So you want to throw a party? here’s where to start
FIVE POINTS BOTTLE SHOP is the place to shop when you are planning your next party. Whether you are hosting an intimate gathering of friends, an office Christmas party, a raucous tailgating party or an elegant wedding reception, we’ve got you covered.
To help with the planning, we got this party guide so YOU can focus on the FUN.
Throwing a party can be as easy as inviting a few friends over to share a couple of bottles of wine or as elaborate as a black-tie event. Yet the success of your party is not dependent on its’ budget or size, but more the planning that took place to ensure that your guests have a good time.
How much is Enough?
Nothing brings a party to a close like running out of booze. At minimum, you can count on one drink per guest per hour. Most people tend to drink less at afternoon receptions than they do during evening functions. However, you will want to be generous with your estimates so that you have an adequate supply and don’t run short. Most people drink more with food, so if you are having a sit-down dinner, calculate two drinks per guest per hour to be on the safe side. One alcoholic drink is equivalent to one bottle of beer, five ounces of wine or two ounces of spirits or liqueurs. However, there are some questions you should consider before stocking your bar.
What to Serve?
The type of celebration, the number of guests and your budget determine the ideal mix. Take into consideration the drink preferences of your guests: Are they most likely to drink wine, spirits or non-alcoholic beverages? Even those drinking alcohol will want to pace themselves with some non-alcoholic beverages such as sparkling water and fruit juice. You might also offer a non-alcoholic punch and soft drinks for any non-drinkers.
The right drinks can personalize your celebration. Serving wines from one country or vintage can give your party a more interesting festive theme. At large gatherings, a magnum of Champagne or wine is visually dramatic on the table, because at 1.5 liters it is twice the size of the standard 750 mL bottle. Magnums also make toasts feel more communal with everyone taking a glass from the same bottle.
Offering a fruit punch or mulled cider before the meal will cost less than a full bar and will stretch the alcohol further. At a party held at a resort or other rented space, ask if you can purchase your own wines and pay a corkage fee for the staff to open and serve the wine.
Stocking the Bar
If you’re planning a cocktail party, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out just what you need to stock your bar. For a basic cocktail party, why not provide the “speed rail” essentials–the most popular spirits that professional bartenders keep out front–which are gin, vodka, rum (both gold and white), tequila and triple sec. You can please several generations at a time by offering retro favorites such as Martinis, Manhattans, Cosmopolitans and Sidecars. Also have on hand a “house pour,” the drink you default to for guests without a preference. It’s a good idea to consider stocking about twice as much of this drink as the others. With beer, stock an equal mix of domestic, imported and light labels. For the quintessential bar set-up, check out our FAQ.
The Wine Selection
Many people now serve wine for all occasions, whether it is sparkling, red or white. Sparkling wine or Champagne works well at receptions, for toasts and throughout a meal. A 750 mL bottle will give you five generous flute glass servings. To determine the mix of red and white wine, go with an even split if you are not sure which your guests prefer. You will get five glasses of wine from a 750 mL bottle. For festive winter gatherings, serve full-bodied white wines such as buttery, toasty Chardonnay from California or Australia. Zesty, acidic whites with lots of fruit stand up to hot, spicy hors d’oeuvres and go well with cheeses. Try Canadian and German Rieslings or New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Full-bodied red wines such as New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Australian Shiraz and Italian Barolos and Amarones go well with the hearty flavors of holiday meals.
If you’re the host, open wine that guests bring to your party, even if it doesn’t ideally suit your meal. Unless it’s meant to be a cellar gift, selecting the wine to open for a particular time during the evening, and even fussing over it, will make your guest feel appreciated. Although opinions differ on this issue, not opening a guest’s wine can signal that either the wine is so bad that you don’t want to drink it or so good that you don’t want to share it. Further, your guest may be eager to share the bottle with you.
