Party Pointer: Ways to Save Money on Party Drinks

If you are planning a party, you are surely aware that serving alcohol is going to increase your costs substantially. But if you feel that beer, wine and spirits are appropriate beverages for your guests; then you can try some of these ways to save money on party drinks so you can stay within your party budget.

Think first before you start shopping:

What kind of party do you want to have? Consider first the type of party you want to have in terms of cost—breakfast, lunches and afternoon parties frequently have no alcohol served. Cocktail parties and many dinner parties feature alcohol. But evening dessert parties feature a limited number of liqueurs or dessert wines which is less expensive than a full bar.

Know your guests’ preferences. Are your guests light, moderate, or heavy drinkers? Are they primarily beer drinkers, wine lovers or do they prefer mixed drinks? This will help you make a choice of what to serve at your party.

Most guests will consume two drinks during the first hour of the party and one drink during each following hour. When planning an event serving wine, beer and spirits, the rule of thumb is that 50% will prefer wine, 30% will prefer beer, and 20% will prefer mixed drinks. If you do not plan to serve mixed drinks at your party, then plan on 60% of your guests drinking wine and 40% drinking beer.

Numbers matter. The size of your guest list will obviously affect your alcohol budget. If you want to offer more alcohol choices, you may want to limit the number of guests you invite.

Decide how long you are going to be serving drinks. The length of your event is important. Most of your guests will tend to taper off their consumption as the party progresses, but not all.

Consider having an open bar only for the first hour or two of the event; the bar does not to be open during dinner and you could offer dessert liqueurs or wines only afterwards. You can also stagger what you serve, choosing an open bar during cocktail hour, but switching to wine and beer during dinner.

Close an open bar an hour before your party is over. Guests can drink coffee and sober up before they have to drive.

Make a decision as to what to serve:

Serve non-alcoholic beverages only. You can jazz up the obvious water, tea, juices and soda with fun, specialty non-alcoholic drinks, such as frozen mocha, mock-tails and fruit smoothies or a non-alcoholic punch. Freeze flavored ice cubes from juices and pieces of fruit to make your water and teas more special, instead of buying soda or expensive beverages.

Serve only beer and wine. Limit the types of alcoholic beverages served to just wine and beer so you will not have to pay for more expensive liquor and mixtures. Your guests who want to drink alcohol will still have two options from which to choose.

Serve an alcoholic punch. It works for a crowd and can be portion-controlled via small punch cups. Also, depending on the recipe, you can use relatively inexpensive ingredients. But if you plan on adding a nice punch to the proceedings, don’t water it down with ice. Instead, freeze a batch of punch in ice cube trays or ring mold, and use it to keep your punch cold at the party.

Serve one or two signature drinks. If you really want to serve liquor at your party, consider serving only a special drink or two. You’ll limit the quantity of alcohol consumed, and you can use inexpensive mixers and less pricey brands of alcohol. Sharing your favorite drink choices with your guests helps them learn more about you.

With a signature cocktail, you can pre-mix the drinks so you can control the amount of alcohol, and of course, you won’t need a bartender. The glasses can be pre-decorated with sugar rims or fruit slices, and guests can then pour their pre-mixed cocktails.

Dress up your signature drinks with fun garnishes. Ask the bar manager at your venue to provide curled lemon and lime peels, orange slices or mini fruit kebabs on toothpicks, or prepare these yourself in advance. They add to the celebratory presentation, and your guests thinks you’ve spent more than you really have.

One way to serve these cocktails is to have a table set up with the main pre-mixed beverage and all of the extras that your guests might want to add. For example, a Bloody Mary, martini or margarita bar will be a treat for your guests and relatively easy and inexpensive for you to set up.

Create a beverage bar. A serve-yourself cocktail bar lets you control the amount of alcohol your guests consume if you provide dispensers with a variety of bases (for example, a raspberry lemonade vodka mixture). But provide your guests plenty of fruit garnishes and other fun mixers to create something unique and their own.

If your party is a casual one, an informal, serve-yourself bar setup is perfectly appropriate and saves on staffing. For example, set out a ladle and a big, wide-mouth glass container of homemade cherry limeade, and place vodka and beer on the side, or have a sangria station. Have a bucket of ice to hold wine and beer bottles.

Offer a full bar. You don’t have to serve every type of alcohol and mixer. Choose a few of the most popular. These can be combined with different ingredients to make several kinds of mixed drinks, and buying larger bottles of liquor or wine will save you some cash. The most popular spirits are vodka (normally 25% to 30% most requested), whiskey, rum, tequila, and gin.

Skip the champagne for any toasts. Guests can toast the guest of honor with the drinks they have in hand. Or you could serve less expensive sparkling wines like French cremant, Spanish cava or Italian prosecco or a champagne punch instead.

Next Friday, we have more money-saving tips for buying party drinks. Don’t miss these ways to spend less and enjoy more!

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