How to Throw a Cocktail Party Without a Bartender

Living in a big city like Chicago means that there are plenty of places my friends and I can grab a creative drink, but that can get quite expensive, so why not try some ourself? Don’t know a bartender? Doesn’t matter!

My husband and I decided to have a cocktail party based on this idea – time to create our own cocktails! Here’s some things we needed on hand to make it all work:

  • A shaker
  • Jigger
  • Muddler
  • Limes/lemons
  • Salt/sugar
  • Shaker strainer
  • Ice
  • Selection of liquors
  • Selection of fruit juices
  • Tonic water

Now, the friends come in. Each person brought something to share, along with some ideas of what might be tasty! This is where you need some adventurous friends, because the point of this get-together is to come up with your own drinks. Some worked, some didn’t! I encourage you to try this with your buds, but in case you’re in a rush, here’s a few of our creations that were deemed successful:

Lydia’s Pimm’s Cup:

  • 4 oz Pimm’s No. 1
  • 2 oz tonic water
  • 3 lemon wedges
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 2 slices cucumber
  • 1 sprig of mint

In a shaker, use a muddler to crush lemons, limes, and one of the cucumber slices. Add the tonic water and Pimm’s and stir with a spoon. Pour over a glass filled with ice and garnish with the mint and the other cucumber slice.

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The Gippetto:

  • 2 oz dry gin
  • 1 oz amaretto
  • 4 oz tonic water
  • 2 lemon wedges
  • 2 cucumber slices

In shaker, use a muddler to mash lemon and cucumber. Add tonic water, amaretto, and gin. Stir and pour over ice. Garnish with lemon.

Larry’s Bichon Frise:

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz St. Germain
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 1 lemon twist

Combine all liquids in shaker and shake 10 seconds. Pour over ice and garnish with lemon twist.

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Amy’s Bee’s Knees:

  • 2 oz gin
  • 3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz simple syrup or honey (make your own simple syrup my using equal parts sugar and water)
  • Lemon twist
  • Ice

Fill shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake for 20 seconds. Strain into glass and garnish with lemon twist.

The Germain Club:

  • 2 oz St. Germain
  • 2 oz club soda
  • Lemon twist

Combine liquids in shaker and stir. Pour over glass with ice and garnish with lemon.

Hosting Tips for Small Spaces:

  • Rearrange the furniture so that guests can sit, stand, and walk around more easily. Temporarily store away extra clutter and clear off table surfaces for plates and glasses.

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  • For this type of party, it’s good to have “stations” for guests to use throughout the evening. We had a food station along with two cocktail creating stations with cutting boards and shakers in each. We also had two bus tubs as a cleaning station, one filled with soapy water, the other with rinse water to quickly clean out shakers and have guests reuse their glasses.

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  • Make food that’s easy to eat anywhere in your home. No utensils required! Think veggies and dip, meatballs (grab with a toothpick), etc. We also ordered empanadas from a nearby place.

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(Baked naan chips! Make naan – recipe here – cut into strips, brush with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes)

Made your own original drink or hosted a cocktail party and have some tips? Comment below!

Enjoy! And of course, drink responsibly.

Lydia Jane

Useful tools/resources:


7 thoughts on “How to Throw a Cocktail Party Without a Bartender

  1. Oh my goodness, I love this idea!! Getting drinks out all the time gets so expensive. This is such a fun and affordable way to try new drinks and relax with friends. Love, love, love this. Thanks for sharing! 🙂


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