bartender mixing drinks

How to Design a Cocktail Menu For Your Event

Crafting the perfect cocktail menu is truly an art form. You can’t just throw whatever drinks up on there and hope for the best. Nay. Of course, if you have little to no bartending experience, you’re probably at a loss for what to do. Most people probably just pick a handful of commonly known drinks that are generally popular, with no intention of being unique. But not you. You’re different. You’re here, reading this article about how to design the perfect cocktail menu for your event. Dare we say you are… raising the bar (wink). Designing a beautiful, creative, thoughtful cocktail menu is going to give you a major leg-up on the competition. Your guests will be raving about your creative, thoughtful, and mindfully curated cocktail menu for weeks after your event. Here’s how to pull this off: 

How fancy are we getting?

Consider the level of formality of the event. Is it more high-class or laid back and casual? The answer to this will determine what kind of liquor you should invest in. For example, if it’s a formal, black-tie event, you’re looking at your Martinis, Old Fashioned, Bellinis, Gin and Tonic, etc. If you’re hosting a more casual party, you’ll want to buy cheaper alcohols so that you can buy it in larger quantities and keep the drinks flowing all night. Think vodka-based drinks, spiked limeades, and lemonades, etc. Obviously, you must consider your budget as well. Even the “higher-end” drinks can still be made with less expensive liquors and your guests will likely be none the wiser.

Consider the theme

We think we can all agree that it would be weird to have mimosas at a Cinco de Mayo party. Like, hello, where are the margaritas? Be mindful of the theme and feel of the event you’re organizing. If it’s a roaring 20’s extravaganza, consider adding some prohibition-era cocktails such as the Gin Rickey, Old Fashioned, Sidecar, etc. Throwing a crazy, beach-themed, tiki bar rager? Think Hurricane, Mai Tai, Piña Colada, etc. This is the really fun part of it, the part where you get to let your creativity run wild! If you’re at a loss, simply google “cocktails for ______ themed party” and you’ll find tons of lists with hundreds of cocktail ideas that your particular theme. 

Waste not, want not

Want to save money and prevent yourself from being strapped with an exorbitant amount of half-empty bottles of alcohol? Try to pick only a few types of liquor and build off of those. For example, there are plenty of drinks that can be made with vodka, but the fruit juices, syrups, creams, what have you, are what provides your guests with that variety. After all, does anyone really care that much about the taste of the alcohol that’s in the cocktail? No! They’re likely basing their selection off of the flavors of the mixer anyway, so you can totally get away with only buying a handful of kinds of liquor for your cocktail menu. That way, you won’t have to stress about buying a bunch of different liquors, only to have most of it go to waste. 

Other considerations

Each unique event deserves an equally unique cocktail menu. Here are some other considerations you must make when crafting your menu:

Mocktails. Out of respect to those at the event who don’t drink alcohol, you should definitely include some fun “mocktails” so that they do not feel left out. Make sure they tie in well with the alcoholic cocktails, so you make all your guests feel like part of the action.

Shots? Consider whether or not you will allow guests to purchase or order shots.

Food. Another important factor in creating a cocktail menu is food pairings. You will elevate your menu to the next level if you pair your cocktails with the food offerings.

Signature drink. Will your event have a signature drink? This one is fun, as you get to select a special menu item to represent the overarching theme of the event. This drink should be front and center on your menu, and advertised a little more boldly than the others!

Designing the flow of the menu

Alright, so you’ve decided on your drinks, let’s talk menu. When designing the actual menu, you will want to:

  1. List the ingredients. Don’t assume everyone knows what is in each cocktail, even if they are commonly-known drinks. Ingredients + a short description of the flavors should do the trick.
  2. Include pictures. This isn’t absolutely necessary, but if you really want to sell your drinks and impress your guests, adding pictures of each cocktail is an excellent way to do this. People like to envision what they will be drinking, so actual photos or even a cute chalkboard rendition is sure to entice your guests.
  3. Come up with creative names for each drink. Names are often what sells people on the drink! The names can be classy, goofy, obscure, etc. — just make sure they fit with the theme. You can go off of guests, puns, pop culture references, seasonal descriptors, etc. as inspiration.

Let the creativity (and liquor) flow!

Designing a cocktail menu for an event should be fun, so don’t stress too much about it! At the end of the day, you’re providing alcohol for a group of adults. Trust, if they’re not happy at the start of the night, they’ll be happy by the end. Go big, go bold, and let your imagination run wild.