Cocktail parties should be as much fun to host as they are to attend.  The hosting fun factor goes up considerably if you organize yourself and prepare as much of the menu in advance as possible.

Below are a few tips that might be helpful in planning your next event.

~ Make a list of things to do well in advance and do as much as possible before the day of the party

~ The time indicated for party determines type and quantity of food that should served

~ A party ending before 8:00 pm indicates pre-dinner, lighter fare

~ A party that starts after 7:00 generally means heartier food will be available

~ Food should be bite-size or easy to eat standing up

~ Allow about 12 to 15 pieces of cocktail food per person (this includes about 5 items from an antipasti or crudite platter)

~ For a 2 to 3 hour party, offer at least 6 different items, more if it's a large party

~ Food offering should be a mix of hot and cold items with a variety of flavors and textures; having some vegetarian items is a good idea

~ Consider passing hot items around rather then leaving them on a table; they taste better when they're hot and it will help you mingle with the entire crowd

~ If serving hard liquor, consider hiring a bartender for a large party. Otherwise, have 2 or three pre-made cocktails available (such as margaritas, sangria or martinis)

~ Have plenty of ice on hand (use a bath tub to cool drinks if necessary)

~ Pre-cut the garnishes (e.g., lemons and limes)

~ Arrange food platters and drinks where there is good traffic flow; you never want to set something up in an area that's a dead end (it will get very crowded!)

~ Have plenty of napkins and plates around and place several trash cans in strategic locations

~ Select music appropriate to the occasion; guests' conversations shouldn't have to compete with the music

~ Lighting is important - not too bright, not too dark; candles are a nice touch

Above all, invite a fun group of friends or colleagues who will enjoy each other's company and who you enjoy spending the evening with.  Have fun and bon appetit!