Alcohol is one of the big expenses of most wedding receptions. In most areas, your guests will expect an open bar, and costs can rack up faster than you think.
Fortunately, your friendly former bartender is here to help.
Save on champagne... but not too much.
One of the most important things to know is that most mixed drinks do not need top-shelf alcohol. If you’re having a dry martini, in which only a tiny drop of vermouth (if any) is added, then, yes, you might want a high-quality gin or vodka. But if you’re having a drink with cola, juice, sour mix, or any other sweet flavor component, you’re pretty well obliterating the subtle flavors that a top-shelf liquor is supposed to offer. So don’t pay for them.
Of course, you don’t want to go bottom-of-the-barrel. Cheap alcohol can give your guests the unintended gift of a killer hangover – cheap champagne is particularly notorious for producing headaches that would fell an ox.
Ask your bartender or bar service what their “rail” brands are. The rail – also called the well – is the row of bottles right in front of the bartender, and they’re what he or she will grab to mix cocktails unless your guests request otherwise. You don’t want anything too awful in the rail, but you also don’t want your bartender pouring Maker’s Mark into every whiskey and cola.
If you’d like to offer an open bar but want to keep expenses down, one of your best strategies to control costs is to offer beer, wine, and one signature cocktail. Most bartenders will be happy to talk with you beforehand to concoct a new theme drink, but it’s just as nice to offer a drink that you and your groom have always loved, or to go with a classic favorite that’s coming back into vogue, like a sidecar.
You can also reduce your bar costs by having an early afternoon or morning wedding. Your guests won’t necessarily expect alcohol, and if they do have some, they’ll probably indulge a lot less. A brunch reception with champagne mimosas will make your guests feel elegant, cared for, and probably satisfied with just one.
Whatever you choose, a toast to you!
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