Friday, October 17, 2008

Entertaining Q & A: Drinks, Bar, Glassware, Hors d'oeuvres

How to calculculate how big a tent you'll need for the number of guests you'll have at a garden wedding with outdoor reception.

Allow one square metre (12 square feet) per person inside your yard and/or marquee. This figure also includes room for tables. For example, if you are having 100 guests, you will need a marquee measuring 9 x 12 metres (30 x 40 feet). Allow extra space in the marquee for the caterer to set up his serving table and/or buffet tables. There should be at least one buffet table for each 75 guests.

How to know how many drinks you'll need.

For an average cocktail party of three hours' duration, allocate an average of three drinks per person. Allow three to four drinks for a buffet or dinner of about four hours in length. For an all-evening party of about five or six hours, figure on four drinks per guest.

How many servings you'll get out of a bottle of wine, champagne or liquor, and how to calculate how many bottles of each kind of beverage you'll need for a party or wedding reception.

To calculate the number of bottles you'll need, first give your best guess as to what your guests will prefer. For instance, will most likely prefer wine or most drink hard liquor? Or do you predict an equal mix of wine drinkers hard liquor drinkers and beer drinkers along with a few non-drinkers?

Then start counting:

  • The average bottle of wine (26 oz./750 mL) yields 5 servings.
  • The average bottle of champagne will yield 6 flute glasses.
  • A case of champagne will yield 72 servings.
  • A 26 oz. (750 mL) bottle of spirits yields 17 servings of 1 1/2 oz. (45 mL) each.
  • A 40 oz. (1.14 L) bottle of spirits yields 25 servings.
  • Have on hand three bottles of mix for every bottle of spirits.

Before writing up your shopping list, fine tune your guesses. For instance, you might know that more of your guests prefer red wine over white, or that the majority of your older guests will predictably choose either rye or vodka.

Note: always order liquor with a generous hand. Unopened bottles can be returned in most jurisdictions.

What you'll need to set up a bar for a cocktail party.

  • Allow at least 11 lbs. (5 kg) of ice cubes per 10 adults.
  • For mix and as a simple refreshment, have on hand bottles of soda water, cola, ginger ale, lemon-lime soft drinks, tonic water, bitter lemon, tomato juice, clam-tomato juice or vegetable cocktail, orange juice, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice and a variety of diet soft drinks and still and bubbly waters.
  • For mixing cocktails, you'll need to have on hand at least Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, salt, pepper, sugar, celery sticks and maraschino cherries. If you want to serve fancy cocktails, refer to a cocktail recipe book for a complete list of ingredients.
  • For garnishes, you'll need olives, cocktail onions and sliced oranges and lemons.
  • For tools, be sure to have something in which to store ice cubes close at hand (such as an ice bucket), a corkscrew, a bottle opener, a can opener, ice tongs, shot glasses for measuring servings, a small sharp knife and cutting board, a long-handled spoon for mixing drinks, cocktail napkins, toothpicks or cocktail picks and straws.
  • For fancy cocktails, you'll need other tools, including a cocktail shaker. Refer to a cocktail recipe book for the correct tools needed for the desired drinks.

How to figure out how much of which kind(s) of glassware you'll need for the average cocktail party or wedding reception.

For a wedding reception, you'll have the bases covered if you have just three kinds of glasses: a multipurpose wine glass, a tall tumbler for all mixed drinks and flutes for champagne. Order at least one of each glass for every guest and a few extras, then order additional tumblers for those thirsty guest who will want nonalcoholic beverages after drinking alcoholic ones.

For a cocktail party, have on hand the above glassware types in the above proportions, and then add fancy cocktail glasses at your discretion. Consider offering one "specialty" cocktail as a focus of the evening, such as margaritas or martinis. This simplifies your hosting tasks immensely. If you want to offer a complete range of cocktails, seriously consider hiring a professional bartender.

How to calculate how much and what kinds of wine you'll need to throw a wine-tasting party.

This is a good occasion to seek the advice of a professional wine merchant. You'll want to treat your guests to an intriguing taste experience. A pro can not only offer you a well-balanced selection of choices, but point out wines that are making news and are appropriate for the season. He/she will also be able to suggest foods to serve with the wines. In general, for a party of eight guests or more, start with a selection of five wines: two reds, two whites and one dessert wine. Display the white wines in ice buckets. Pour each red into its own decanter, if possible, to lend a little mystery to the wines, as well as to enhance their flavors and aromas. The average bottle of wine (26 oz./750 mL) yields 5 servings.

How to calculate how many hors d'oeuvres per guest.

Determining how many hors d'oeuvres you'll need depends on what kind of hors d'oeuvres you want to serve and the anticipated duration of the party. Serving a good variety of choices is always more appealing for guests. If you are planning a two-hour cocktail party, consider about eight different choices. Then allocate three pieces of each type for each guest. If your hors d'oeuvres are pretty substantial, you can consider reducing the portion per guest to two pieces of each kind.

How to plan how long a cocktail party should be.

Cocktail parties are a good option when you want to entertain guests just prior to another event (such as a sports or theatrical event), or when you want to celebrate informally for a limited period of time (for example, when announcing your engagement to a small gathering on a weeknight, perhaps followed by dinner at a restaurant). The average cocktail party lasts between two and three hours. Any cocktail party longer than that dictates your serving something more substantial than appetizers later in the evening. If your invitation is open-ended, with no stated finishing time, then guests will expect dinner or an equivalent kind of meal. If the party is slated for a weeknight, the starting time should be calculated to allow enough time for guests to leave work and travel to your party.

Recently, more couples have been considering an elegant cocktail party for their wedding reception instead of the traditional dinner-dance, in order to have the maximum amount of time to mingle with guests. This option only works if the wedding reception is informal and is scheduled in the middle of the afternoon, when it is too early to serve a supper and too late to serve a lunch. If guests have traveled some distance to attend the wedding and are also looking forward to spending a good portion of time celebrating, couples wanting the ambiance of a cocktail party should consider an early evening cocktail party followed by a buffet with various food stations, which allows the couple to mingle throughout the dinner hour as well.

When to call back guests who haven't yet responded to your R.S.V.P.

It is perfectly correct to call guests who haven't responded to a wedding invitation to find out whether or not they will be attending. Start calling about two weeks before the wedding, a few days prior to your caterer's deadline (usually a week to ten days before the event) for confirming the final number of guests to be served dinner, to give yourself enough time to track down those would-be guests.

How to know how much punch to make.

A typical punch recipe incorporating one bottle of spirits and 12 cups (3 litres) of mix/juice will yield 30 servings. Allocate 1.5 servings of punch per person.

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