Keep costs, waste and work down by setting up beverage stations that require very minimal attention.
Here is how to set up a DIY beverage station
It is always best if you can serve drinks or have a friend play bartender for a little while to make sure guests have what they need and feel welcome. Sometimes that is not an option or you need to step away for a few moments. Here is the best way to create a self-serve beverage station. For self-serve stations, I find it best to limit options. It cuts down on the amount of space you need and the amount of time that a guest will take deciding on and pouring a beverage. See Bar Basics for recommendations on what to stock. Have the equipment readily available: glasses, wine/bottle openers, ice, stir sticks, napkins, charms or markers to identify their glass, and a few bar towels for accidental spills. Have a few classic garnishes already placed in bowls for an easy finishing touch like lemons, limes and cherries.
*Party Pitfall: If you take away nothing more from this article than this tip, it will still serve you well. The number one mistake I see when hosts are setting up parties is that they do not consider the flow of traffic. Never place your food and beverage stations together, separate them as much as possible. These are the main two areas where guests will gather. By separating them, it forces guests to move and mingle; they can’t just sit in one place with access to all the food and drink they want. This keeps traffic moving and guests mingling.
Be ready with water: At any summer gathering, it is a must to have water readily available so that guests can help themselves and stay hydrated. Large beverage dispensers and pitchers work well for “bulk items” such as the things people will go through a lot like water, punch, margarita mix, or any mixers you know your group will use heavily.
Be creative with your container: You can use large beverage tins and coolers to store canned and bottled beverages but if you need more space, think outside the box. Plastic totes, large planters, even kiddie pools work well; as long as they are leak-proof you should be fine. I do recommend using these with caution as I find too many canned and bottled options lead to a lot of waste. There is nothing worse than cleaning up dozens of half empty water bottles at the end of the party.
Be confident in your choices: There is no need to offer full bar or unlimited selections. Choose a few options that you enjoy and will serve your guests both old and young.
Be ready for waste: Have easily accessible designated recycling and trash bins so guests can dispose of their waste properly when finished. If a guest sees a trash bin, they are more likely to use it, if not clutter can easily collect.
Be conscious of safety: When serving alcohol, remember that you are responsible for your guests. Keep an eye out to make sure no one is abusing the beverages. If someone may have had a bit too much, be sure you arrange a ride or allow them to stay until it is safe for them to leave.
One more resource: I don’t know about you, but in summer I always seem to go through more ice than expected. Here is a great tool to help estimate how much you may need. If any guest calls at the last minute offering to help, have them pick up an extra bag of ice. You never want to run out of ice, its inexpensive and can kill a party if you don’t have enough.
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