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6 Best Cocktails to Serve at a Dinner Party, Etiquette Experts Say

With these special libations, your guests enjoy their meal even more.

Throwing a dinner party where good friends can get together to enjoy a great meal and catch up is the ultimate act of hosting prowess. But while what's going on the plates is a top priority, it's just as important to consider what you'll be pouring into your guests' glasses. If you're looking to provide a truly memorable experience, there are a few pointers to keep in mind when planning out what beverages will accompany your dishes. Read on for the best cocktails to serve at a dinner party, according to etiquette and hospitality experts.

RELATED: 5 Worst Things to Serve at a Dinner Party, Etiquette Experts Say.

A Welcome Beverage

Boozy Refreshing French 75 Cocktail with Lemon and Champagne
Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

A truly great dinner party doesn't start when the food hits the table, but rather when your guests arrive. A welcome cocktail can help set the mood, especially something as cheery as a French 75, according to Timo Torner, founder of Cocktail Society

"This classic welcome drink brings elegance to your dinner party," he says. "A sparkling cocktail combining gin, lemon juice, sugar, and Champagne that's as effervescent as your dinner party."

And if people are still sipping it when courses start coming out, that's fine. He adds that "the drink pairs perfectly well with lighter dishes like salads, seafood, and poultry."

If you're looking to shake things up, Torner suggests trying a refreshing drink from the South Tyrol region of Italy. "The Hugo is a delightful aperitif-style cocktail made from elderflower syrup, sparkling prosecco, a splash of soda water, fresh mint leaves, and a splash of freshly squeezed lime juice," he says.

Batched Martinis

martini in a glass with two olives

There's no need to be stuck by your bar cart all night long to hand out cocktails. Making libations in a larger format is one of the most efficient ways to handle beverages for the night.

"Batch cocktails are very practical for a dinner party," says Jules Hirst, founder and coach at Etiquette Consulting. "They can be prepared in advance thus allowing the host to not be stuck playing bartender and focus on other party details and mingling with guests."

While simple concoctions such as sangria are great for casual affairs, higher-end classics work too.

"A pre-batched martini is my all-time favorite go-to for a dinner party," Cristina Martin, a New York City-based cocktail expert and educator, tells Best Life.

To prepare, simply take your favorite martini recipe and multiply it by however many people you have coming. Then, add 20 percent of the liquid amount of water to the batch and chill in the freezer.

"You'll get 'oohs' and 'ahhs' when you start pouring out martinis from a bottle or pitcher," she says. "And don't forget your favorite garnish!"

RELATED: 8 Cocktails Bartenders Say They Would Never Order.

Savory Cocktails

Close up of four people cheers-ing with mojitos

Cocktails should  be refreshing, but that doesn't mean you need to stick to the classic lineup of bitter, sour, or spirit-forward drinks.

"Adding a unique twist that wows guests, like a savory cocktail, is an easy way to elevate a dinner party," says Matt Foster, spirits expert and beverage consultant at Culinary Canvas.

He suggests choosing vegetables and flavors that are in season to best complement the dinner menu. "The saying, 'What grows together, goes together,' rings true," he explains. "So pairing peppers, squash, and avocados with tequila will work out pretty well. Similarly, shiso or daikon radish would pair well with a shochu. Ultimately, it's about finding ingredients that meld rather than working against each other."

Other ideas include putting a twist on classics, such as a cucumber martini with mint leaves and lemon juice. He also suggests adding herbs and spices to your favorite spirit to create an infusion—or even opting for something like a hearty tomato-based cocktail.

Themed Cocktails

Colorful layered tropical cocktails on a bar surrounded by fruit
happy_lark / iStock

If you're gathering to commemorate a special occasion, it might be fun to come up with a drink that helps tie the whole party together.

"Themed cocktails can also be a party pleaser," says Hirst. She suggests ideas like a red, white, and blue sangria for a Fourth of July party, or champagne-based drinks for a birthday or anniversary get-together.

She adds: "A mimosa flight made using different fruit juices would also be ideal for a Mother's Day celebration."

RELATED: 9 Dinner Party Essentials You Should Always Have, Etiquette Experts Say.

A Non-alcoholic Option

Group of friends toasting with cocktails

Depending on who you're having over or what the occasion is, alcohol may not be the right for the menu. But just because you're omitting the liquor doesn't mean you can't still be creative with your offering.

"Not every non-drinker wants lemonade or sweet tea," says Foster. "You can easily incorporate your favorite batch cocktail recipes and turn them into mocktails, either by omitting the alcohol for a non-alcoholic spirit or replacing the boozy ingredient with a similar-feeling beverage, like Sprite or club soda instead of prosecco."

He explains that putting the same effort and care into your mocktails as you would to your alcoholic cocktails is much appreciated by guests and takes away the "otherness" of people who don't or can't drink.

"Try something like a Garden Spritz, made with cucumber and mint tea, lime juice, agave, and club soda. Add in thin slices of cucumber and mint leaves for a visual effect," he suggests.

A Lower-ABV Option

A close up of friends cheersing their spritz cocktails

It's also possible to cut down on the amount of booziness in a drink without omitting alcohol entirely. That's where lower-ABV drinks can be a huge help.

"These cocktails allow guests to pace themselves throughout the event without skimping on flavor," says Hirst. "They also ensure that everyone can participate regardless of their drinking preferences."

If you're looking for an easy place to start, Torner suggests an Aperol spritz—especially for a summer get-together. "A crowd favorite, this vibrant, low-ABV cocktail is perfect for starting the evening on a refreshing note," he says. "Its bubbly, bitter-sweet flavor awakens the palate, making it an excellent aperitif that pairs well with a wide range of appetizers, and its simplicity and colorful presentation add a festive touch to any dinner party."

Martin says those who want something more inventive might want to consider a Bamboo. "It's a dry sherry-based cocktail, not too sweet and low-ABV," she explains. The cocktail recipe also uses an equal part of dry vermouth and a dash each of orange and Angostura bitters with a lemon twist garnish.

"Dry sherry has lovely savory notes that play well with food, and this cocktail looks absolutely gorgeous in a glass," she adds.

Zachary Mack
Zach is a freelance writer specializing in beer, wine, food, spirits, and travel. He is based in Manhattan. Read more
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