How do I set up a bar for my party and how much alcohol should I buy? Are often the first questions a host will ask when they plan a gathering. This holiday season I decided to get ahead of these questions and offer some strategies, tips and ideas to help prepare a party bar for home entertaining.
Serving a cup of holiday cheer is only part of entertaining but should be as carefully planned as rest of the event.
Bar Set Up Tips:
- A surface space of 6 to 8 feet is about right for most party bars of less then 50 guests. Additional space for extra glasses or for a coffee set up may be needed for larger groups. If the bar will be attended by a server or bartender, it is good to have a 4 foot bar in front of the table for the server to work.
- Use black tablecloths on the bar tables, they hide wear and water better then any other color. The bar back tables should topped with a black plastic table cloth over the linen. This will keep the linens and wood tables from getting soaking wet from condensation from drinks on ice.
- A laminate surface is best for bar mixing and serving area. If you do not rent a laminated bar or have a comparable surface, use black plastic table cloth over linen on the work area.
- If not near a sink, have a bucket available at the bar for the bartender to throw away liquids and ice from drinks. Offer plenty of cocktail napkins and an accessible trash can.
- It is not necessary to fridge beverages ahead of time. Just arrange in tubs or ice chests and ice down only whats necessary just 1 to 2 hours before service.
- Place beverages in water tight tubs ﬁrst, then pour ice over the top. Drinks laid on top
of ice do not get chilled properly.
- Do not waste valuable icing tub space with bar mixers. The ice in drinks are enough to chill them.
Glass and Garnishes:
- Use an all-purpose nine to eleven ounce stemmed glass. An assortment of glasses is costly and unnecessary. The exception is a champagne ﬂute or coffee mug if serving champagne or coffee drinks. Stock 2 to 3 glasses per guest.
- Champagne must be served in a ﬂute-shaped glass to protect the effervescence that makes Champagne special.
- 1/4 each, lemons and limes per person and no more then two each other drink garnishes such as cherries, onions and olives per person.
- Remember ice, lemons, limes and other bar garnishes are food items Take care to follow safe food handling practices.
- Do not use glasses as ice scoops. Ice cannot be used if glass is broken in it.
For large groups:
- Ease long lines at the bar when guests arrive all at once, by having a table with trays of pre poured wine, Champagne or a special themed drink ready for pickup as guests arrive.
- Use shallow tubs set on a table for bottled or canned cold beverages. Place drinks standing up and tightly together before icing. This makes it easier for grasping.
- Two bartenders can pour more drinks by working together than by having two bars with one bartender each. For more help, have a bar back person who reﬁlls ice, beverages and glasses for the bartenders.
- Save wine and beer bottle boxes and put the bottles in the boxes instead of the trash. Easier than trying to lift a trash bag full of wine and beer bottles.
Serving drinks in warm weather
- Always serve your drinks in the coolest place possible. Keep additional bagged ice in a shady space that drains well and cover with a heavy blanket.
- Do not put glass punch bowls or serving containers in the sun. The heat coupled with the cold drink will make the glass crack and shatter.
- To ice down punch, iced tea or lemonade: freeze one gallon of the prepared beverage in a disposable cut away container or plastic bowl. Place frozen beverage block in serving container before serving. As the block melts it will not dilute the drink.
- On warm days make sure you offer plenty of non alcoholic beverages to keep guests from drinking alcohol because they are thirsty.
When deciding how many drinks to buy, consider the guests your inviting, the length of the event and your budget. If you know what your guests prefer to drink and what they don't care for, by all means adjust your shopping list accordingly. The average guest drinks 2 drinks the first hour and 1 drink per hour for the remaining time of the party. Guests will drink more in warm weather then cool, more in the evening then at a day time event and more on a Friday or Saturday event.
Suggested drink amounts to stock a full bar:
- For every eight guests allow one quart of alcohol plus wine, beer, soda and mixes.
- 50% Vodka, 30% Scotch/Bourbon, 10% Gin, 10% Tequila or Rum.
- Wine; One-half bottle per person. Pour is ﬁve to six ounces per glass.
- Beer; 1 to 2- 12 ounce can or bottle per person, 1/2 light.
- Mixes; One quart bottle for every eight people.
- Sodas; 2 to 3-12 ounce can per person, 1/2 diet.
- Mineral Waters; Two bottles for every eight people.
- Ice; One pound of ice per person for use in cocktails and to ice down drinks.
- Only serve Champagne if you can afford to serve a moderate quality Champagne or sparkling wine.