Hey everyone! It’s time for the second installment of my party planning adventure! Today we are going to talk about beverages. This can easily become the most expensive part of planning any party. There are a few tricks to keeping it within a budget while still making sure you offer something amazing to your guests. Here we are going to explore ways to plan your drink offerings, making sure everyone is included, and maybe even impress them a bit without breaking your bank.
The first thing you need to decide is: Are you going to serve alcohol at your party? This is a no-brainer for me because, in my opinion, it’s not a party without a little fun in a glass. For the purposes of this post, let’s say that yes. This is going to be a party with booze. Remember though, even if you are going dry for your gathering, all of these tips apply. Even when we are talking about non-alcoholic beverages, people drink some crazy stuff.
The key is to keep it interesting.
To BYOB or not to BYOB, that is the question.
A lot of people will say that asking your guests to BYOB is tacky. I call bullshit on that. My trick to BYOB is that I do plan to offer beverages at my party, but what I want to stay away from is having to buy a huge variety of things like beer and wine. With the craft beer trend right now, you would have to spend at least $100 just to stock the perfect selection of beer for your guests. Same thing with wine. Some like sweet, others dry. One person drinks white and 3 people drink red. It’s dizzying, not to mention all the open, half consumed bottles of wine you will have left over when this thing is done. I’m not sure even I could drink all the leftovers before they spoiled.
Basically, don’t jump down that rabbit hole.
My invitations usually state that basic cocktails, soft drinks, and juices will be served, and that craft beer is potluck. This works out for everyone because if they do not wish to bring something, they are assured there will be something here for them to enjoy and it sends the clear message to the beer snobs, that they should bring their favorite, and share it. Beer people love this, because not only does it give them a chance to turn other people on to their favorite micro-brew, but they know they may come and find a new one to try. Now you have saved yourself a ton of money and stress, and you have provided an activity for some of your guests, as well as a conversation topic. Two birds, one stone.
How to have something for EVERYONE on less than $75
If you are like me and keep a fairly well-stocked bar, this is not an issue in the least. Most people, however, do not keep a big variety of different drink components laying around, so here are a few tips on how to offer several different things, without spending a ton of cash.
If you don’t keep many spirits on hand, a safe bet is always vodka. Buy a large bottle of vodka, and a variety of mixers. This way you can offer several different options, and spend very little. Make sure you have quinine, soda water, a couple of different juices, and some lemon-lime soda on hand, as well as an assortment of fruit for garnish. Lemons, limes, and oranges should do it. A shopping list like this should cost you around $30 as long as you aren’t snobby about your vodka. There are several different vodkas out there that are cost effective and decent. Now you can offer a variety of drinks to suit almost any palate, and for 30 bucks, that’s not bad at all. If you want to take it a step further, add a middle of the road bottle of whiskey, and cola to that list and there is no way that you won’t have something for everyone.
I also usually buy a case of regular or light American beer to have on hand, and one bottle of red, and one bottle of white. There are several totally decent, neutral wines out there for under $10 a bottle.
Your mixer selection has taken care of most of your non-drinkers as well, but it’s always nice to brew a pot of coffee and keep some tea bags out as well, especially if it’s chilly out. If you are going to have tea, it’s handy to have an electric kettle so you don’t have to go and boil water for your guests if they decide they would like a cup.
Show off a little
I usually have one featured cocktail. For this fall party that I am currently planning, I will be serving a tea-based fall drink I created called The Equinox. You can find the recipe for this drink HERE.
If you want to add a flair to your gathering by featuring a cocktail, there are a few things to remember.
Keep your cocktail within your means. What I mean by this is, don’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff to make this drink that you will never use again. There are so many neat cocktails out there that don’t require any special items. Or, you can do what I do, and create your own! I have used some crazy things to make unique cocktails. Once, I dropped a few drops of red Mio (you know the stuff you add to your water) into a Screwdriver, rotated my glass a bit, and the Mio created these red swirls all through my drink. It was still just a Screwdriver, but it looked awesome. Be creative. Take the season into account. Create something tasty, and give it a great name that just screams YOU. Who cares if it’s just a Screwdriver with some Mio in it, your guests will be impressed, I guarantee it.
Cocktail Station/Bar Setup and Service
Next, we come to set up and service. This is going to vary a lot depending on your space, and personal preferences and what type of gathering you are having. The biggest question is really, ‘Are your guests going to serve themselves or are you going to bartend?’
I personally like to keep control of the bar. It makes for easier cleanup, and I know that things aren’t being wasted. It also gives me a bit more control if someone has had a few too many. I want my guests to have the best time, but, I also want them safe, and happy.
No matter what way you choose to go with this, you will need some sort of a drink station or bar set up somewhere.
If guests are serving themselves, make sure you have ice available, enough glassware or disposable cups out, as well as coasters/napkins, and stir sticks. This should be somewhere out of the way, and close enough to your icebox so that restocking isn’t an ordeal. If you have enough counter space in your kitchen great! If not, a folding table works well and you can set it up almost anywhere. cover it with a pretty (but disposable, because they WILL spill on it) cloth.
My station is in my kitchen. I always bartend my gatherings, and if you want to see my setup, you can find the DIY for my space-saving vertical bar HERE.
Lastly, let’s adult a bit. You are going to have a house full of people drinking. It’s pretty important that you yourself keep a level head. By all means, have fun with your guests, but it will ultimately be you who has to make sure that they are safe.
If you notice someone getting a little too happy, never feel bad about handing them a cup of coffee and helping them sober up a bit. If that fails, take their keys and either offer them a place to sleep it off for the night or call them a Taxi. The next day make it easy for them to retrieve their car by picking them up and bringing them back to it, or if you are married, maybe you and your spouse can take it to them, one of you following in your family vehicle, and then you can go out to breakfast or something together after the drop is made. How you do these things is irrelevant as long as you take care to do them. Your guests’ safety should be your primary concern when hosting a gathering where drinking is involved.
That concludes the beverage portion of our party planning multi-post. I hope you found some inspiration! The final post will cover Decor/Activities. If you have ideas to throw at me regarding this, feel free to contact me in the comment section, via the contact page or by clicking any of the social media buttons at the top of this page! If I use your ideas for my upcoming fall party, I will credit you in my post, and link to your blog or preferred social media account. I look forward to hearing from you!
Find the first post in this series, covering food HERE.
Thanks for reading!