The Art of the Cocktail Hour

With the dizzying amount of activity during the holiday season, you need to have your bar spiffed up, stocked, and party ready. Noted hostess Stephanie Booth Shafran spills her secrets for creating magical occasions beginning with the cocktail hour.

You're Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining
Images courtesy of Rizzoli Books

With Stephanie Booth Shafran, author of You’re Invited: Classic Elegant Entertaining (Rizzoli, 2020)

Whether you have a designated bar, a bar cart, or use the top of a cabinet for cocktail entertaining, these ideas ensure a swoon-worthy setup, a relaxed hostess, and a memorable time for all. With knowledge honed over a lifetime of entertaining, hostess Stephanie Booth Shafran knows how to take care of and intrigue guests by paying attention to the smallest details. Learn how she pulls it off with great aplomb with her top ten tips. 

  1. Make your bar area a destination in and of itself.

“Your bar should be an extension of your home’s existing décor with a similar palette and attitude but with elements of glamour—mirrored details, mercury votives, silver trays, a sparkling selection of glassware—that draws guests in. Make it a visual feast for guests and a place for them to connect.”

2. Decorate your bar like any other space in your home.

“ I think about creating a vignette just like I do on a side table or coffee table. I fill mine with fresh flowers, lamps, and colorful glassware. The enchantment comes in through these special accents.”

You're Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining
Images courtesy of Rizzoli Books

3. Let your guests know what to expect.

Whether you use engraved invitations or Paperless Post, the more details you give guests, the more comfortable they will be. These include the occasion of the party and the style—whether it’s a cocktails-only, or cocktails followed by a sit-down dinner or buffet. An attire suggestion is key to understanding the formality of the occasion and gives guests the confidence that they will slip into the event with stylish ease. Also, if you are serving cocktails and then having dinner at a restaurant, let them know where, so they will keep that in mind when dressing.”

4. Have a mix of glassware on hand.

Every bar should have double old-fashioned, martini glasses, champagne flutes, and an all-purpose wine glass. I like to introduce a special glass chosen to match the mood, palette, or theme for the party (see #5). I pick up sets of unique styles in my travels, at niche shops, from home stores, and from tabletop stores. A thoughtfully chosen, beautiful glass imparts a mood just like other elements of your party.”

5. Consider a dedicated palette or theme for the evening.

“Planning is one of my favorite aspects of entertaining, and here is where I let my imagination fly! I’m inspired by so many things: Fabrics, fashion, travel, and seasons. But I always have the type of occasion in mind. I pick colors, china, flowers, flatware, etc., that fit in with the atmosphere I want to create. A theme or color pairing helps you keep focus during the planning process. Once you’ve settled on an idea, then take it and run with it throughout every aspect of your party!”

You're Invited: Classic, Elegant Entertaining
Images courtesy of Rizzoli Books
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