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Holiday Party Bar Suggestions

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I'm hosting a holiday party for about 50-60 people at my home in a few weeks and want to avoid serving red wine (stain-factor, I know, I'm uptight) and don't want to have a full bar.

Any ideas about what to serve? What's a good selection of things to offer?

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  1. Why don't you do a big punch bowl to serve eveyone? You can always have a few bottles of booze as a backup.

    Check out the latest issue of Saveur for some punch recipes from Dave Wondrich.

    1. I'd go with fafner's recommendation of punch, and add in bottled water and maybe a white wine too.

      1. Thirding the punch suggestion - perhaps a white sangria?

        1. You'll need more than one thing. Punch is a good start but you want to have other things available. Sweet, sugary, fizzy punch is good, but after 3 cups of the stuff people will want an alternative.

          If it were me I'd do a punch, bourbon (with mixers), vodka (with mixers), beer, and white wine (people WILL be asking for red wine, so just be prepared to explain).

          1 Reply
          1. re: HaagenDazs

            For me, punch just means "cocktail served in mass quantity", not necessarily the sweet bubbly stuff that people tend to think of as punch. Since this is a holiday party, you might want to do a traditional holiday drink like mulled cider (I would have said mulled wine but it's always made with red), egg nog (homemade is SO much better than the stuff from the grocery store!), or Tom & Jerry. One of my personal favorite punch recipes is the Scorpion from my work at Trader Vic's... This version serves four people.

            4 ounces lemon juice
            6 ounces orange juice
            1-1/2 ounces orgeat syrup
            6 ounces light rum
            1 ounce brandy
            Flash blend everything with crushed ice.

            To scale the recipe up to 60 people...
            2 quarts lemon juice
            3 quarts orange juice
            1 750-ml bottle orgeat syrup
            2 750-ml bottles light rum
            1 pint brandy
            Mix everything with lots of ice, and let stand to chill. If you need to chill it quickly, you can add chilled soda water.

            If you overdo the bar offerings, you'll end up playing bartender all night and not get to enjoy your own party. The best things to offer are drinks that people can serve themselves; the bourbon/vodka & mixer drinks go right out the window with that. There's a reason art gallery openings usually offer just white wine and bottled water!

            I think you'll do just fine offering a punch, white wine, and bottled water. If you want to add in anything else, make it a beer. Go with your area's most popular macrobrew (for most of the country, this means Bud Light). If you know that your crowd veers more toward beer snob territory, then replace some (or all) of the Bud Light with a favorite local microbrew.

            A couple big tips: First, make sure people have a drink in their hand the moment they walk in the door. Ask them "What would you like to drink? I have x, y, and z", not "Can I get you something to drink?" After they have the drink in their hand, let 'em go mingle.

            Even more important, get enough ice! Half a pound per person is the rule of thumb; for sixty people, 30 pounds of ice should be enough. More never hurts. A clever place to store the ice... the washing machine. It's reasonably well insulated, and to drain it all you do is run the spin cycle. Other important quantities: A good amount of time to run the party is three hours. People arrive fashionably late for the first hour, the party is in full swing for the second hour, then people usually start to filter out in the third hour. People generally will have two drinks while at the party. Expect everyone to try the specialty punch/cocktail if you decide to make one. If you're serving food, people generally eat six bites per hour; anticipate ten bites of food per person overall. Don't worry if you run out of food in the third hour of the party, it just means everyone is having fun!