Cocktail party

A cocktail party is a party at which cocktails are served. It is sometimes called a cocktail reception. A cocktail party organized for purposes of social or business networking is called a mixer.

A cocktail party at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo, Japan, March 13, 1961.
A typical cocktail, served in a cocktail glass.

A cocktail hour is sometimes used by managers of hotels and restaurants as a means of attracting bar patrons between 4 pm and 6 pm.

Some events, such as wedding receptions, are preceded by a cocktail hour. During the cocktail hour, guests socialize while drinking and eating appetizers. Organizers of these events use the cocktail hour to occupy guests between related events and to reduce the number of guests who arrive late.

Although it has been said that the inventor of the cocktail party was Alec Waugh of London,[1] an article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press in May 1917 credited its invention to Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri. Mrs. Walsh invited 50 guests to her house on a Sunday at high noon for a one-hour affair. "The party scored an instant hit," the newspaper declared, stating that within weeks cocktail parties had become "a St. Louis institution".[2]

Alec Waugh noted that the first cocktail party in England was hosted in 1924 by war artist Christopher Nevinson.

A German observer of English life advised its co-nationals to import the "three fundamental rules" of cocktail parties:

  1. It should not last long, an hour and a half maximum, the time one can stand up, even if there are chairs for weaker constitutions.
  2. Guests should enter and leave freely, avoiding elaborate greetings on arrival and departure.
  3. Conversation must avoid passionate subjects (personal, political or religious topics) to keep a harmonious and cheerful ambiance.[3]

Formal rules

The cocktail drinks usually start no earlier than 17:30 and no later than 19:00.[4] The duration is usually limited to approximately two hours. The cocktail party thus takes place during normal working hours and is held before dinner. Punctuality of arrival is not expected, but punctuality of departure is. Cocktails and other alcoholic beverages are available, except for 'normal' drinks such as beer, liquor, etc. Soft drinks may also be served. Usually, no food is served, only a few snacks. The classic cocktail drink is a martini. In the UK it is also common to serve pina coladas and mojitos.[5] For formal cocktail parties, invitations are sent out in writing one or two weeks in advance. For less formal cocktail parties, invitations are usually only invited verbally. The informal nature of the event allows the invited guest to ask if they can bring an escort if that is acceptable to the host.


As a rule, gentlemen still wear their usual casual attire (office suits) because the party takes place during working hours. The same now applies to working women. For particularly formal or formal cocktail parties, men should wear a dark suit.[6] Women who attend a cocktail party may usually wear a cocktail dress.[7]

See also


  1. Ayto, John (2006). Movers and Shakers: A Chronology of Words that Shaped Our Age. Oxford University Press. p. 61. ISBN 0-19-861452-7. The novelist Alec Waugh claimed that he invented the cocktail party by serving a rum swizzle to astonished friends […] in the spring of 1924
  2. Felten, Eric (2007-10-06). "St. Louis - Party Central". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. p. W4. Retrieved 2007-10-06.
  3. Leonhardt, R. Walter (1963). "44". Las 77 Inglaterras [The 77 Englands] (in Spanish). Translated by Aguilera, Joaquín. Madrid: Ediciones Cid. p. 170. Depósito legal M. 16.467 -1963.
  4. "Is it too early in the day to have an alcoholic drink?". Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  5. "The uk's most popular cocktails". Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  6. "Modern Style Guide To Cocktail Attire For Men". 24 January 2020. Retrieved 2022-10-25.
  7. "If An Event Invite Has You Asking, 'What Is Cocktail Attire?". Retrieved 2022-10-25.
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