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What good is a bottle of wine without a corkscrew, a bottle of beer without an opener or the makings for a shaken-not-stirred martini without the shaker? Because these items seem so obvious, you might overlook them, which will leave you to hustle all over the kitchen for the right tools. Also consider a jigger (to measure your shots), stir sticks, a muddler (to help extract juice from fruit or oil from mint), an ice bucket and ice.
Often the best part of a drink is the bit of citrus that gets squeezed over the top or the olives that soak up the vodka for added pizzazz. Besides, a cocktail just looks naked without a nice garnish. Plan according to what you'll serve, but consider stocking lemon and lime wedges, lemon peels, green olives and maraschino cherries.
You're not in college anymore, so plastic-TV-trays-as-side-tables are probably a thing of the past. Since you don't want water rings to adorn your fabulous furniture, be sure to keep plenty of cocktail napkins on hand. Some people need gentle reminders about drink placement, and napkins will make it easy on everyone.
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Save the red plastic cups for a picnic — it's the holidays! Make things easy on yourself by stocking a few types of glasses. Stick to all-purpose wineglasses (so you can eliminate doubling up with wineglasses for both red and white wine), martini glasses, highball glasses and all-purpose beer glasses.
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When you're entertaining, keep things simple. Stock a few standard types of clear alcohol (vodka, gin and tequila) and a few standard types of brown (whiskey, dark rum and dark liqueurs). You don't have to include all of them, and if you know your crowd, then try to stick with what they typically drink.
Don't forget the add-ins for a good mixed drink, like tonic, club soda, cola, lemon-lime soda, juices and ginger ale. If you have a good idea of what you'll serve, then the mix-ins will be easy to decide on.
Keep things easy and fun with a signature cocktail for an evening's festivities. Serve your special drink along with a few wine and beer options. If you know your crowd, then you can adjust your signature specialty accordingly. Consider this recipe for pomegranate pipers piping that includes Champagne (use sparkling water or ginger ale for a nonalcoholic version), pomegranate juice and fresh ginger.
Image: Guillaume Brialon/Flickr
Not everyone at your gathering will want to drink alcohol, so take that into consideration. It's great to have the usual on hand, like sparkling water and a few soda options, but get a little creative. If you're making a signature cocktail for your gathering, then consider making a nonalcoholic version too. Find inspiration with one of these mocktail recipes.
It's fine to have pretzels and peanuts scattered around to snack on, but how about a few elegant appetizers too? Try one (or all) of these five creative cocktail party appetizers.
Don't forget to have fun and entertain responsibly. Be sure to provide arrangements for a safe ride home or an overnight stay in your home for those who need it.
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