Writing up a drinks list for an event is an act that requires intelligence, intuition, experience and good ears. You have to please as many customers as possible and keep the organiser happy that they’ve delivered on budget whilst getting some warm gratitude after the event on a job well done. I always start by sitting down with a list of questions.
What is the celebration? What is the budget? Who’s paying – the boss or the worker? Is it fancy or is it casual? What is the duration? What are the expectations from the attendees and the organisers? What is going to work for the people attending? Is it at an existing licenced venue or is it off-site? What are the facilities regarding refrigeration, glassware and serving surfaces? What is the skill level of the team?
Whatever the event, most attendees will want a drink on arrival, so think about what that drink is going to be and how you are going to deliver it. Speed is of the essence. If it is a big function in the thousands, hand-pouring glasses of bubbles is going to take more time than glasses of still wine. If the event is more egalitarian and beer is on offer, a tinned product is faster to get out than pouring them from the tap. Coming into the warmer weather, think light and refreshing. Aperol spritz is still going to be big this year but keep in mind a variety of spritzes and cocktails.
If there are fewer people and the budget covers it, then real bubbles on arrival can kick off a night. An Instagram-worthy tower of coupettes, filled with Champagne, will make for a great gig. If champers is too much, an offer of Aussie sparkling, or even Italian prosecco, will impress a crowd. If the punters are paying, keep an eye on the price of the offer – no use stocking up on Champagne if no one is willing to hand over their card to pay for it.
You’ve also got to know your demographics. It’s amazing to think that a really large number of 18 – 25-year-olds are going no alcohol. Zero per cent. Zilch. So, if there’s going to be a large number of young adults, stock up on the non-alcoholic Italian sparkling, build a sexy zero-alcohol cocktail list, and they will be more willing to pay a little more – as long as it is a quality offer. So, garnish and make it look fun. Family events see couples keeping an eye on the cost of living but still wanting to treat themselves to some affordable luxury when it comes to wine. A good sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio or unwooded chardonnay will cover off the whites while red wine drinkers will love a trusty shiraz, cab sav or even a grenache or pinot noir. For spring and summer events don’t forget a good, nicely balanced rosé. It is also the time of the year when retirees are looking to book their functions. With age comes discernment and retired Australians have developed good palates so wines from recognised regions such as Clare, Barossa and the Mornington Peninsula are good for a drinks list. If it’s a canapé-style event, keep the drinks light and at the white wine end of the spectrum. For a traditional white meat/red meat alternate drops event, be sure to have at least one of each – white and red – on pour.
And if it’s a work function with blue-collar workers, talk to the organiser about putting on a few bubbles, a couple of different beers, perhaps a spirit and, depending on the function, two whites and two reds, plus soft drinks. And always, always, have water flowing freely.
appetiser. liquor expert
As seen in Spring 2023