After Dinner Sipping
To make after-dinner sipping special, serve an array of herbal teas and blends of coffee along with a selection of several liqueurs, such as Bailey’s Irish Cream, Tia Maria Drambuie, Grand Marnier and Anisette. The standard sizes of these will suffice, especially since these are generally after dinner drinks and not consumed throughout the evening. You may also want to splurge on a bottle of Cognac, brandy and Port. Sweet wines, such as late harvest wines, Sauternes from France or Canadian Icewines, will match the sweetness in your desserts or even serve as a dessert in itself.
The selection of Glassware
For most celebrations, you can serve all drinks in three types of glasses: Champagne flute, wine glass and an all-purpose highball glass for mixed drinks. Rent or buy twice the number of glasses as you have guests to allow for breakage and for guests requesting new glasses for a different drink. For cocktail receptions, you may want more elaborate glassware since it can make a difference to the presentation, taste and serving size of the drink. Add tumblers, brandy snifters, and martini, old-fashioned or shot glasses.
To avoid congestion in one area and to keep the guests mixing, consider setting up drink stations around your home, the hall or resort where you are entertaining. One station may be an open ice cooler filled with soft drinks and sparkling waters. Another may be a table where guests can fill their own punch glasses. White wine can be left in Champagne ice buckets in various places. Your cocktail station can be located in another area.
If you have servers, ask them to circulate the party with trays of sparkling water and nonalcoholic drinks periodically. Your guests will consume less alcohol if they are also drinking non-alcoholic drinks. You may also want to instruct your servers not to automatically fill everyone’s glass after the first glass or two, but instead do so upon the guest’s request (of course, the servers should be accessible for this).
Whew! That’s a lot of information. But, don’t fret. At FIVE POINTS BOTTLE SHOP, we are ready to help you every step of the way.
Tips & Tricks
Having been Athens go-to bottle shop for many years, we’ve learned quite a few tricks of the trade. Here are a few of our pearls of wisdom…
First, the old adage of white wine being more popular than red wine has changed. People today are drinking as much, if not more, red wine at parties as they are white wine. Of course, you need to consider the time of day of the event, what food you’re serving and the climate of the party setting. We like to plan equal amounts of white and red wine, unless there is some significant factor that would skew the ratio such as a Sunday Brunch party or a warm weather, poolside affair.
Stock up on plenty of ice. You’ll need it for chilling bottles of wine or Champagne as well as serving drinks on the rocks. A good rule of thumb is to have 1-pound of ice per guest.
Be prepared with an assortment of glass styles to cover the type of drinks you plan to serve. These include: good quality wine glasses (rent them if you have to); straight-sided highball glasses for tall drinks; tumblers for spirits and juices; and martini glasses.
Have twice as many glasses on hand as you have guests.
Chill your cocktail glasses in the refrigerator before serving.
Don’t forget to stock up on mixers including: fruit juices (orange, grapefruit, cranberry & pineapple), club soda, tonic, ginger ale, cola, tomato juice & plenty of lemons and limes. You may need to add other items, depending on the types of cocktails that you choose to serve.
Fresh fruit juice makes a drink taste much better. Stock your bar with plenty of fresh fruit juices, soft drinks, mixers, seasonings and garnishes to make your cocktails a little extra special.
If you’re serving wine, uncork a few bottles of each offering in advance. It will not only save you time when your guests arrive, but help you to identify if any of the wine is ‘corked’ or off. Decant the red wine, especially if it is ‘big’ and needs some time to open up.
Consider hiring a bartender to mix the drinks for your party. It will allow you more time to socialize with your guests. Many caterers also offer bartending services.As party supplies go, bottled spirits will probably be your greatest expense (unless you raid the wine cellar). Our advice is to buy the very best spirits that your budget will permit. Your guests will recognize & appreciate your effort.
When adding an olive to a cocktail, always pierce it with a toothpick and use cherries with stems. Your guests will appreciate the convenience.
Use a high quality sweet and sour mix.
Add 1 ounce per serving of Rose’s Lime Juice to your favorite margarita recipe.
Have coffee available for any guests that may need a little assistance at the end of the party. Also, keep the number of a local taxi company handy. Friends don’t let friends drive drunk. Remember, you want all of your guests to make it home safe & sound.