How to Host a Sexy, No-Stress Cocktail Party

Although the snow is just beginning to melt in some parts of the country, spring is around the corner. Soon enough it will be time to fling open the windows and let the fresh air in. It’s the perfect season to invite friends over and host your very first cocktail soiree as a couple.

Throwing a party together is a right of passage, a labor of love, and a great bonding experience. It can be rewarding to host both sets of friends under one roof and maybe even match-make single pals. I prefer hosting cocktail parties with my husband rather than formal dinner parties because it allows us time together without the labor of cooking and we can mingle more with our guests. A cocktail party can be a great way to kick off the weekend and I usually invite guests over early on a Friday evening, allowing them to move on to dinner plans. This more casual fete gives you the freedom to take things lightly and truly have fun.

While it can certainly start your weekend on a fun and sexy note, hold on before you start mixing the vodka into the punch bowl. Here some tips and tricks to pull this party off without a hitch.


The Division of Labor

My husband and I believe in collaborating together, but we also ascribe to the “divide and conquer theory.” By utilizing our specific talents, we each put our own creative stamp on the evening. In our case, he likes to create a bespoke bar and serve a signature cocktail for the evening. This sets a celebratory tone and gives him the opportunity to do a little research and come up with his own recipe. By creating the cocktail ahead of time there is no scrambling during the party to make drinks. A “bar cart” can be easily designed by organizing an oversized tray with an ice bucket, bottle opener, and pretty display of glasses on top of almost any piece of furniture from a console to a coffee table to a chest of drawers. He also enjoys playing DJ, and with apps like SoundCloud, it’s a snap to come up with a sultry playlist. The music progresses from mellower tunes to dance party hits as the night goes on.


A Failproof Menu

With him handling the music and libations, I am free to fluff the pillows, heat up the hors d’oeuvres, and place bowls of nibbles around the room. Arrange colorful napkins and small plates strategically around the party space, so guests can help themselves. A charcuterie and cheese platter staves off hunger for friends arriving straight from work, followed by a few impressive and tasty bites.


To keep the food low stress, I tap into my tried and trusted recipes—ones I have made for years. I prepare everything in advance and then it is as simple as warming them up when guests arrive. My favorites for spring are asparagus wrapped in filo with lemon aioli, mini crab cakes, olive and marmalade crostini, and mini steak bites with horseradish on toasts.


Once we have done our prep work, just before guests arrive, we like to meet in the living room to set the mood. We dim the lights, light candles, test out the music, and sample a small cocktail—and maybe even bust out a few dance moves.


Tamara’s Mandarin Mojito

(Makes one cocktail)


  • Cocktail rim sugar
  • 2 teaspoons simple syrup*
  • 4 fresh mint leaves
  • ½ lime, cut into wedges (reserve one small wedge)
  • ½ mandarin, cut into wedges (reserve one small wedge)
  • Crushed ice
  • 2 ounces Anejo Caribbean rum
  • Club soda
  • Simple Syrup*
  • 1 cup water
  • 1½ cups sugar

To make the simple syrup, bring water and sugar to simmer in a saucepan, stirring occasionally until sugar dissolves. Let cool.

For each cocktail, coat the rim of a highball glass with rimming sugar. In the bottom of the glass, muddle simple syrup and the mint leaves. Squeeze wedges from the lime and mandarin into the glass and then add reserved wedges. Add crushed ice, stir in rum, and top with club soda.


Tamara Matthews-Stephenson is an interior and product designer, writer, and the author of Nest by Tamara blog.