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21st Birthday Party Ideas

We admit some of our 21st birthday party ideas are vodka-soaked, but hey, we know that's what (many of) you are thinking about!

Whether you'll be drinking or not we've got a lot of ideas for ways to make your big celebration a standout. Having a theme for your party is a lot of fun for your guests and makes the planning easier too. If you can come up with a theme that has special meaning for the guest of honor (e.g. favorite movie, colors, hobby, place and so on), all the better

21st Birthday Party Themes

  • martini bar
  • casino/Las Vegas/Monte Carlo/Monaco night
  • beers of the world party (sample beers from all over the planet)
  • beach bonfire and BBQ
  • luau (great excuse to make exotic tropical drinks)
  • black and white formal affair (champagne's a natural here)
  • spa party for the girls
  • pub crawl with a hired limo
  • murder mystery party
  • margarita party with a salsa bar and tapas
  • party based on a favorite TV show (e.g. Mad Men, Jersey Shore, Doctor Who, and —dare I say it...My Little Pony)
  • party based on a favorite movie
  • party based on the site of his or her dream destination with lots of local food and drink

A Signature 21st Birthday Cocktail

If you'll be serving alcohol, it's a nice touch to have a signature drink that matches your theme. Martinis or Cosmos for a casino theme, Sex on a Beach for a beach theme party, mulled wine, hot cider or spiked coffee at a bonfire, you get the idea.

Shots —A Party Idea that Never Disappoints

Jello shots are a fun addition to a 21st birthday bash. You can find cute ice cube trays online (they're available in so many different colors and shapes) to go with the theme you choose. I've served strawberry jello shots made in ice cube trays shaped like lips. Huge hit!

Here are a couple of basic shot recipes to give you a sense of the proper proportions of ingredients. Get creative with them and add the ingredients you and your guests will like best.

Basic Vodka Jello Shots (any flavor)

  • 6 ounces Jello (large package), any flavor you like
  • 16 oz boiling water
  • 6 oz cold water
  • 10 oz vodka
Mix Jello with the boiling water in a large bowl until fully dissolved. Add the cold water and vodka. Let the mixture slightly cool and then pour into rubber ice cube trays that you've first coated lightly with cooking spray (helps the shots slip out more easily). Refrigerate for about 4 hours or until set.

A twist: pour the jello mixture into 8 empty halves of 4 oranges or lemons. Make sure the fruit halves are cleaned of the pith too. Let them set in the fridge and slice each half into thirds for serving.

Pina Colada Jello Shots

  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut Creme
  • 3 oz package of Pina Colada or Pineapple Jello
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 3/4 cup Coconut Rum
Pour boiling water into a large bowl. Add the Coconut Creme and stir well. Add Jello and stir until the Jello is fully dissolved. Next, add the cold water and stir for 2 minutes. Add the Coconut Rum and stir well. Wait until the liquid is about room temperature (so you don't melt the paper cups, if you're using them) and then pour into jello shot cups which have been lightly coated with cooking spray. Chill in the refrigerator until firm. This recipe makes about 10 2-oz shots.

If you want more alcoholic inspiration you might want to check out Jelly Shot Test Kitchen : Jell-Ing Classic Cocktail Culture-One Drink at a Time. I've been following the blog for some time now and the author finally put out a book with her very own recipes for jello shots!

You won't believe how pretty some of these jello shots look. They're part luscious libation and part attention-grabbing table decoration. Come to think of it, this book would make a great 21st birthday gift too.

Stir Things Up with a Martini Bar

Another drinkable 21st birthday party idea is to set up a martini bar. What says 21 better than trendy Green Apple, Chocolate or Lemon Drop Martinis?

This idea makes a great theme for gifts, too.

Ask each guest to bring an unusual/interesting martini glass. The guest uses it all night and then leaves it behind for the birthday boy or girl. The birthday honoree will have a really cool set of very different martini glasses that will make them smile for years.

And to fill those interesting martini glasses...more 21st birthday party ideas you can drink! (Well, what did you expect?)

Green Apple Martini Recipe

  • 1 oz vodka
  • 1 oz apple schnapps (DeKuyper Sour Apple Pucker adds a nice green color)
  • splash of dry vermouth
Mix the ingredients, either in a cocktail shaker filled with ice or stir them together. Pour into a chilled martini glass.

Godiva Chocolate Martini Recipe

  • 3 oz Bailey's Irish cream liqueur
  • 2 oz freezing cold Goldenbarr chocolate vodka
  • 2 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur
  • 1 tablespoon white or dark chocolate shavings for garnish

Pour the vodka and liqueurs into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into two chilled martini glasses. Makes 2.


A martini bar is one of our tastier 21st birthday party ideas!
Lemon drop martini photo courtesy of waferboard

Lemon Drop Martini Recipe

  • 1 1/2 oz vodka
  • 3/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar syrup
  • lemon twist for garnish

Pour the vodka, lemon juice and sugar syrup into a shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

More 21st Birthday Party Ideas

Thoughts on Food

Finger food is a good choice if you're hosting a crowd. Nobody has to bother with buffet lines or cooking a sit-down dinner. If your party has a theme, select your foods with the theme in mind. Also, choose your food based on the formality of the party. I'd pick different foods for a fancy martini party than I would for a casual party with shooters and a keg of beer.

Some casual party food options to offset all that booze:

  • trays of sliders (mini hamburgers)
  • egg rolls
  • wraps cut into 1" slices (it's easy to add some vegetarian options here)
  • sushi
  • a veggie and cheese tray
  • wings
  • mini pizza bagels
  • bruschetta

21st Birthday Party Ideas for Cakes

Get a plain sheet cake and some frosting pens and have the guests write a personal note right on the cake. Make sure you get a picture before it gets cut! Personalized cupcakes with each guest's name and the date written on them are fun. Make a giant cupcake for the birthday girl or boy!

Another one of our tasty 21st birthday party ideas centers around an all-time party favorite: the chocolate fountain (you could also use a large fondue pot).

After you blow out the candles on a huge sponge or pound cake, cut the cake into bite-size pieces. Place them in a bowl next to the chocolate fountain with a cup of skewers and let them have at it. Add a bowl of strawberries into the mix and you have a really fun and repurposed birthday cake!

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