how to get 100 people suitably drunk
November 5, 2012 1:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm getting in married in December. Our venue has a fancy old-fashioned bar, but we have no bartender. Help me plan an awesome DIY bar!

Our wedding is pretty low-budget and DIY. There will be about 80-100 guests and I have no idea how to stock the bar.

One plan is to get a few beverage dispensers and premix huge batches of drinks (sangria, boozy punches? ), and guests would have a few options for drinks. Someone else suggested filling the beverage dispensers with non-alcoholic fancy drinks, and then having bottles of liquor for guests to add in themselves if they want. And yet another suggestion was to ditch the dispensers all together and just stock up with various bottles of booze and mixers and let everyone do whatever they want.

What specifically should we buy? What's the best way to do this without making it overly complicated/expensive? What am I not thinking of? Do you have any amazing sangria or cocktail recipes that would be perfect? Any other ideas for making this awesome?

Because the wedding is at night in winter, we also plan on having coffee and hot water for tea/cocoa available for everyone.
posted by logic vs love to Food & Drink (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
You should probably have someone who is 'working' at the bar to keep an eye on things, get rid of empty containers, suggest that Aunty Maude has had enough, fend off children, etc.
You should not let drunk guests mix their own drinks, because as you get more drunk you make stronger drinks, which causes problems. Also spillage.
How will you handle cups? Glasses, that will need to be washed as you go, as people misplace their drink or change from red wine to vodka+tonic? Disposable cups? Just have three or four cups on hand for every person and hope that that's enough?
posted by jacalata at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2012 [8 favorites]

I have a wonderful recipe for wedding punch. It looks beautiful, sounds vile, tastes delicious and will knock you on your ass if you're not careful.

1 can pineapple juice
1 can frozen lemonade
1 box white wine
3 bottles of champagne

You can freeze fruit in pineapple juice and use that to cool the punch. Then just let people at it.

At our wedding we had a full bar, but the drink that went over the best was Dulce De Leche Pina Coladas. I still hear about them. (Sorry the recipe's in Spanish, our reception was at a Cuban place.) I like parties where a special drink has been concocted for the occasion. I'll give you one, An Absolut Currant Sea Breeze.

Absolute Currant

Or add Orange and Pineapple and make it an Absolute Currant Madras. Whatever appeals.

Can be put in pitchers or dispensers, is delicious and fruity and you can call it a special name for your wedding.

I wouldn't go nuts with the bar. Go to Costco and get cans of soda, beer, two kinds of wine (one red, one white) and some cheap champagne to toast with. Cooks is fairly decent and around Christmas-time you can snag it for under $4 a bottle. Get a case. You won't be sad.

Decide on maybe two kinds of booze. One vodka, One rum. That should be enough to make most people happy. If you want something for warm drinks, Bailey's or Amaretto would be nice.

Another option is to make it a "BYOB" for anyone who wants a particular kind of liquor, with you supplying beer, soft drinks and wine.

Happy Wedding!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:47 PM on November 5, 2012 [7 favorites]

Have you confirmed that this is OK with the venue under their insurance and under local ordinances? I really don't think this would fly at a "public accomodation" in Boston, for instance. And for your own piece of mind--you don't want every kid getting drunk because you left the bar unattended.

I just got married in June. For our bar, the goal was to stock fewer items, but of higher quality. In the end, we had a nice rye (which we used in a Toronto, which I think would be a great cocktail for a winter wedding), Hendricks and Gordons gin (the latter is cheap, but I think an excellent London dry), a serviceable cava for sparking wine (Jaume Serra), Campari, Pimm's No. 1, and growlers of Pretty Things beers (plus maybe some Sam Adams). That, and some wines--a rioja and an Italian red. But no rum, no tequila, etc.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:49 PM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Not to be the fun police but you need to check up on liability and who is getting sued when one of your guests drunk-drives into a schoolbus. If your event is being covered under your venue's insurance they might not be cool with an open bar.
posted by ghharr at 1:52 PM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ooh, I was just at a fall wedding that had a serve-yourself cauldron of spiced apple cider. It was non-alcoholic, but you could easily serve spiked Winter Pimms or Buttered Rum too. Really great. (They also had punch bowls of lemonade and water out, in addition to a bar and bartender, which were really useful for staying hydrated without bothering the bar staff!)

From the expenses standpoint, portioning out the alcohol in pre-mixed drinks will probably keep the costs down and certainly cut down on the mess and waste.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:52 PM on November 5, 2012

You definitely do no want people making their own alcoholic drinks. Some will just stupidly make them too strong. A lot will drink too much. Someone will get drunk of their ass and do something stupid, then who's responsible? It's usually the bartender for letting them get too much. Here it will either be you or the venue.

