How to throw a professional cocktail party clients and customers will love

A coral table set with various cocktails in different glasses in browns and reds with a chocolate-colored background.
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Whether you’ve been around the block planning client parties or are new to planning events for your business, the client cocktail party is one event you’ll want to build into your repertoire. Cocktail parties offer an excellent opportunity to network with new clients, show your gratitude to current customers, and build relationships with business partners. 

Beyond networking, they’re also a fabulous way to celebrate your business’s successes, showcase new offerings, or toast to the milestones you’ve met or surpassed—all while showing your clients how much they mean to you.

If you’re new to hosting a cocktail party or simply need some tips to ensure your event draws in and delights plenty of guests, worry not—this isn’t our first soirée. We come to you with an abundance of suggestions for throwing a special event cocktail party that’ll have you swimming in “yes” RSVPs.


What is a cocktail party?

Generally speaking, a cocktail party is an opportunity to enjoy freshly made mixed drinks and carefully selected aperitifs with colleagues or clients. It also provides you with a more welcoming and casual environment to network with new and potential clients, and introduces attendees to one another in a low-key setting.

From a professional perspective, you can plan a client cocktail party for many purposes. These may include:

— Celebrating the opening or renovation of a new business location

— Networking with new clients or partners

— Showing appreciation for current clients

— Thanking your business partners and colleagues

— Highlighting company successes of the past season or quarter

— Honoring and thanking your donors, investors, or sponsors

— Kicking off a new phase of business or partnership

However, not all cocktail parties are created equal. The most successful cocktail parties—ones where guests genuinely enjoy themselves—include a theme that brings a unique and memorable atmosphere to the event.


Tips for throwing  a memorable cocktail party for clients

The key to achieving a successful cocktail party? It’s all in the planning. The steps you take ahead of the party can prime guests for an enjoyable time, communicate what the event is for, and help set the agenda for the day. 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of tips to consider for your cocktail party: 


1. Make your cocktails center stage

Building new relationships or sharing your business’s big news may be the main purpose of your cocktail party, but the cocktails themselves are what your event is built around. Planning a thoughtful menu can help ensure your guests enjoy themselves all night.

These two key tips can ensure the drinks are ready to pour on the day of your event:

Hire a professional bartender: Perhaps a few of your colleagues have some bartending experience, or you know how to mix some snazzy cocktails yourself. However, there are some major benefits of hiring a professional bartender to handle this for you: they can smoothly handle a larger number of guests at once, and you and your coworkers are free to focus on your clients instead.

When in doubt, overstock the bar: As you plan the budget for your cocktail party, leave a little extra room for more drinks than you think you’ll need. The last thing you want is for the cocktails to run dry long before the party has hit its peak.


2. Send a smart invitation that sets expectations

One of the primary (and essential) ingredients of a successful cocktail party is how you invite your guests. Send them an online cocktail party invitation handcrafted specially for your upcoming get-together. Include the important details, such as:

– The date and time of the party

– The venue’s address

– The dress code

One glance at a well-organized and flawless appreciation event invitation can give your guests a little preview of what magic you’ve planned for them at the cocktail party—and the RSVPs will roll right in. 

In addition, your invitations can help to create clear expectations to help guests enjoy the event and ensure everything goes smoothly. This includes:

Letting your guests know the purpose of your cocktail event. You don’t want guests to show up and wonder why they’re there—instead, state the reason for celebrating or gathering upfront so they feel like they’re part of the festivities. 

Establishing a clear start and end time for the party. This can let guests know that there will be a last call for cocktails and help you wind the party down when the time comes. 


3. Welcome guests with ease and clear directions

How you plan your party can show clients how much you care from start to finish—and that includes the moment they arrive at the door. Follow these steps to help them find their way:

— Provide a table for check-in: Here, guests can sign in, grab a name tag, and find directions to the bar for their first cocktail.

— Include branded decor: Branded signs and banners can help guests know they’re in the right place, particularly if you’re planning your cocktail party at an external venue. Other branded decor, like napkins and tablecloths, can help to make the party space feel consistent and professional.

— Offer a grand entrance: You can help guests remember the event by offering a photo booth or a step-and-repeat that includes your logo and branding. It’s also great for getting guests to share the event on social media and spreading the word about your business.

— Help them get acquainted: If you’ll be welcoming new clients who likely don’t know each other, offering a few ways to break the ice will be appreciated. Name tags can go a long way, but you can also plan icebreakers for small group meet-and-greets to get the conversations going. 


4. Include a signature cocktail

Sure, you can make multiple cocktails for guests to choose from, but creating a signature cocktail for the menu accentuates and elevates your affair. In addition, it will be easier to order enough spirits and ingredients in advance.

Be sure to announce your signature cocktail on professional invitations—or hint at a special cocktail surprise awaiting any new clients who attend.


5. Incorporate savory snacks

From simple cheese plates placed on each table to elegant hand-crafted charcuterie boards that fill an entire nine-foot spread, guests appreciate snacks that allow them to graze as they mix and mingle.


6. Create an atmospheric playlist

You can host a cocktail party anywhere you’d like, but the music that wafts through the speakers has the ability to transport your guests all over the world. A rendition of “Funiculi Funicula” can send them directly to a pizzeria in Italy, whereas a Van Halen fan favorite will take everyone back to the classic rock ages of the ’70s and ’80s.

