There are a lot of ways you can set up the bar for your wedding or event. If you haven’t hosted large events before, it can seem overwhelming to decide! How much alcohol will you need? Should you serve only beer and wine, or spirits too? What about signature cocktails?
Getting the right balance of the type of alcohol and the amount of alcohol is key.
To help you plan your perfect bar menu, we’ve put together the most common questions we get asked by our clients, along with some of the biggest do’s and don’ts that we’ve seen.
Question #1 – How much alcohol do I need?
This is hands down the most common question we get asked. You don’t want to run out, and you also don’t want to end up with cases of wine leftover. To ensure our clients have just the right amount and stay within their budget, we use a simple guest to alcohol ratio.
First, take the number of guests at the event, and multiply by the number of hours of bar service. You will do this for up to a maximum of 4 hours.
Our rule of thumb is to plan for no more than 4 drinks per person during an evening. This helps to ensure everyone is safe and responsible, and that you have the right amount of alcohol. Let’s take a 100-person wedding as an example that has a total of 6 hours of bar service. Even though the bar is open for 6 hours, we will multiply our number of drinks by 4. In this case, you would need 400 drinks. Then, depending on the type of drinks you will be serving, we can determine the exact amount to purchase.
Question #2: What type of alcohol to serve?
This is a big one, and there are a lot of options to consider! We have a few common ratios to help guide you, but the most important thing to take into consideration is your guests. You know them the best – are they strictly beer drinkers? Or will they have an occasional cocktail? This can help you decide whether to offer simply a beer and wine selection or to add in spirits, and the relative amounts of each.
If you aren’t sure of your guests’ preferences, here are a few common ratios: For beer and wine, we suggest 60% wine and 40% beer. If you will also be serving spirits, we suggest 30% spirits, 30% beer, and 40% wine.
Question #3: How much variety?
A lof our clients worry about offering a wide-enough variety for their guests and “having something for everyone”. While it’s important to offer a mix of options, offering too many is one of the biggest mistakes you can make! The goal is to offer a selected group of alcohol that your guests can enjoy. Too many options will only end up backfiring.
Imagine that you open your fridge and you have 20 different types of beer, 10 varietals of wine, and the makings for 8 cocktails. How will you ever choose?? You will be standing there all night making up your mind!
That’s exactly how option-overload can feel for your guests. This can lead to long bar lines, frustrated guests, and a frazzled bartender.
To avoid this common mistake, follow these guidelines to determine the variety within each alcohol type.
Offer at least a white and a red wine, and perhaps a rose. Then, provide a maximum of two different types of each.
It’s easy to over-buy on beer, especially in Washington where we have an amazing selection of local beer. But, this is not the time for variety packs. Here’s what we suggest:
- For kegs: provide two different types of beer
- For bottles and cans: provide no more than four types of beer.
Another important note is that serving beer in kegs takes four times as long as bottles or cans. If you really want to keep your bar line moving, you may want to stick with bottles and cans.
If you are going to include spirits on the menu, simplicity is key. We suggest a maximum of two cocktail options. This will help your guests avoid decision stress, and allow the bartender to efficiently serve your entire event.
Question #4: What type of cocktails to serve?
Specialty drinks can be a lot of fun, and there are so many directions you can go in! As with the rest of your bar menu, having a couple of select options for your guests is more than enough. Batch drinks that are non-carbonated are a great option because they can be prepped in advance. Some of our favorites are margaritas, Moscow Mules, and mixed drinks such as whiskey and coke. Keep it simple!
Question #5: How many bartenders do you need?
The number of bartenders needed will increase with your number of guests and the complexity of your bar menu. One bartender can effectively serve about 100 guests if you are only serving beer and wine. As your guest list grows to over 100, think about adding a second bartender. If you are also serving spirits, you will want a second bartender if you have more than 75 guests.
As bartenders, our number one goal is to make sure your guests have a fun, safe, and enjoyable experience! Keeping your bar menu simple is the number one piece of advice that we hope you follow.
For more ideas, check out our sample bar menu below. What would you include on your perfect bar menu? Let us know!