Get a bartender. Even if it's a family member/someone who is at the wedding anyway who can handle it.
posted by theichibun at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2012 [6 favorites]

Nthing that you should check with the venue and/or local laws to ensure that allowing self-serve alcohol is OK. This may not be allowable by law (and, even if it is, the venue's insurance/liability may not allow it).

Even if the law is on your side, I'd still advise having a bartender for the reasons that jacalata has given.

If you're set on the idea of having no bartender, I would strongly recommend not having a full bar/mixed drinks. Canned/bottled beer, coolers, and single-serve premixed drinks (so that the size/strength of each drink is controlled) are all that I would recommend. Open wine on the tables during dinner should be fine, too, since that's usually the norm at most weddings regardless of the venue.
posted by asnider at 1:58 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was low budget and I was glad that I spent a bit of money to hire a friend of a friend. Even with a fairly graceful set of friends, I wouldn't want to set liquor out.

We actually didn't even have liquor though, except 1 hidden bottle of Turkey for my wife's dad. What did the bartender do? Opened wine bottles, opened beer bottles, and made sure it all ended up in a clear plastic cup (no glass allowed at the venue, and hey, my wife didn't really want beer cans visible in the wedding photos, and I can't really disagree too much). One less HUGE thing to think about.

My personal opinion is that out of a few different kinds of beer and one each of a big cheap white wine, and a big cheap red wine, everyone can find something they want to drink. I didn't feel that offering more would noticeably increase anyone's enjoyment. Just my $0.02.
posted by ftm at 2:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for input so far! This is definitely okay with the venue, so we're good there. I'd love to have a real bartender, but it's outside of our budget. If I knew any friends-of-friends I could hire, I would do so happily, but...I don't. And I really don't want to task one of my guests with a job like that. I wanted to have more just beer and wine, mostly because I don't really like beer or wine myself and I love fancy cocktails.
posted by logic vs love at 2:25 PM on November 5, 2012

There are people who will do it for tips.
posted by theichibun at 2:38 PM on November 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not going to comment on the liabilities issues (although I would take the issue very seriously and explore the issue of who is liable for what thoroughly).

There's a Poinsettia cocktail (champagne, cranberry juice plus vodka/Cointreau/Triple Sec that's very festive and would work as a punch-type drink to serve.
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 2:40 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

We had a large serve-yourself cocktail party a few years ago and it devolved as described above into people pretty much drinking liquor straight out of the bottles. It was a hell of a party but I really wouldn't recommend doing it at your wedding.
posted by fshgrl at 2:41 PM on November 5, 2012

I don't think that getting a bartender would have to be an expense ordeal. A few years ago, a friend of mine forwarded an email to me and several friends from his co-worker, asking if anyone was free to help pour wine and champagne at her upcoming wedding. I had no plans that night and I love weddings, so I happily agreed. I met the bride-to-be a week or two before the wedding so she could check me out, and then I just showed up at the reception venue a little bit before it was set to start. I just poured wine/champagne for people who wanted it and oversaw people taking the bottles of beer. I think I got paid $20 an hour or so. Maybe you could email your some friends (wedding party, co-workers, wedding guests) and family and ask them to forward your request for some help to their friends who might be interested?
posted by hefeweizen at 2:43 PM on November 5, 2012

> I'd love to have a real bartender

Years and years and years ago I let the Boston School of Bartending throw a party in my apartment, because they weren't allowed to use real alcohol in their classes and wanted the experience. I wonder if you could get in touch with some local bartending school and see if there's anybody who'd be willing to do it for tips?
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:47 PM on November 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Beer, wine, and premixed drinks sounds like a fun time to me. Definitely don't have any bottles of liquor available. That devolves very quickly. (I regret -- and I'm sure my venue regrets -- having tequila shots available to my wedding guests.)
posted by supercres at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2012 [5 favorites]

If you're going with the self-serve thing, I strongly recommend pre-mixing everything that isn't wine, champagne, or beer. By leaving guests to mix their own drinks, you're asking for trouble. (Believe me, there will always be trouble. And there will always be at least one person who goes overboard.) You don't want yet one more thing on your mind during your wedding! By pre-mixing, you're at least ensuring to some degree that the drinks aren't excessively strong.... although, let's face it, Uncle Ralph* will still drink himself under the table no matter what's available.

In any case, I'm not really a mixed-drink person, so I can't help with specifics, but I'm sure you'll get some good punch-like recipes from others. Congratulations, and have a wonderful wedding!

