You want to focus on crowd-pleasers when throwing a big party. (Photo: Marianne, StockSnap)
It’s officially event season, and I’m seeing a steady stream of customers all day looking for advice on how to plan their alcohol menus for their fall soirees. It’s a tricky thing, especially for novices, and so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask the pros at a liquor store for their help.
Here are some of the most common questions I hear.
How much do I need?
Remember to consider your crowd before coming into the store so that an associate can help you answer this question better. If lots of folks are underage, morally opposed to drinking and/or have long drives ahead of them, they won’t be partaking. I usually recommend planning for each guest to have one drink per hour, but of course this formula varies based on what your event is and the makeup of your crowd.
What’s the best value?
Per ounce, a 1.75-liter (called a handle) container is your best value for a large shindig. Second-best is the 750-milliliter size. You don’t want to buy the liters that are designed for bars unless you have bartending blood in your veins, as they are generally the worst value per ounce in a spirits stores.
What alcohols do I buy?
Vodka and whiskey/bourbon are must-haves. Most folks are happy with these two choices, either straight or mixed with something else.
You also need one red and one white wine. You want to choose something middle-of-the-road of each to please the most people. A sales associate can help point you to good choices for wines. And if you have time to go to a wine tasting before the event, by all means, go.
You also want a couple of beers, one highly recognizable (like Michelob or Budweiser) and one a bit more adventurous. Anything beyond these few options is superfluous, but if you want more, base them on your and your close friends’ personal tastes so that you have no problems enjoying the leftovers.
How can I get a little adventurous?
If you want to elevate your party a hair in terms of drink offerings, I recommend buying a neutral spirit and infusing it. For example, buy a premium vodka and throw in a few vanilla beans or cracked coffee beans to create your own flavored liqueur. Citrus zest is another fantastic choice. These options are so much more flavorful (and less sugar-laden) than the preinfused options available on the shelves and will really impress your guests.
Who should I talk to?
Any reputable liquor store will have knowledgeable employees who can point you in the right direction and save you a ton of time in trying to research formulas, trends and recipes on your own. They also understand that you’re a busy person who probably hasn’t read the latest Wine Spectator and respect that your expertise is different from theirs, and are happy to impart what they know to help you out. Most reputable liquor stores will also be happy to let you taste things first so you know what to expect.
Finally, be honest when you’re talking to an associate about your budget and expectations. You don’t have to be willing to spend a fortune to offer a single-malt scotch or a champagne toast. We have recommendations that will accommodate almost any alcohol budget, and you don’t have to feel pressured to buy or spend more than you’re comfortable with just because you asked for our help. True professionals are skilled at finding the best fit for your wallet—because we want you to trust us and come back for us when your next event rolls around.