Say you’ve been Shanghaied into mixing at a friend’s soiree. You may be excited to share a bunch of different drinks with your friends, a different one for each person. Or you’re put on the spot to make drinks for people with a less-than-ample stock to mix with. It can get out of hand pretty quickly. Some tips to keep everyone happy:


  • Decide beforehand on just one or two cocktails.
  • Consider themed drinks based on the season or to pair with the food being served.
  • Only set out the components you’ll need for those drinks you’re making – to let people know it’s a limited bar.
  • Write or print out a small menu describing the drinks to help start the conversation.
  • Set up a dedicated serving area and a nearby prep area (hopefully close to the sink and ice).


  • Set out self-serve drinks like a bowl of punch, or a homemade sangrita with a great sipping tequila.
  • Monitor the serving area occasionally to clean up abandoned drinks and other messes.


  • If things get hectic, recruit a friend to act as your barback, helping out with things like collecting and cleaning empty glasses, rounding up more ice or clean dishtowels, squeezing extra juice, or cleaning shakers and bar tools.
  • Keep your workspace organized – arrange everything logically and ergonomically. Return items to where they came from.
  • You can measure out built-in-the-glass, rocks-style drinks and let them sit while you mix something else, then return to that glass for ice and stirring. Lets you serve them all at once.
  • If your friends surprise you with the task of bartending and the basic components aren’t there, don’t try to substitute or improvise. Stick with a basic highball or send someone sober out with a shopping list for simple drinks.


  • Offer water or soda in between cocktails – serve all drinks from the same area.
  • More than anyone else, you’ll be able to notice when someone’s had too much. Don’t feel bad about cutting them off. Appoint a friend to keep an eye on them (and take away their car keys if necessary).
  • Have a great time, enjoy one or two yourself! (Red blazer and bow tie wholly optional).

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