21st Birthday Party Ideas

photo of beers of the world for a 21st birthday party

We admit some of our 21st birthday party ideas are vodka-soaked, but hey, what did you want to do on your 21st birthday?

Whether you'll be drinking or not, we've got a lot of 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 Theme Ideas

  • martini bar (ask the guests to bring an unusual martini glass as a gift; the guest uses it all night and leaves it behind for the birthday boy/girl. This will make for a great set of martini glasses that will make him/her smile for years!)
  • casino/Las Vegas/Monaco/Monte Carlo night
  • beers of the world party
  • bonfire and BBQ
  • luau (great excuse for tropical drinks)
  • black and white formal affair (this calls for champagne)
  • spa party for the girls
  • pub crawl with hired limo
  • murder mystery party (this is a great choice if your party's not going to be alcohol-focused)
  • fiesta with a salsa bar and tapas (and margaritas by the pitcher)
  • favorite TV show (The Walking Dead, for example, or dare I say it, My Little Pony)
  • favorite (or fantasy) destination with local food and drink

A Signature Drink Makes It Special

If you'll be serving alcohol, it's a nice touch to have a signature drink that matches the theme of your party in some way. Cosmos or martinis for a casino theme (make it more interesting by using flavored vodkas or other more exotic ingredients), mulled wine or spiked coffee at a bonfire, an unusual variety of margaritas at a fiesta (have you tried a jalapeno cilantro margarita yet?), well, you get the idea. Use your imagination!

Shots...A 21st Birthday Party Idea That Never Disappoints

photo of a girl holding three jello shots

Jell-O shots are almost always a welcome addition to a 21st birthday party.

If you have a theme for your party, carry it into your shot menu by chilling your Jell-O in special ice cube trays or using cookie cutters that relate to your theme.

Here's a basic shot recipe just to give you a sense of the proper proportion of ingredients. 

Basic Vodka Jell-O Shots


  • 3 oz Jell-O (plain or any flavor you like)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup vodka, chilled (or other liquor)

Mix Jell-O with the boiling water in a large bowl and stir until completely dissolved. Add the cold water and vodka and mix well. Let the mixture cool slightly and then pour into rubber ice cube trays or onto a cookie sheet that have been coated lightly with cooking spray (makes it easier for the Jell-O to release from the mold or sheet). Refrigerate at least 4 hours or until set. Chilling overnight is best.  

Makes 16 1-oz shots.

If you want more alcoholic inspiration you might want to check out Jelly Shot Test Kitchen. We've followed the blog for some time now and the author finally put out a book with her own recipes. These shots are part luscious libation and part attention-grabbing table decoration. Come to think of it, this book would make a great 21st birthday gift!

Don't Forget Cake!

This idea works best with small to mid-size parties. Buy (or bake) a sheet cake and frost it smoothly with vanilla icing. Buy a bunch of frosting pens from a craft store and have the guests write their name or a personal note right on the cake. Don't forget to take a photo of the cake before you cut it! 

Another tasty idea -- get a chocolate fountain up and running (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 the pieces in a bowl next to the chocolate fountain or fondue pot with a cup of skewers and let your guests have at it. Add a bowl of strawberries and you have a fun and repurposed birthday cake!