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.
posted by divisjm at 2:50 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Maybe an option for you is to put out a collection jar for the drinks - an "on their honor" sort of system. Make it some kind of "drink to our honeymoon" thing if you like. A small reminder/deterrent against abusing your generosity as hosts, and a way to recoup some expense.

I'd still recommend spreading the word to get someone to work for tips though. Just charging $1 for drinks does a lot for keeping waste down and keeping people under control, while still letting people get nicely drunk.

Go with a keg if you want to do beer - dealing with boxes of bottles/cans sucks, as does broken glass. You may be able to set up a nice tap too :) If you did a pre-mixed cocktail for self-serve, at least you could control the amount of alcohol in it, making sure it's not very strong.

Great cocktails are as much about presentation as flavor. For the self-serve option, the pre-mixed batch of cocktail in a serving vessel with a beautiful label could be elegant. Especially if you've got a clear vessel with garnish - oranges, cherries, herbs, etc. Use the plastic wine cups for drinking glasses - more elegant, small portions, and disposable. For something like cider, have cinnamon sticks available as garnish. For hot chocolate, have marshmallows.
posted by ergo at 2:54 PM on November 5, 2012

Response by poster: Okay, okay, you've all convinced me to call the sf bartending school and see if I can squeeze a real live professional bartender into our budget!
posted by logic vs love at 3:11 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Really, this is what punch was invented for. Read David Wondrich's book on the topic & see what you think.
posted by mr vino at 3:18 PM on November 5, 2012

BTW you might be able to get a bartender on the cheap if you allow them to accept tips.

Open the bar and let them seed a tip jar, usually the bartender could make a few hundred bucks this way as long as its an open bar I don't think this is a problem. When I tended bar at a Golf Club we frequently did this at weddings and what would usually end up happening is that people would throw a 20 or a 10 in at the end of the night and the bartender would make a few hundred (tax free) bucks at the end of the night.
posted by bitdamaged at 3:26 PM on November 5, 2012

I had an open bar, no tender at my wedding of 75 people. My family are hard liquor drinkers (irish) and my husband's side was all punk musicians in their twenties and we had liquor left over at then end of the night and had no problems with drunk driving etc. So I think it may strongly depend on your group. A bartender is definitely classier though.
posted by saucysault at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2012

I went to a wedding recently that only had a few different types of liquor and a few different mixers, but a really good variety and a list of suggested drinks.

I think they had one type: bourbon, scotch, vodka, gin, and then bitters, tonic, ginger ale, club soda, and maybe 1-2 other mixers. They also had champagne, one type of red wine, and one type of white wine. They probably had a couple beers, but I didn't pay attention.

The list of drinks had about five options: gin & tonic, manhattan, a named drink that was bourbon & ginger ale (my drink of choice), etc. The bartenders would also make anything they had the ingredients for, but it was nice to have some options suggested!
posted by insectosaurus at 3:38 PM on November 5, 2012

If you're doing a non-bartender bar, I'd make a spiked punch, have vodka and whiskey and some mixers (cranberry juice, soda, tonic and ginger ale or coke) and wine/beer. Too many choices will be expensive and will make more of a mess. A wedding doesn't have to have a full bar with every option.

If you don't have a bartender, you will have to give a couple of your guests the job of cleaning up, replenishing ice, replenishing punch, etc. A totally unattended bar will be a mega-mess.

Do look into a liability policy that includes booze. Really. If there is an accident, you want to be protected. Period.
posted by quince at 3:52 PM on November 5, 2012

A totally unattended bar will be a mega-mess.

I agree 100%. Even if you go with beverage dispensers and bottled beer, you should hire a college kid to run around and clear away the garbage as the night wears on.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

My friends did a DIY bar, even constructing the bar themselves, and with guests bringing booze. They got their closer circle of friends to keep bar for 30minutes at a time in pairs, no-one else to go behind the bar. This enabled portion control, stopped more juvenile guests from wasting and getting wasted on free vodka and kept the bar a bit tidier than it would otherwise have been - 100 people fixing their own drinks would rapidly become a big mess.

One odd thing, while we got through a lot of spirits we barely got through any red wine, someone told me after that apparently this is a thing at weddings.
posted by biffa at 11:14 PM on November 5, 2012

What about contacting a wedding planner and asking for only a bartender recommendation or service. Might be a little pricey but safe and frankly you do not want liability issues
posted by pakora1 at 8:54 AM on November 6, 2012

« Older Emirates experience anyone?   |   Custom Celtic Jewellery For Christmas Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.