How to stock an open-bar reception

October 23, 2020Lauren Windle

You have your event date set, have planned your theme and your menu. What’s the next detail to work out?

What to serve at your open bar – and how much of it. Having a good bar set up with the right products makes for a better party, pure and simple.

There are a few rules of thumb, according to seasoned catering bartenders, although, says one, “You never know for sure what people will drink at any given event. It depends on the age of the crowd, the time of year, and frankly, the brands of the liquor you stock.”

At Jacquie’s Gourmet Catering, we agree. We’ve learned that what people ask for at the bar depends on the season and the temperature. Outdoor summer event? More light beer and white wine. Probably lots of vodka tonics as well.

Fall or winter event? Offer more hearty red wines, more scotch, and definitely more bourbon – which is really trending right now.

In general, younger crowds will drink more beer and less wine. Older crowds will drink more wine and scotch.

Interestingly, younger and older groups drink just about as much vodka. And gin, which had been quite trendy the past several years, has tapered off in popularity. Bourbon is the new favorite, with many folks looking for popular (and pricey) brands.

Not sure what your crowd will want? Try offering a couple of signature cocktails, tied by name or type of liquor to your event. For example, at a wedding reception, name a cocktail after the honeymoon destination. At a business event, name a signature cocktail after the
CEO or your brand in a creative way. Guests will love it. And you can also cut down on how much other liquor you have available at the bar.

Jacquie recommends:

  • For every 100 guests, allow 4 hours of open bar.
  • More than 100 guests? It’s a good idea to add another bar. You don’t want long waits in line at one bar. You want happy guests making multiple trips, quickly and conveniently getting their drink of choice.

With all that in mind, how can you plan what to serve?

!Here is what our bartenders stock for every 100 people (assuming the bar is open for 4 hours):

  • Wine – 24 bottles

12 bottles or red (more during cooler months)

12 bottles of white (more during summer months)

  • Beer – 6 cases

4 cases of light domestic

1 case of craft domestic (more if your crowd is under 40)

1 case of imported

  • Liquor

10 liters of vodka

4 liters bourbon – it’s very popular right now

2 liters scotch

4 liters of tequila

2 liters of rum

1 liter of gin

Mixers & Garnishes are key to lots of mixed drinks. Here’s what we always have on hand per 100 guests:

  • 36 Cokes
  • 24 diet colas
  • 12 Sprite/7-ups
  • 12 Tonics
  • 12 Ginger ales
  • 12 Club sodas
  • Sweet vermouth
  • Dry vermouth
  • Triple sec
  • Orange juice
  • Grenadine
  • Cranberry juice

One more pro tip -- Planning how bar traffic flows at an event is very important too. Nobody wants to push past people ordering a drink or leaving with one while running into traffic from the restroom.


© 2024 Jacquie's Gourmet Catering. All Rights Reserved.
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