When you're invited to a cocktail party, do you expect cocktails (liquor) to be served? We went to one recently where beer and wine only were served. My feeling is that it is OK to not serve liquor but please don't put "Cocktail Party" on the invitation. I'm sure you'll let me know if I'm wrong. Cheers!
I think a lot of people consider a "cocktail party" to be any early-evening mingling event with some drinks and finger foods. Personally I'd also like to have a cocktail at such a party, but I wouldn't be surprised to be offered only wine or maybe wine and beer.
Having thrown cocktail parties where the preparation was immense including juicing lime, lemon, orange, and grapefruit, getting ice, and the like, and being stuck behind the bar making drinks for 3-4 hours of the night, I don't blame people. Although I wouldn't call a non-cocktail party a cocktail party. I do understand the implications of a booze-forward, dress up event regardless of what is served. Sort of how I expect "cocktail hour" at a wedding or other to have nothing close to a cocktail being served (highballs, spirits neat or on ice, beer, and wine).