Island Cooking

Ultimate Guide to Beverages for Your Summer Fete

• by Jenny Benzie, Advanced Sommelier & Proprietress of Épernay Wine & Spirits

Nantucket is full of parties all summer long. Whether fundraising events, small dinner parties, or your annual gathering to thank everyone who has extended courtesies to you throughout the year, there is always a reason to get together on this island. Once the caterer is booked and the guests are invited, it is time to plan which drinks you will serve. With these quick and easy tips, that process will be a breeze. Grab a glass of Miraval Rosé (maybe a Whales’ Tale or Triple Eight Bloody Mary, whatever your choice) and let’s get started.

How much will my guests drink? Start by assuming that most attendees will have two drinks during the first hour of the party (since everyone needs to get comfortable and loosen up a bit), and one drink for each hour after that. It may sound like a lot at first, but keep in mind this will eventually balance out for the people who only have one drink throughout the entire event. Besides, most people at parties on Nantucket don’t have to drive anywhere when the party is over. In fact, they may even continue the party until long after you have gone to bed.

On average, about half of your guests will prefer vino. It is safe to wager that the other half is split evenly between beer and cocktail drinkers. This ratio takes into account a person who starts with a Dark and Stormy, then moves on to Whispering Angel Rosé, or vice versa. If you do not plan to serve hard alcohol, then you should budget for more wine drinkers (70%) than beer drinkers (30%).

Here’s a simple formula to figure out how much of each libation you would need. A = number of guests and B = guesstimated drinks required per guest (based on length of the party).

Wine: A x B x 0.5 (this is that 50% of people will have wine) / 5 (as in five glasses of wine per bottle) = number of wine bottles needed. This would account for a glass of wine that is approximately 5 ounces. A standard case of wine holds 12 bottles.

Beer: A x B x 0.25 (as in 25% of the people will have beer) = number of 12 oz. beer servings. Beer typically comes in a 6 pack, with a case being four 6 packs.

Spirits: A x B x 0.25 (again as in 25% of the people will have liquor) / 20 (as in 20 drinks per liter bottle) = number of liter bottles needed. Liters are a better value than a 750 ml bottle for liquor and more manageable than a handle (1.75L).

This is just a guideline to get you started. Remember, these formulas can be adjusted and you know if your crowd prefers one type of beverage to another. Now that you have an idea how much of each beverage you will need, let’s narrow it down from here.

What kind of wine will they drink? There are several factors to consider when determining which wines and how much you need each of white, red, sparkling and don’t forget the pink (aka Nantucket Reds Juice). When making your wine selections, consider the time of day you are hosting, the food served, duration, and the overall theme. This is where a sommelier can come in handy. In hiring a caterer, you may have gotten a recommendation from a friend or colleague. Most likely you have tasted their food before and know that you like it. If not, many caterers offer you a food tasting to ensure that the food served at your event is on par with your preferences. Wine selecting should be the same type of experience. There are a number of wine professionals on the island who can help you decide which beverages will best fit your fete. Your wine pro can also offer sound advice on what temperature the wine should be served, whether it should be decanted, hints on proper glassware usage, and serving tips to maximize your guests’ enjoyment.

As for beer and liquor options, many people find that they like to stick to their standards. But don’t be afraid to sample a six-pack to try some new specialty beers or create a signature drink for your party. These are small touches that guests will be sure to talk about and appreciate. Also be sure to have some sparkling water on hand for any designated drivers in the bunch.

Concerned that you may purchase too much alcohol for your event? With these handy formulas, you should feel confident that you have done your due diligence. Besides, this is the one time that you won’t overpay for something that you didn’t use. Also, it is possible that you’ll be able to return any unused items that are unopened and undamaged (i.e. label still in good shape and products not exposed to heat).

What this means for you is that once you have done all your homework, you are actually able to relax and enjoy your party. Whether a lobster bake at 40th Pole, your daughter’s wedding at the Sconset Casino, or a wine tasting dinner in your home in Madaket, you will feel at ease that you have followed these quick and easy guidelines to perfectly provision the beverages at your event.

Articles by Date from 2012