How to Throw a Classy Cocktail Party for Under $100

By Madison Hamilton It’s Saturday morning and you’re nursing a hangover with a breakfast burrito and a marathon of “The Hills” – thank God for #RetroMTV Brunch, am I right? Anyway, as you look down at your heels on the floor from the night before, you think to yourself: “Why am I not going to nice cocktail parties like LC?” Another bite into your burrito and you come to the stark realization that those parties cost thousands of dollars, and you don’t have a reality TV executive offering to fund your birthday at the W. You’re back to square one and your burrito is almost gone. So yeah, maybe you’ll never throw a party at the Roosevelt Hotel with Brody Jenner by your side, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw a classy cocktail party … and still be able to afford a bomb burrito the next morning.


Step One: Invitations.

Handwritten calligraphy invites are awesome, but let’s be real, you don’t have time to write them — let alone have 50 friends respond with their address before the big day. Create a Facebook event or send an e-vite — but keep it classy. Remember, this is a cocktail party, not a frat rager. Include a black and white photo, throw in some Frank Sinatra lyrics and italicize the time and date — voilá, elegance.

Be sure to specify the “cocktail attire” dress code. Wearing jeans to a cocktail party is like wearing a shirt to Burning Man — you’ll look like you don’t belong.

Step Two: Grocery Shopping.

Warning: Do NOT go grocery shopping while hungry.

You aren’t throwing a dinner party — these are just a few appetizers for your guests to graze on. Purchase one or two bags of pita chips to fill your most colorful big bowl with, then buy hummus to put in a smaller bowl next to it. A cheese plate with crackers, grapes and possibly a fig spread is a nice gesture but not completely necessary. Cookies or individually wrapped chocolates pair well with wine — but again, not going to make or break your soirée.

Now, time for the cocktails. Here’s the trick: buy the cheap stuff, mix it well, and serve it in pitchers. I suggest Tito’s vodka with grapefruit juice or with ginger beer and lime. Espolon tequila with grapefruit, soda and lime juice is also good — it’s called a Paloma, which sounds pretty classy. And unless you’re throwing a party for the French Parliament, no one really knows wine that well. Get two bottles (one red and one white) of $10 wine — make sure it’s obscure so you can say something like “it’s made with grapes from a vineyard off of the coast of Italy” and no one will call your bluff.

Side Note: If you purchase grapes, you can freeze a few and use them as classy ice cubes.

Step Three: Clean Your House.

This takes no cash, just a lot of motivation. Clean your house (or apartment) spotless and then say “sorry for the mess” when people walk in. This will show that you’re busy, yet really clean, which is pretty classy.

Step Four: Ambiance.

You probably won’t need to actually buy any decorations. If you have tealight candles, put them in mason jars around the room (think rustic barn wedding meets Gatsby chic.) Turn off all overhead lights and turn on any funky lamps in the room. Take down any beer, babe, or Belieber posters — they just take away from the class element.

Have music playing from the time your guests arrive until the time they fall asleep on your futon. Don’t play it too loud — unless, of course, this becomes a dance party. Depending on your style, the Spotify station you choose can be anything from Ray Charles to Telepopmusik — try to avoid Lil’ John until at least midnight.

Step Five: Games.

I don’t care if the Queen of England is there — every party is better with games. But this doesn’t mean playing flip-cup on your old coffee table. Cards Against Humanity is always fun. It can be a bit raunchy without setting you back on the elegance scale.

Step Six: Open the Door.

Make sure you’re home and dressed when the party starts. There’s nothing tackier than a host who doesn’t show up.


Tito’s Vodka: $20 Espolon Tequila: $25 Wine: $20 Food: $20 Mixers: $10

The satisfaction of throwing a classy cocktail party and still having $5 left to buy a bomb breakfast burrito the morning after? Priceless.