Earlier this year, my husband and I hosted a Couples Cocktail Contest Party! It was something we had been brainstorming for quite awhile, and once we got moved in to our new home, and settled, we were finally able to make it happen!
Now that entertaining season is upon us, I’ve been doing some thinking about how to host a similar party again, with a few tweeks. First, I’ll tell you about how our party worked, and then I’ll fill you in on some of my ideas to make it even better.
We used evite.com to create digital invitations, and either emailed them or sent them through social media to our couple friends. There are so many great designs to choose from, and evite.com allows you to keep track of your guest list and rsvps, too. This is the design I used:
In our invitations, I included instructions pertaining to how the party would work. I sent the invites a couple of months before the party, to give the couples adequate time to create and test their cocktail ideas. This is a fun bonus of this type of party– couples get to have fun together planning, creating and testing their drink ideas in the weeks before the party. 😍
In the message from the host area on the evite, I included this information:
Let’s have some fun, while engaging in some friendly competition at The First Annual Couples Cocktail Competition! We’re giving you plenty of time before the party, so that you can do a little bonding with your spouse as you create and test your signature cocktail. Here are the guidelines:
1. You bring the ingredients to make 10 of your specialty cocktail, including the alcohol, garnishes to fancy it up, and the appropriate glasses to serve it in. (We have martini, highball, rocks, beer and wine glasses, but if you want something different, please provide. We also have standard barware on hand to create your masterpiece, such as shaker, muddler, pitchers, blender…)
2. Give your cocktail a name. Be creative!
3. Make it pretty! Appearance is a category on the scorecard.
4. Be prepared to explain your cocktail, or tell a story about it.
5. After serving your cocktail to everyone, we will vote. Categories include: 1) Taste 2) Visual Appeal 3) Creative Name 4) Originality
6. We will supply appetizers and munchies for all, and a prize for the cocktail champions!
7. Let the games begin!
Food is an important element of any party, particularly one where adult beverages will be served! One thing I’ve learned to do that takes some of the stress out of hosting a party or holiday gathering is to make some of the food myself, but buy some things pre-made from the store as well. This cuts down on the stress of trying to do it all yourself, while still letting you serve some of your special homemade dishes that your guests will love! I mean, you want to be able to enjoy the party, too, and not be so stressed about getting all the food prepared on your own. For this party I made:
- Cheesy Havarti Hot Spinach Dip
- Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
- Simple Caprese Spears with Balsamic Dipping Sauce
I took some help from the store by purchasing:
- Frozen cream puffs from Costco. These can be found in the freezer section and come in a BIG package. You simply thaw them out an hour or so before serving, and they are so good! They added a sweet treat to my food spread with minimal effort on my part. I did offer a couple of very easy dipping options that were simple to whip up. One was a basic chocolate sauce with some espresso powder mixed in, and the other was raspberry jam thinned out with a little rum.
- My favorite Sabra Roasted Red Pepper Hummus, served with cut up veggies.
- A shrimp cocktail platter that was ready to serve.
- A mixture of cheeses, cured meats, dried fruits, roasted nuts, fig jam, and an assortment of crackers, which I used to assemble my own charcuterie tray.
When people arrived, I had the spread all set up on my kitchen island. This allowed people time to fix a plate, and gather around in the kitchen, giving guests who hadn’t met before a chance to interact and break the ice. It also ensured everyone had some food in their stomaches before the cocktails started flowing! 🤣🍹🍸
I have a selection of white serving dishes and platters that are very versatile. I can pull them out and use them for any occasion, and they work together cohesively. I also keep on hand a variety of different mini chalkboard labels that work nicely for letting guests know what each dish is. Then, after the party, they can be erased and reused for the next event.
After eating and chatting for awhile, we moved to the basement, where our bar is, but you could easily move the food aside in your kitchen and make room for the cocktail set up.
We asked our guests to bring the necessary ingredients for their custom cocktails, and we provided all the barware and tools.
I gave each couple a clipboard with the scoring details and room to make notes on each couple’s cocktail as they tasted it. The judging wouldn’t happen until the end, so I wanted them to have a way to remember their thoughts as they tasted each one over the course of the evening.
My husband and I went first. As we were working together to craft our cocktail, we also shared its unique name and the story behind it. We called our cocktail the “Fountain of Youth”. We both turned 50 this year, within a month of each other, and to celebrate we went to DisneyWorld! We used a Walt Disney quote to explain our inspiration– “Growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional…” Our adults-only DisneyWorld trip was a chance for us to play and have fun, even though we are getting “older”. 🤪
Our martini was made with 100% cherry juice, which has numerous health benefits and anti-aging properties, so this was also part of the inspiration for our “Fountain of Youth” name. It says right on the bottle that it can “reduce muscle and joint soreness, improve sleep and boost immunity”. Perfect.
And finally, we bought some light-up glow cubes from Amazon to add a fun and youthful component to our drink. This was also inspired by our Disney trip, as they are offered in lots of different adult and kid beverages there! I was able to get a dozen of them on Amazon for less than $20 and they were the perfect touch to our custom cocktail!
To streamline this process during the party, you can ask the couples to do some of the prep work prior to arriving. For example, before the party started, Mark and I cut out our lime twist garnishes and stored them in the fridge. Also, because we were “in it to win it”, we also infused our own vodka by steeping lime slices in plain vodka in a large mason jar for several days. We have done that with a variety of different flavors in the past year, but I will tell you all about that in a different post. 😃
This process is repeated by each couple. It was almost like going to dinner, drinks and a show because it was fun to watch each couple work together to create their craft cocktail, and tell the story behind it!
And let me tell you, our friends are CREATIVE! They took this contest seriously and their drinks and performances did not disappoint! Just look at these masterpieces each couple came up with! I mean really….
Time to Vote!
After all the couples have presented their drinks, it’s time to vote! This is the scorecard I created:
We had five couples, including ourselves, so we only included space to rank four, because nobody was allowed to vote for their own.
Since we asked guests to bring all the ingredients for their own cocktails, Mark and I provided all the food, and prizes, We had a prize for each category, as well as one grand prize for the overall winner!
For the category prizes, I made “tropies” out of bottles of wine. I created my own wine labels to stick on each bottle. Here’s the one for the Grand Prize.
Each category winner got a bottle of wine, and the Grand Prize winner also got a gift card to a local restaurant! I wish I had taken pictures of each of the prizes, but by that time we had all sampled FIVE different cocktails, well….. I just wasn’t thinking clearly enough to take pictures. 🤣🤣
What I might change for next time…
You guys, this was so much fun! And our friends really took it seriously and came up with AMAZING cocktails and stories to go along with them! I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to try this with.
That being said, I do have a few take-aways for next time. First, this was A LOT of alcohol. My drink limit is usually two, maybe three if we’re stretching things out over several hours. So FIVE different cocktails in short order was too much. By about halfway through, people were only tasting the last drinks instead of enjoying them.
So, in the future, I think I’d cut it back to have one drink per couple, rather than one drink per person. Couples could share each drink for judging, and then maybe go back for another of their favorites?
Also, there was a variety of different alcohols represented, and sometimes, for me anyway, mixing alcohols leads to not feeling so well later. I do better if I’m only drinking one type for the evening. So, next time I might have the couples create drinks centered around just one type of liquor.
Overall, this was such a fun way to spend an evening with friends! Have you ever hosted any couples themed parties? If so, I’d love to hear your ideas!