That said, it’s also important to choose a playlist that serves as an ear-pleasing backdrop to your event—not a distraction from the engaging interactions and relationship-building you’re hoping to host. If you want the conversations to flow as much as the cocktails, you may want to choose a more subtle list of music and test the volume to ensure it won’t overpower the room.


7. Send off your guests with plenty of swag and giveaways

To boost the excitement, offer some branded swag or giveaways that your guests can take home when the night is through. If you’re hosting a smaller event, you can keep the swag small—like a pen, tote bag, or notepad with your company’s logo. 

If you’re throwing an all-out bash of a cocktail party, however, you may wish to plan some bigger giveaways. You can give guests raffle tickets at the beginning of the party and announce winners as the night goes on, building anticipation as you go.


Find the perfect cocktail party theme

A theme isn’t always necessary for a splendid soirée, but it can certainly make your special event one-of-a-kind. It shows your clients that your cocktail hour is more than just a glass of sangria and a handful of crab rangoons. Your cocktail party is an experience—one with a well-planned theme that reflects in your choice of decor, appetizers, and mixed drinks out of a cocktail shaker.

If you’re seeking a little inspiration for your cocktail party, here are a few of our favorite themes your clients will look forward to partaking in:


1. Base your theme on one type of alcohol

If you’re best buds with a particular spirit, why not make that liquor the central theme of the party? From vodka to tequila, there are plenty of directions to take your booze-centric cocktail hour. Here are a few suggestions to get your creative cocktail juices flowing:

Tequila: Plan a festive fiesta for your clients with a colorful combination of margaritas, palomas, and salty dogs (trust us). After enjoying a few of the bartender’s tequila-infused concoctions, your clients will be more than ready to enjoy some grab-and-go hors d’oeuvres like empanadas, chips and guacamole, and flautas. 

Vodka: Martini with a twist, anyone? How about a Cosmopolitan? The adaptability of this drink means you can serve everything from classic to creative, so guests who want to venture into new territories can also try less common beverages like a Fleur of the Valley or a Sheffield’s Violet. Serve equally classy and creative appetizers on the side and allow guests to mix and match. 

Bourbon: Bourbon cocktails can be enjoyable on their own, but with a little expertise, you can make them an experience. For your cocktail party, reach out to a favorite local distillery to see if they can cater bourbon cocktails or even bring a bourbon tasting to your event. Guests can enjoy sipping as they learn how their favorite bourbon drinks are made, from brew to beverage. 


2. Coordinate with the next big holiday

If you’re planning your festivities around the time of an upcoming holiday, consider a cocktail party with a theme to match. From St. Patrick’s Day to the first day of autumn, you can create colorful libations for any annually celebrated day and easily find decor at most retailers (or the Paperless Post Party Shop!) to spice up your venue and give it some holiday pizazz.

For example, an end-of-year Christmas party could feature a live jazz band to play seasonal songs. You can dress up tables with tinsel and holly, offer a holiday-themed cocktail (or three), and offer up your company swag as smartly-wrapped Christmas gifts. However you decide to adorn the room, your clients are sure to appreciate the extra chance to feel the holiday cheer.


3. Lean into a seasonal theme

Though the seasons come and go, it’s always a good time for a cocktail party. But that doesn’t mean the seasons can’t inspire your planning. Here are some ways you can adapt your cocktail party for the here and now:

Spring: Flowers and greenery will be the stars of your decor and your drinks in this theme. Feature fruits and edible flowers in your spring-inspired cocktails and appetizers alike, and offer a charming flower-draped archway at the entrance or the photo booth.

Summer: For a cocktail party during the warmer months, keep your drinks fresh and fruity with options that guests could just as easily sip poolside. We’re talking piña coladas, sangria, daiquiris, and any other drinks that simply say summer—tiny umbrellas optional, but encouraged. Add some classic summer hits to your music playlist and your guests can enjoy that beach feeling all night long.

Autumn: Autumn is the season of spices and coziness, but it’s also the time for apple-picking and cold morning frost. You can take inspiration from that warmth and crispness by offering cocktails that are both spicy and sweet, like a spiced hot cider. Decor such as pumpkins, gourds, sprigs of autumn leaves, and rust-colored fabrics can easily complete the seasonal appeal of your party.

Winter: Invite your clients in from the cold with comforting cocktails inspired by fireside sipping. A Rumchata hot cocoa cocktail can certainly warm things up—allowing your guests to mix and mingle away from the winter chill. 

Regardless of which season your cocktail party falls into, you’ll want a cocktail party invitation that suits it perfectly. Inspire your guests’ excitement by sharing hints of your seasonally inspired drinks and celebrations, and they’re sure to line up at the door.


Plan your unforgettable cocktail party with Paperless Post

From handcrafting the classiest cocktails to nailing down the designs on the cocktail napkins, every aspect counts. That’s why Paperless Post is the top choice for your online invitation needs—we know that every detail matters.

With Paperless Post, you control every aspect of your invitations, from the information on the invite to how you choose to send them. Whether clients receive them via email, text message, or shareable link, they can respond immediately, and you’ll receive real-time RSVPs to help you easily manage any party.

Need to add branding to your invitation? We have several options: 

Upload your own completed design

– Choose one of our invitation designs and upload your own logo or backdrop. 

– Add your own stamp, such as your logo or a photo of your team or office.

– Use our color picker or hex codes to change the font color to your brand color

After the event, remember to send out professional thank you cards to all of your guests to show them how much you appreciate their attendance, and their business. 

Show your clients you mean business—inside the office and out.


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Blog hero image via Yudi Ela for Bon Appetit.