The Case For Signature Cocktails

As a party host, you probably aren’t seeking even more tasks to put on your to-do list (isn’t figuring out the food, playlist, and where to put people’s coats enough?). But I’m suggesting one extra component—and although it’s not a necessity at social events the way, say, cups are, I’d argue its rewards outweigh the extra planning. Whether you’re organizing apps and drinks for a game night, planning a potluck with a few friends, or hosting a housewarming that anticipates a decent crowd, a signature cocktail defines the event.

Here’s my case:

It’s special. I attended a summer soiree last year—and one of the most enjoyable moments, in addition to the pleasant company, was receiving a frosty, boozy ice cream float the hostess had stirred up on the spot. There’s a personal touch to hand-concocting a drink for each guest that makes the party-goers feel particularly welcome.

It’s an opportunity for a nod to the season. Themed plates and napkins are always appreciated, but a drink can really harness the season and help pull together a theme or occasion. Think cinnamon-mulled wine for winter, a sparky champagne cocktail for celebrations, and a spiked float or shake for the dog days of summer. 

It keeps your hands busy. In some ways, a cocktail is the introverted party host’s best friend. Not that I have any first hand experience with this at all (ahem), but for anyone concerned about finding a good conversation starter and putting newcomers at ease, having a drink to prep solves both challenges. Plan a drink that takes just a couple simple steps to assemble, and you’ve got an easy but necessary task to perform as you welcome your guests—as well as a topic of conversation (inspiration for the drink, ingredients, tweaks you made to a recipe, etc. etc.).

It allows you to greet everyone. Hopefully you’ll manage to make the rounds and say hello to everyone. But offering each guest a made-to-order drink doesn’t just make them feel special, it also gives you a brief moment with each of them, giving you an excuse for a longer chat than your quick hello-how-are-you. Invite them into the kitchen to keep you company while you make the drinks for a brief one-on-one tete-a-tete before your guest slips into the hubbub of the party crowd.

It livens the party. Generally, people appreciate a party with fancy drinks. It’s just fun.

(Note: if you like the idea but don’t actually feel the need to serve guests individually, a mulled wine kept warm on in a crockpot or a bowl of punch offer just about as much fun, but leave you free to bounce about the party and mingle as you please. A do-it-yourself garnish station can provide an interactive piece.)

Here’s the recipe for the drink pictured above—a pleasingly sweet-tart concoction.

Sour Cherry Gin Smash

From Country Living

Ingredients (per drink)

  • 6 sour cherries (these you can find at most grocery stores—cans in the baking section or frozen bags in the frozen fruit section)
  • 1 TBSP fresh lime juice
  • 2 oz. gin
  • ginger ale
  • ice
  • 1 lime slice


  1. Add cherries to a tumbler glass and mash slightly with a fork, just so the berries begin to break apart. Add lime and gin, and stir together.
  2. Add 3 ice cubes to the glass. Top with a splash of ginger ale (or more to taste). Garnish with a lime wedge.

A few resources for finding a drink that fits the atmosphere and occasion you’re putting together: