Cocktail party food and drink finesse

When mingling at parties and networking events, have you ever struggled with juggling a plate of food and a drink? When you have a plate in one hand and a glass in the other it prevents you from shaking hands and you usually can’t eat, at least not gracefully. Thankfully there are a few things you can do instead.

You can eat before you arrive so that you only have a glass to manage while you mingle instead of trying to balance a plate and a glass. However, if the buffet is too tempting to pass up, another approach is to take yourself out of circulation to eat. You could invite someone to join you while you both enjoy the nibblies. That way it doesn’t feel as awkward to talk and eat while conversing with another person who may not be eating.

IMG_0719Now, if you are determined to eat, drink and mingle at the same time there is a technique you can use that allows you to hold the plate and the glass in one hand. Here is how you do it. Put the cocktail plate in your left hand between your ring finger and middle finger. Your pinky will help to steady the plate. Rest the glass on the side of the plate and hold it with your top three fingers. You can then take your glass out of your left hand, drink, put it back, eat a bite and still be able to easily shake hands with someone. Even if you are left handed you would still put the plate and glass in your left hand so that your right hand is free for shaking hands.

One last tip, don’t overindulge in either the spirits or the food. People are watching you and you want to be sure you’re making a positive impression. Avoid losing your good judgment by drinking too much, especially at the company holiday party. Even if there is an open bar, stick to having no more than two alcoholic drinks.

Try not to treat the buffet or passed appetizers as your personal smorgasbord. Here are some general rules of thumb for cocktail food. For appetizers that are passed via tray by a waiter take one of each item. For buffet items take two of each item as long as you don’t overload your plate.

Oh, and one more thing. When walking through the buffet keep this in mind. Food is like an airplane, it needs a place to land (on your plate) before taking off again (into your mouth).

What food and drink tips do you follow when attending cocktail parties?


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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>

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