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5 Fun Cocktail Party Themes

Photo by Antonis Achilleos

All you need is a stocked bar, a few fun cocktail party themes and a little inspiration for a bash where the drinks are second to the scenery. We'll get you on your way with five surefire ideas for throwing fab cocktail parties. Here are some of our favorite themed cocktail party ideas:

A Day at the Races

Why? The Kentucky Derby might only happen in May, but that doesn't mean you can't celebrate like the prize-winning horse owners all summer long.

Setup: Decorate for an outside picnic with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, give each table the name of a prized thoroughbred, and encourage women to wear fun hats. Put the TV or radio on a horse race and pass out faux betting sheets. The losers have to do the dishes!

Music: Crank up country tunes like Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Keith Urban.

Nibbles: For cocktail party food, dish out barbecue chicken fingers, tea sandwiches, and ramekins of mac and cheese.

Specialty drinks: Mint juleps, of course! But if you're not a big bourbon fan, try mojitos (which are made with rum). You'll still get the mint effect.

Green Party

Why? Tired of typical cocktail party activities? Go the eco-friendly route: It’s a great excuse to get your friends together and help the environment while you’re at it.

Setup: Turn your pad into a green scene. Serve food on biodegradable appetizer plates (BranchHome.com sells great sets) and light a bunch of soy candles. Ask guests to bring one thing from their home that they don’t use -- from clothing to DVDs -- and set up a “Recycle Table” in your living room where everyone gets to walk out of the party with a new gift!

Music: Go with artists who have green agendas, like Radiohead and Jack Johnson.

Nibbles: Organic fruit and crudite kabobs, specialties from your local farmer’s market.

Specialty drinks: Serve eco-friendly beer. Brooklyn Brewery (BrooklynBrewery.com) and Belgium Brewery (NewBelgium.com) are both wind-powered, environmentally sustainable breweries.

Pink Slip Soiree

Why? Because it's fun to party like it’s 1929! Encourage laid-off pals to bring a “personal” business card so they can network with other guests. Whoever exchanges the most cards by the end of the night wins a bottle of booze.

Setup: In true ’20s style, turn your pad into a modern speakeasy. Have the women wear cocktail dresses. Hand out inexpensive pink boas, fake pearl necklaces, and paper fans. Men can don black suits with black or white ties. For a prohibition twist, fill your bathtub with ice and turn that into your bar.

Music: Play jazz icons like Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Ella Fitzgerald. If you have an old-school record player, use it!

Nibbles: Dole out “stimulus packages”: Chinese take-out boxes filled with colorful candy, warm salted nuts, or gourmet potato chips.

Specialty Drinks: Top off the night with some fruity pink cocktails. Pink Slip Slammers made with vodka, pink grapefruit juice, and a splash of simple syrup, topped with a raspberry

Modern Luau

Why? This cocktail party theme is a classic crowd thriller--and you can do it without the gross pig on a stick!

Setup: Think clusters of pineapples on the tables, mini tiki torches secured in buckets of sand, grass hula skirts as table skirts, and shells scattered about. Will people be cruising indoors too? Throw in a DVD called Riding Giants for some cool surf vibes in the background.

Music: Make a mix of steel drum music by Steelasophical, reggae by Bob Marley, and mellow Hawaiian tunes by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

Nibbles: Island-inspired faves like coconut shrimp and mini squares of pineapple pizza

Specialty Drinks: Piña coladas, daiquiris (don't forget the umbrella toothpicks), and fruity cocktails with names like Wailin' Marley and Kingston Night

Rolodex Bash

Why? It’s time to get off Facebook for a few hours and actually “friend” people in person. The premise: Ask each guest to invite one of their favorite people. Because who doesn’t want a larger network?

Setup: Have a camera? Take pictures of everyone who walks through your door. Midway through the party, upload them to your TV -- it’s a fun way for guests to check each other out. Before people leave, ask them to jot down their email address in a guest book. Each time you throw the party, it’ll get bigger and bigger because your new friends will be inviting their friends, and so on.

Music: It’s all about the community effort. When you send out your Evite, ask guests to submit their favorite song requests and download it for a fabulous mix.

Nibbles: Anything in bulk, from frozen taquitos to big bowls of chips and salsa. You have double the crowd you’re used to!

Specialty Drinks: Shots, of course…what could be friendlier?

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-- Riann Smith

See More: Bar & Cocktails , Entertaining , Food & Recipes