Welcome to your new favorite way to get together with friends.
Credit: Getty / agrobacter

Cocktail parties always seem like a fabulous way to entertain. No fussy dinner to prepare, no fancy tablescape to design, just snacks and nibbles and fabulous drinks. What could be easier? But there is often a downside to a cocktail party, which is how to navigate the cocktail part. Setting up a complete bar can be complicated and expensive, trying to determine everyone's personal tastes or needs can create chaos, and if you are playing mixologist, you might find yourself missing your party while you shake or stir everyone's drinks. So how to have a great cocktail party that doesn't break the bank or turn you into a bartender in your own home? Host a BYOB Cocktail do!

How to plan a BYOB cocktail party

Whether you choose a theme, like a gin or bourbon tasting, and ask everyone to bring their favorite brand so that people can explore different versions, or just ask your guests to bring a bottle of their preferred type of booze. Not having to provide the liquor makes things much more affordable for the host and ensures that guests have exactly what they love. (You can always encourage them to take home their bottle, if it's unfinished, at the end of the evening.) Here's how to set yourself up for BYOB success.

Create a DIY Bar… in the kitchen 

Setting up in the kitchen keeps things close to water for rinsing mixing utensils and vessels and keeps the mess contained, and the mingling and food can be in your living room, which will help with party flow.

Setting up a bar with plenty of glassware, tools, ice, mixers and garnishes, and a few shakers or mixing vessels means that you are not chained to the bar yourself and can focus on hosting. Since your pals are bringing the hard stuff, you can get a bit fun with your offerings here! 

  • Classic mixers like soda water, tonic, and ginger ale, plus something a bit more fun and special, like bitter lemon soda
  • Cherries, olives, and onions as well as citrus fruit for wedges, wheels, and zest strips
  • Bitters, maybe in a couple of flavors, are always welcome, as are simple syrups

But don't stress out about having too many options here—it's best to limit yourself to a range of traditional items with just one or two outliers, or you might paralyze your guests with too many choices.

Get creative with ice!

These days, ice is a big part of cocktail culture. So, lean in, and let your guests choose from clear ice cubes, ice spheres, and crushed or pellet ice. (Even tiny ice can be fun!) Many liquor stores are carrying these options in bags, and if you need crushed or pellet ice, you can often pick up a bag at a local fast-food place.

Have non-alcoholic options at the ready

Assuming that some of your pals will be designated drivers, or abstaining for other reasons, have some sparkling water, juices, or soda so that they aren't left out. Bitters and soda or ginger ale with a splash of white cranberry and a wedge of lime are delicious options that don't feel like punishment for the non-drinkers.