On top of deciding what food you're going to serve, planning a dinner party also involves choosing the drinks you'll serve to your guests. Most often, this will involve selecting the right wines to complement your dishes, or if you're feeling modern and a little adventurous, choosing an array of high-quality craft beers.

But if you really want to open up a world of flavour possibilities, why not serve cocktails instead? This will not only allow you to get extra creative with taste combinations, it will really impress your guests. And with a little preparation and making the right choices, it doesn't need to be too much hard work, either. Here's an idea of a cocktail menu to complement your food menu.

Before dinner

An aperitif is a drink intended to stimulate the appetite before the meal, and when it comes to cocktails, the Negroni is quite possibly the most perfect aperitif there is.

It couldn't be easier to make: just pour one part gin, one part Campari and one part red vermouth into a tumbler over ice, and stir. Garnish it with orange peel or a wedge of orange and serve.

Because the components are in equal parts, it's easy to remember. This also makes it a breeze to put together in advance in larger quantities, storing it in a jar or bottle. That way, it's ready to serve over ice when your guests arrive, preferably with small bowls of nuts and olives.

Starter drinks

Starters are typically fairly light dishes, so you want a cocktail to match. Mix up a fresh citrusy champagne cocktail by putting a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of orange juice into a champagne flute with half a teaspoon of powdered sugar. Top up with your favourite sparkling wine and serve. You can put the juices in the glasses beforehand and keep them in the fridge, so all you need to do is pour in the wine and they're ready.

For the main course

If you're serving red meat, shake up four parts red wine, one part vodka, half a part lime juice, and half a teaspoon of powdered sugar. Pour into a glass with ice and top it up with soda water.

For chicken or fish, try a twist on the classic G&T. Just two parts gin and a generous squeeze of lemon or lime in a glass, plenty of ice, and topped up with tonic water. Garnish with rosemary for tasty herbal notes.

For dessert

The white Russian is almost a dessert in itself, and it's absolutely delicious. Fill a tumbler with ice and pour in two parts vodka, one part coffee liqueur, and one part fresh cream. Give it a good stir and send your guests to heaven.