How to throw a cocktail event


This is a long-ish post. But quite an informative/fun one if I may say so. Read Time:  7 mins approx.


Recently I organized a fun cocktail event on the last Wednesday of May. And it went off without any hiccups!!

It was a super fun evening and I  learned a LOT about setting up events.

Now I typically love to throw fun events for friends. Roaring Twenties/Magician party, Ugly Xmas Sweater Party, Reading party in a Park, my Birthday party ha ha ; )

Okay seriously though, I wanted a challenge this time.

Could it be possible to throw a fun event and get paid for it!?!?  I didn’t think so until I saw a blog post emailed to me from Chief Noah Kagan.

He showed step-by-step how he did craft cocktail hour event in Austin, Texas. The premise was you get 1 free drink + learn how to make a craft cocktail from a bad ass mixologist + hang out  in cool atmosphere with friends.

His approach? Create a basic budget first, then validate with 3 paying customers then organize everything else later.

I decided I HAD to do it as well.I would love to attend a craft cocktail event myself and this could be a chance to do it with friends.  This could be a lot of fun. He always mentions TAKE ACTION. And sure he’s got a bigger network than me… but why not try anyways?

So after weeks of hesitating  – making excuse after excuse, over thinking, would the timing be right?  I finally did it. I got over my Fear of Failure. You’ve got to TAKE ACTION.

I want to elaborate on this point. Despite doing sales for my family business I still had some sorta of hesitation selling to friends for the first time. I’ve never thrown a paid event before – that is most probably why. This was something new.  Whenever you’re doing something different, you get these feelings of self-sabotage resistance. This doesn’t feel good. But I said to myself –  screw it, let’s do it anyways. Plus I had a feeling  this would be something my friends would love as well. I’ll give more details later on this post. So keep reading….

Basic Budget

I made a basic budge to make sure costs/revenues were sound. I didn’t think too much about this. I actually just made a wild guess that a fancy cocktail would be 10-15 dollars in Calgary, thankfully I was right.










Validate Your Idea.

Noah always mentions to validate your idea before spending any money. So I did.

I decided to go after 3 paying customers like he stresses. WHY?  To see if this craft cocktail idea even resonated in my social circle.  So I casually asked 3 friends and 2 paid me in cash face to face, while third sent me on money on Event Brite to get the momentum going. Hallelujah. We have lift off! I was excited.

This was 3 weeks before the planned Wednesday night event.

I chose Wednesday night, as it’s typically slow day at the bars and they’d love to see paying customers come through there door.

My Goal was to sell first then organize/book the place. Backwards. 

After I made those 3 initial sales, here’s what I did to get more sales.

1. Created a Facebook event. One friend shared this with Fb friends. That was cool. But no tickets resulted through that.

_Craft__Cocktail_Hour FB EVENT

2. I also made an Eventbrite event which I encourage my friends who bought to refer to, just like Noah did. This would make it easy for anyone to buy a ticket.


3. Texting and Phone Calls. This was the most EFFECTIVE mode for selling tickets. I pretty much sold 80% of tickets this way. I created a bundle deal as well, that if you bought 3, you get One free. Two friends took advantage of that.

4. I also posted on Twitter and Google Plus, that didn’t do much. Didn’t do anything.

5. I talked to some friends of a friend on a Friday night at a bar and told them about this. They were super interested and actually got two tickets! Woo.

After doing all of this I eventually sold 24 tickets. This is way before I organized/booked any venue.

Getting Stuck

I should mention the first few days I began texting people I  still only had 6 sales.

My one friend mentioned “you should honestly cancel this event.” Thanks for the words of encouragement. I almost did.

Another good friend mentioned people aren’t coming because it’s “weird to buy tickets before an event”.

O RLY? How do concerts happen? He said people aren’t used to buying tickets from me.  Ok perhaps. Fair point. But wouldn’t you rather buy from a friend than some stranger throwing a similar event?

I went for a sushi dinner with another friend the next Monday. At this point I had about 12 sales so I was confident this would go well, but still short of my goal of 25. So I was stressing. This was taking so much time – texting, calling people, overthinking everything etc.  He encouraged me to keep pushing!! I needed that talk.

Some people said Yes to me, but didn’t buy.  This was frustrating, because I was also dealing with friends. I didn’t wanna be too pushy. It’s a delicate balance. It’s a gentle push he reminded me. You want to remind them, but also not force them. Some were genuinely not interested or busy  – fine.  Either way I came to the conclusion that throwing your first event is hard work.

One week before the event my sold tickets were 18. I was breathing better. It was at this stage I decided to phone some venues to partner with.

Luckily that Wednesday date was open at Raw Bar. They seemed excited that 20 plus paying people were coming to there bar on a typically slow Wednesday. I was more relaxed at this point.

Here’s a breakdown of my thinking/model for this business:

My validation technique: Pre-Sales. If I didn’t sell tickets to at least 10 people to this event – i’d have cancelled it and refunded everyone.

Fulfilled my interest: I had never been to a craft cocktail event myself and really wanted to. So this wasn’t just some random event just to make money.

Work backwards: People told me they would pay money for attending this sorta event.

Keep thing simple: I tried facbook, twitter, google plus, email. But what worked best was texting and phone calls when making sales.

Scarcity: Only sell 25 tickets. That was it. I’d have been very happy with just 10 people actually, but I pushed myself to get 20 to make it more of a party. Luckily I got 24 sold tickets.

Here’s some pics.. plus more notes afterwards.

photo 3 (14)

OH Yeah made my first craft cocktail!

photo 1 (23)

jon enjoying his Pimms Cup



photo 5 (9) photo 4 (15) photo 4 (16) photo 1 (22)


Some Issues/Feedback from customers:

I marketed this event as “Craft Cocktail Hour.”

The word Craft in Calgary usually means this big bar called Craft. So many people thought the event was taking place at Craft!! This was sorta hilarious.

This told me that headlines are so important.

Another issue was I didn’t tell anyone initially where the event would happen. Some peeps wanted some more details about location. Well I simply said it’s most likely be at Local 510,  Raw Bar or Commonwealth –  another popular place in my circles. This may have caused some people to think this event wasn’t legit.

Other people who couldn’t make it asked me to organize other cool events later in the summer. That gave me some ideas for new events they would love to attend. That was super helpful.

Other Concerns? Could I Deliver:

I was concerned with people getting enough value for 25 dollars. One Drink + plus fancy cocktail class + cool atmosphere with friends. This was what I was selling. But will I be able to deliver? UNCERTAINTY!

Thankfully, Raw Bar is well known in the city for not only making the best craft cocktails, but also they organized it for me beautifully.  They had a super long table a little bit aways from the bar. Everyone had ingredients/utensil to share. The mixologist guided everyone in style.

People were LOVING IT.  I don’t think anyone had been to an event like this before.  Afterwards everyone was handed a card with the recipe on how they can make one themselves. Nice touch.

More importantly? EVERYONE HAD FUN!

Other lessons from this?

You can read about it, but until you do it yourselves you get the real lessons. Plus it was fun! It was eustress. Stress that’s good for you.

I felt pretty accomplished afterwards. I was happy everyone had fun.  I didn’t force anyone to come, yet they did. That was a cool feeling.

I might hold other cool events over the summer, we shall see.

Cheers to Noah Kagan for the inspiration. You can check out his insanely cool marketing blog at



Time to get a shawarma.


1 Response to “How to throw a cocktail event”

  1. 1 Anthony July 8, 2014 at 7:14 pm

    Congratulations on the success of your event Nishant. Way to take action!

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