Streamline. Offer a single house cocktail. Supplement with wine, beer, and sparkling water.
Prevent a bottleneck. The first thing guests do is head for the drinks. Uncork wine before the party starts to eliminate the kiss-Larry-on-the-cheek-while-struggling-with-the-bottle two-step. Put wine and beer in an ice bath a half hour before guests arrive. Fill a pretty galvanized bucket with ice, water, and a handful of salt.
Stock up on ice. In addition to the ice for the bucket, “you’ll need at least one 10-pound bag for every four guests,” says Mindy Kobrin, the founder of Mindy’s Meals on Heels, an event-planning company in New York City.
Make enough to drink. When whipping up batches of your house drink, “assume guests will consume two cocktails in the first hour and one drink an hour after that,” says Meghan Andalman, the owner of Lovebird Events, in Chicago.
Have a variety of glasses on hand. Mismatched vessels look great. Figure each guest will use at least three glasses.