Cocktail Party on a Budget: Cheap Supplies, Booze & Music

Cocktail Party on a Budget: Cheap Supplies, Booze & Music

Janel Laban
Nov 8, 2011

This is the perfect time of year to host a cocktail party — fun, fast and festive! And, while you want an air of swank to be part of the gathering, you definitely don't need to bust your (always stretched to the limit at the holidays) budget to do so. In fact, simple can often be the most stylish. Here are tips for supplies, drinks and music to make the evening a success with both your friends and your bank balance:

The Supplies:

Going for glass over plastic makes things all the more glam, instantly — and, you'll have supplies for next time without having to spend again and again. Spare glasses stack up easily in their boxes in a high kitchen cabinet — you'll know where they are when you need them but they don't need to take up room in cabinet or closet areas that you access everyday.

Basic wine glasses at less than $1 per piece:
Wine Glasses - Pack of 6 for $4.99 at IKEA

Champage glasses by the dozen:
Champage Entertaining Set for $24.99 at World Market

Classic barware sizes with a chic, thin walled profile and bargain pricing:
Marta barware for $1.50 - 2.50 at CB2

You are definitely going to want to hit the "off" switch on any overhead lighting at a cocktail party and rely on the table or floor lamps to give your space a more intimate, festive feel. A little sparkle spread throughout the room as well, via tea lights, takes five minutes and just a few pennies but ups the celebration factor tenfold.
100 pack Tealights for $3.99 at IKEA
12 pack of basic holders for $1.99 at IKEA

Fresh flowers for the party space is a must, and they don't need to be exotic blooms. Carnations from the supermarket can actually work really well, especially at this time of year, since they can project very different, very distinctive looks, based on their arrangement:
Beautiful, Frugal Flowers: 3 Ways to Use White Carnations for Holiday Arrangements

And, vases don't get much simpler or more affordable than this, if you are interested in consistent look throughout the room:
Rektangel Vase for $2.49

Serving bits of delicious goodies on individual spoons is a perfect party concept. Here are two choices, squared off or rounded, both clocking in under a dollar:
Glossy White Curve Appetizer Spoon for .95 at CB2
Porcelain Individual Spoon for .95 at CB2

A stack of small square plates also works (and stores) well:
Set of 12 Appetizer plates for $22.95 at Crate & Barrel

Trays can make more surfaces in small spaces usable for setting down a drink:
Colorful Square Lacquer Trays for $22 - 24 at West Elm

White or rainbow cloth napkins can be used over and over again:
Set of 6 Classic Cocktail napkins for $19.95 at Crate & Barrel
Set of 12 Rainbow Cocktail napkins for $24.95 at Crate & Barrel

The Booze:

From our cooking site, The Kitchn, here is the last word on a well-stocked (and well-priced) bar from a panel of experts.
Best Bargain Booze: 7 Top Picks From Bar Experts

A pitcher drink is always a smart way to go, too. It makes a narrower range of liquor go a long way and makes the gathering more of an "event" by offering up a signature drink for the evening, taking it out of the realm of the usual beverage choices that are accessible year-round.

You could try a punch...
Winter Holiday Recipe: Wassail Punch

...or a signature cocktail, both served by the pitcher:
Blueberry Lavender Vodka Spritzer
The El Diablo Cockail

The Music:

I recently received a record player for my birthday, so we're going old school at our apartment these days. I've been gathering all sorts of funny, funky, records that are actually from the days when cocktail parties ruled. I check once a week or so at my local thrift store and have been building a collection for just $1 each.
Readers' Favorite Thrift Stores

But, if you want to keep things digital, there are great affordable (and free) options, which open up both your time (set a playlist and go) and your space (nothing to store).

Apartment Therapy Tech weighs in on some options to consider:
Best Internet Music: MOG, Spotify or Pandora?
Best Internet Music, part 2: Rdio, Slacker & Rhapsody
Free Music for All

All of this is just a starter list, of course. Please add your tips, sources and suggestions to the comments below… and party on!

(Images: as linked above)

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