Food, drink and friends are amongst our top comforts, and what better way to enjoy all three than by hosting a dinner party?
Now, creating a night to remember is no easy feat, but we’ve got you covered. Not only have we consulted an etiquette expert and a tablescape expert, but we’ve also polled the public for their dining dos and don’ts.
Discover the most popular cocktails, food suggestions, and tips on games, table decorations and settings. Here’s our essential guide to how to host a dinner party.
Best Dinner Party Cocktails
Cocktails are traditionally served as guests arrive and after dinner, so it is one of the most important parts of hosting a dinner party. Whether they’re alcoholic drinks or mocktails, guests that get to enjoy great-tasting cocktails often have their dinner party experience enhanced overall.
Of course, with so much to organize for the occasion, time is of the essence. Not only should you serve drinks that are easy to make, but try to choose options that are sure-fire crowd pleasers. Based on our public poll, these are the 8 best dinner party cocktails, including NIO premixed selections you can sip on in no time.
Highly popular — particularly in frozen form — this fruity drink consists of rum, lime juice, syrup and, of course, strawberries. Go traditional with our premixed daiquiri.
This tart, tangy classic is made with Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and a pinch of salt. Our premixed Margarita contains Exotico Blanco Liqueur, a handcrafted tequila with a crisp, herbal aroma, spicy undertones, and the robust taste of fresh agave with hints of pepper and herbal notes.
An undisputed favorite, the Martini is made with gin and vermouth. A popular variation uses vodka, and if there are any coffee-lovers in attendance, you can treat them to our espresso martini.
The Cosmo (the king of trendy cocktails) uses vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice and Cointreau. Our twist is sweet, sharp and unapologetically pink.
Mimosa or Bucks Fizz
Bring the lightness of brunch vibes to the evening time with a mimosa or bucks fizz. Both are made using a blend of champagne and orange juice. The mimosa uses equal measures, while bucks fizz is two parts juice to one part champagne.
The perfect after-dinner special, the Manhattan is a warm blend of whisky, vermouth and Angostura bitters. Treat your guests to the rich flavors of our premade cocktail.
A fun, tropical cocktail consisting of coconut cream, pineapple juice and white rum. Bring the feeling of the beach to your living room with this delicious drink.
Sex on the Beach
If you want to serve this summer classic, combine vodka with peach schnapps and cranberry juice. Add cocktail cherries and orange slices for a garnish — it’s that easy.
For even more exquisite options, take a look at all of our easy, premixed drinks.
Which cocktails to serve and when
For complete cocktail drinking etiquette, William Hanson, a respected etiquette coach, recommends, “Avoid overly sweet cocktails, especially if wine and other drinks will be served as the evening progresses, and enjoy an espresso martini after the meal.”
Dinner Party Menu Ideas
A bulk of the planning required for hosting a dinner party is centered on finding the perfect dinner party menu ideas. Will your night have a theme? For example, an Italian-themed group dinner would feature dishes like sweet and spicy olives, an indulgent pasta entree and a tasty tiramisu for dessert. You could even pair your menu with some traditional Italian cocktails to impress your guests.
Whatever you decide, our top tip is to keep it simple. If you’re having a big dinner party for friends and cooking for a lot of people, choose recipes that you know and are comfortable making rather than trying something new. Simple, seasonal food like gnocchi or baked salmon won’t take too much time or effort and will allow you to spend more time with your guests.
If you don’t feel like serving several courses, consider a buffet-style dinner for guests. This is much easier to set up and buy for and allows guests to mingle as they fill their plates with their selection.
How To Be a Good Host
Now, you’re almost ready to host a formal dinner party (or something more casual!), but here are a few final dos and don’ts from etiquette expert William to make sure there are no hosting faux pas in your future:
How To Be a Good Guest
This guide may be all about hosting, but you’ll have your turn to be a guest, too! William has given his tips on how to be the best kind of visitor:
Table Setting and Dinner Party Decorations
Once you’re all set on food and drinks, it’s time to add the aesthetic flourishes that’ll really make your dinner party shine. Accessorize your dining table with a nice tablecloth — crisp white is a popular choice for a clean look, but if spills are a concern, consider off-white or a rich dark color like burgundy. Don’t forget to add placemats and cocktail napkins to complete the table setting.
Sam Hood is co-founder and chief creative officer of AMARA, a top boutique for luxury tableware. Here are her tips for setting the table and making the most of your living space:
Dinner Party or Group Games
Games are a great form of entertainment as they keep everyone talking and keep up the energy. Here are our picks for dinner party game ideas for adults:
This is a new twist on an old classic: wink murder. In each round, one person is secretly assigned the role of murderer. This person has the ability to "kill" other players by making eye contact and winking at them. When you're winked at, you have to feign sudden death. Except, in this version, you take a sip of your drink before “dying.” Simple! Feel free to play this one with mocktails too!
“Who Am I?”
A game most people will know, or at least have seen on TV, grab some sticky notes and write the names of famous people on them. Hand them out to your guests, who will stick these on their foreheads and then walk around the room asking questions to others in a bid to find out who they are. Have fun selecting a wide range of celebrities, from world leaders to pop stars, actors and everyone in between. It’s also an icebreaker to play ahead of dinner.
An oldie, but a goodie — take turns having one person stand at the front of the room and silently act out a film, tv show or song. The first person to guess takes their place!
There you have our recommendations for throwing the perfect dinner party. With expert advice, learnings from an audience survey and a wide selection of cocktails — you can’t go wrong! Want more cocktail and dinner party ideas for adults? We’ve got guides on what to serve for important occasions like Christmas, which will leave you more than knowledgeable about how to throw a great party over the holidays.