"The only reason for a cocktail party

"For a gluttonous old woman like me

Is really nice tidbit. I can drink at home." The Cocktail Party, T.S. Eliot

A generation brought up on white-wine spritzers, on kir or Campari, on "I'll have a gin and tonic, only don't put in the gin" has probably never been to a real cocktail party where the drinks have names like burlesque queens and a bartender makes rackety noises with a cocktail shaker (a once-common item now found mostly in stores specializing in art deco).

Today, drinks from the cocktail age sound both quaint and mysterious: The Rusty Nail, the Pink Lady, the Negroni, the Old Fashioned. Only the martini has made it into the '80s.

A true cocktail party, as well as serving cocktails, is usually held between 5 and 7 p.m., and contains a great many people chattering aimlessly, a relief after a year of presidential campaigns. It should also, as the gluttonous old woman remarked, be well supplied with tidbits. Crabmeat puffs, cheesestraws, small canapes hot out of the oven. The drinker of hard liquor can not survive on bowls of crisp vegetables.

Practice making some of the following drinks (or hire a bartender), buy some big-band records for background music and then invite far too many people to come for cocktails. The Negroni

Mix together in a cocktail shaker, or a pitcher filled with ice, one ounce of gin, one ounce of sweet Italian vermouth and one ounce of Campari. When cold, strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with an orange slice. The Old Fashioned

In the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, place 1/2 lump of sugar, a drop of cold water, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Crush the sugar with the back of a spoon until it is completely dissolved. Add two or three ice cubes, three ounces of bourbon or scotch and stir well. Twist a lemon peel into the drink and add it, a slice of orange and a maraschino cherry. (You will notice the tendency of cocktails to resemble fruitcups.) The Pink Lady

Combine 1/2 ounce of fresh lemon juice, one teaspoon of grenadine, one egg white, a dash of whipping cream and 2 1/2 ounces of gin in a cocktail shaker. Add three or four ice cubes and shake until chilled. (In the absence of a proper shaker, you could use the container from your blender, or a large Mason jar, though they lack a certain elegance.) Strain the drink into chilled cocktail glasses.