I appreciate a good drink at a restaurant, and the same goes for dinner parties or events. It's the little extra something that isn't required but usually appreciated. In the vein of reining things in, there are a few key ingredients needed to pull off a successful one with minimum fuss.
Ingredient 1: Go Bulk or Go Home
Just as a meal for a larger gathering should be approached differently than an intimate meal for two, the same goes for a drink or cocktail. Go for recipes that can be made in bulk or served in a punch bowl. Not only is this convenient, but it provides a sense of plenty that will help set the tone for your event.
Ingredient 2: Make Make-Ahead Drinks
A good dinner party is pulled together by identifying what things can be prepared in advance vs. the ones that need to be served hot and fresh. Make sure your party cocktail is one that can be prepared early. This will not only allow you to enjoy it as you put together the finishes touches before guests arrive, but it will also give your guests something to gravitate towards as they filter in.
Ingredient 3: Go With What You Know
Just as I'd advise against preparing a completely new entree for a dinner party event (advice I myself struggle to follow), the same goes for the cocktail. Ideally you want some experience and familiarity with the preparation involved. This will give you some bearings on how scalable it is, and if it's something that is consistently good (i.e. doesn't depend on the ripeness of fruit, etc).
Those are the ingredients for a great party cocktail, if you follow them you will, in time, have a handful of recipes to go to and your guests will look forward to them. In the meantime, try your hand at these recipes, and put them to the test before your next gathering.
(Images: Chris Perez)