A cocktail party can be as simple or complex as you wish to make it. There are a few questions you should ask yourself to begin planning a party.
How many guests will be attending?
Is this a casual event for friends or a formal business networking event?
How much time and effort do I want to put into it?
Will there be a full bar or a limited cocktail menu?
Will the party be indoor or outdoor? If outdoor, do I have a plan for inclimate weather?
What type of food will be served?
Is there a theme for the party?
Should guests be asked to bring anything?
How much money do I want to spend?
Food is a must
A full course meal is not necessary for a cocktail party. Simple foods, such as hors-d’oeuvres and other finger foods, allow guests to graze throughout the event as they feel the need. Favourite cocktail party foods such as salmon tarts, turkey sandwiches and Vietnamese rice rolls are perfect for almost any taste. Dessert can be Christmas pudding or mince pies. To be a good host you should have some kind of food available and if you don’t want to deal with food at all, call a caterer.
Only the ultimate hostess can do everything on their own and still be available to socialize with guests. The rest of us need some help. Ask friends or family if they’d be willing to handle the food or bartend. Many catering companies also provide bartending services so this is logical if you’re already calling the caterer.
Make sure you have all of the essential bar tools.
Send invitations early, but not too early, 2-3 weeks should be sufficient unless it’s a busy time of year like November and December.
Get food pairing suggestions for your wine. Champagne goes with everything.
Have plenty of cocktail napkins, plates and glasses available.
Plan on 50-75% of invited guests to attend to estimate the number of drinks you’ll be pouring and how many bottles you’ll need.
Estimate 2-3 drinks per person.
Add a WOW factor. This could be a special Christmas drink, garnish, food dish, activity, Christmas display or whatever fits your party.
How Much Champagne to Buy
Allow six very generous glasses per standard 750mL bottle when entertaining. For a toast or dessert, allow one glass per person. For cocktails or as an aperitif, you may need two. For an entire evening, one-half bottle per person will do.
How to Chill Champagne
For a large party, you may want to rely on chilling the champagne in a bucket of ice cubes rather than the refrigerator, since this saves on refrigerator space and will chill the beverage faster. The best cooling method is in a wine bucket, half-filled with ice and water, for 30 minutes. Otherwise, store the bottle in the refrigerator for approximately one hour.
To keep several bottles chilled, place the champagne in a large tub or container, spread plenty of ice cubes around the bottles and partially filled with cold water. Always be careful to wipe each bottle dry to prevent slippage when serving.
Don’t keep champagne too long. Champagne is meant to be laid on its side for ageing at home and should be consumed within three years. It can also be stored upright because of the natural pressure in the bottle keeping the cork moist. Champagne that has been refrigerated does not need to remain so. As long as the bottle is stored on its side, it can be placed back in the wine rack until ready to be chilled again
How to Open a Bottle of Champagne
The popping of a cork may sound festive and exciting, but it does waste champagne. The pop may also be dangerous if it causes the cork to fly. The recommended Korbel way to properly open a bottle is to ease the cork out slowly, with the sound of a gentle sigh.
For best results in opening, follow these steps:
Avoid shaking the bottle. Remove the foil and wire muzzle, keeping your thumb on the cork to prevent it from shooting out of the bottle. Or, wrap a towel around the neck of the bottle, covering the cork.
Tilt the bottle at a 45-degree angle while holding the cork firmly with one hand and the base of the bottle with the other. Be sure to point the bottle away from your guests.
Do not twist the cork. Rather, twist the bottle slowly while letting the cork glide out gently, emitting a gentle sigh.
Never use a corkscrew. A champagne cork is highly compressed. If a corkscrew is inserted at an angle, you may have an exploding bottle in your hand. Exercise caution!
The Champagne market is extremely cyclical. Normally 50% of all Champagne is sold from January through the end of November. Then, 25% is sold up until Christmas Day. A full quarter of all Champagne sold is sold during that final week between Christmas and New Years!
If you do not have a cellar, store your champagne in a cool dark room at a consistent room temperature. Store the champagne in a horizontal position.
The shelf life of champagne is 12-18 months if correctly stored.
Never shake the bottle before pouring, as you will spill and waste your precious champagne. You will also lose the wonderful flavour that is contained in the bubbles. The more bubbles that leave the bottle, the less will be inside.
Serve champagne in a glass flute so as to allow optimal enjoyment of the wondrous bouquet of delicate bubbles rising from the glass. A flute is a narrow, elegant glass which contains the bubbles and bouquet longer because of the smaller surface area. Glasses with a larger surface area result in a rapid loss of bubbles and bouquet.