. It spreads the cos and at least half of your guests will actually remember. Frozen fruit is a handy one to have in. If you pick up your ice at a Lidl the frozen fruit lives right beside it. It’s a twofer bird. Get it in and chill it out. 

Cocktails always feel like there are loads of bits that you don’t actually need. Then you make the cocktails and discover that they can’t do without the bitters. These things feel fussy and annoying because they are fussy and annoying. I call them elevated mixers. Just make it a tick tick boom list like the one below and zoom through it. Honestly, this can run spenny if you’re trying to do it alone. Instead, share the load with your thirsty guests. Here’s a breakdown of everything needed to make enough of these three cocktails to merrily make it through this pivoting party. 

Honestly, this can run spenny if you’re tryna do it alone. Instead, share the load bearing down on your hips with your thirsty guests. Here’s a breakdown of everything needed to make enough of these 4 cocktails to merrily make it through this pivoting party. 

If you’ve got 8 friends the best arrangement is if everyone brings one alcohol, one elevated mixer and some additional bits. We have made a handy little graph of the breakdown when it comes to these specific cocktails. 

Divide the ingredients into 3 sections: Spirits, Elevated Mixers and Standard Mixers. Get the fruit yourself. People are likely to bring lemons and limes with them, but no one will really think to get a couple of bags of frozen berries and If that’s the only cost to the house then it can’t be so bad. 

This shopping list is based on the assumption that everyone gets two of each cocktail with enough residuals to experiment with should you still be raging on. If you have eight guests this is a bottle of booze per person and works out at less than €30 each. Should you prefer to keep it civilised you can crop it to one of each and still have enough for three cocktails each and change.

The Checklist

The Accesories:

1x Cocktail Shaker
1x Strainer
(ideally a small one so you’re not using a sieve)
1x Measure/Jigger
1x Blender


2x Tequila 
Keep it cheap, keep it cheerful. Do not let a salesperson sell you on a mezcal instead. It tastes different and mezcal has no place in a margarita. 

2x Whiskey 
Go for the grain. Single grain whiskey is the best for cocking your tails. it is mellower than Single Malt and the Single Grains also have a lot of sweet notes, which are perfect for mixing with bitters.

2x Gin
Let the people pick their own gin if you want a quiet night. People have opinions on botanicals out the wazoo. Stick with something Irish and ya can’t go wrong.

The one I’d bring: Dingle Gin. It’s well priced, tastes good, and you can find it everywhere. Also, the lad who hocks it in Dublin is sound and I like supporting him. 

1x Triple Sec 
Off the bat, Cointreau is a type of Triple Sec. Triple sec is a family of dry orange liqueurs. There’s only about 3 available in Ireland. Get the one you can. There are differences but they’re not worth mentioning. 

The one I’d go for: Gabriel Boudier Triple Sec. Affordably available all over the country.

1x Vermouth
As dry as an Irish mammy’s overcooked turkey. Don’t go sweet. It will ruin your life. 
The one I’d go for: Lustau Vermut Blanco. It’s the one they use in UNO MAS and all across the tapas wine scene. Honestly, it’s a rocker and keeps well in the fridge if you don’t use it all. 

Elevated Mixers

Angostura Bitters
Don’t go own brand on the bitters. They are worth the sixteen quid and last ages. You can get them from Mitchell & Son, Celtic Whiskey Shop, Fresh, and some of the better Tescos’

Lime Juice
Yes, you can just buy lime juice, but we will not endorse that here. Here we’re gonna high horse it and insist that you squeeze them limes like their gods gift.

Lemon Juice
Lemons live on shelves in supermarkets all year waiting for Pancake Tuesday to roll around. Now you can put them to good use. Pick them up turn them out and get that juice in the mix. 

Simple syrup
There’s no way around it. You have to make simple syrup if you’re hosting a cocktail party. No matter how cool your guests think they are everyone likes their cocktails sweetened. It’s an easy thing to make. That’s why they call it simple. 

A cup of boiling water, a cup of sugar, preferably castor but a granular table will suffice. Stir them together in a pot till the sugar has melted and then go find a bottle to store it in. An empty plastic water bottle always serves well. If you drill a hole into the lid it makes for accurate pourability without heavy investment. 

Decent ones nothing fudges with a martini quite like poor quality olives. Assign your snobbiest friend the olives. You will not regret it. 

Bog Standard Mixers

Tonic Water
Tonic makes everything fizzy. It’s mostly inoffensive and typically lets all booze shine through. A Whiskey tonic is surprisingly virile. 

Sparkling Water 
It’s better than soda water, and it tastes the same. If you have simple syrup you don’t need soda. Sparkling water is cheaper and better. 

Ginger Ale 
Okay so it’s not actually in any of these cocktails, but it’s just good to have around.

The Gin


It just has to be a Martini, I’m not even remotely apologetic.

70ml gin, 25ml dry vermouth, or to taste, 1 dash orange bitters Lemon twist or 1 (or 3) olives, for garnish.

Chuck all the ingredients into a mixing glass, add ice, stir for 30 seconds and then sieve into glass.

Serve: Chilled glass no ice. 

The Whiskey

Old Fashioned

If it’s not an Old Fashioned, you’re doing it wrong.

50ml Irish Whiskey, 3 dash Bitters, Simple Syrup, 

Stir the ingredients in an iced glass for 30 seconds and serve 

The Tequila

Blended Marg

Ingredients: Ice,1/3 Lime Juice, ⅓ Triple Sec, ⅓ Tequila

Make: All in a blender and press go.

Serve: Blended or neat in a salt-rimmed glass

The Leftovers

Other cocktails you can make with these same ingredients: 

Mint cranberry gin fizz
French 75 
White Vermouth and tonic with lime 
Literally any spirit with sparkling water and lime

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