Cocktails are always a fun way to start the evening, or morning depending on what your schedule looks like. Cocktail party help can be difficult to find if you don’t know what it is you are trying to do.
Cocktails are usually defined by a base spirit and a few mixers in any variety of glasses. They can come in thousands of colors and thousands of flavors. The interesting thing about cocktails is that by substituting even the smallest ingredient you can make a drink completely different. Depending on what spirits you plan on having around on the evening of your party you could completely change the atmosphere, and not just because you get a buzz.
I find that during the summer months most people like "lighter drinks" like a light rum, vodka or gin mixed with something refreshing. While during the winter and fall months heavier drinks often mixed with whiskey brandy or dark rums seem to pair well with the seasonal foods. For your cocktail party help requirements, however, there are some simple cocktails and mixed drinks that are fairly common place year round. Some simple cocktails your gathering could be a vodka tonic, mojito, gin rickey, tom Collins, and for my fellow whiskey drinkers you can substitute gin in a Tom Collins for a good bourbon and it is a nice change from straight shots of bourbon, whiskey sours and bourbon and cola that we all know so well.
Some parties allow you to make your own drinks, while others have a designated bartender who knows a little bit more about flavor mixing than your average drinker; however this is not usually a viable option for most small gatherings. If you were going to allow people to make their own drinks it is a good idea to have "standard" drink bases such as gin, vodka, rum, tequila and bourbon available near the mixers. As far as mixers go the more the merrier. Some popular mixers are tonic water, club soda, lemon juice, lime juice (sweetened preferably) orange juice, cranberry juice, sweet vermouth, cola, lemon lime soda, triple sec, and assorted cordials.
Seeing as there is no accounting for taste everyone looks for something different in their cocktails. If you don't already have a particular cocktail you plan on serving a good idea is looking "premixed" cocktails or "add a spirit" cocktail mixers, and having them prepared before people show up (premixed cocktails can also help keep people from drinking your bar dry or loudly proclaiming “this is my jam” every other song). You can find these at all liquor stores and many grocery stores, the most common mixes like this are margarita mixes, sour mixes, and piña colada mixes.
If you want to take your party to the “next level” one thing to consider when planning a gathering like this is the setting, the temperature, time of year food pairing and presentation. While different drinks don’t HAVE to have different glasses it lends to the presentation if your glasses are a bit more uniform or part of a set, this could “save you” from having to chose between which one of your friends gets that green coffee cup with the chipped brim and who gets to use your prized collectible Rocky and Bullwinkle jelly jar from when you were a kid.
Regardless of what you decide to serve and what you serve it in, make sure that everyone at your party is safe both at your house and getting home.