Monday, June 13, 2016

Our Wedding: Whiskey Tasting + Stocking the Open Bar

In the early stages of planning our wedding (back in 2013), my father was adamant about hosting a whiskey bar during the reception. We all thought it would be a wonderful idea, but I don’t think any of us truly realized how much of a hit it would be…

First, though, some details on our open bar. (Of which I have no photos, sadly.)

The venue has a designated bar area and bartender on staff, so the Bride and Groom need only worry about stocking the bar with whatever beers, wines, and/or liquors, liqueurs, garnishes, and mixers they wish.

We only had about 85 guests in total, and I had the hardest time figuring out how much alcohol we would need to ensure we wouldn't run out… and also so we wouldn’t overbuy. Everything I found online was unhelpful. We just had no way of knowing how much people would end up drinking.

An open bar with a variety of choices was an absolute essential for us, and the beauty of our venue was that we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted—and take the leftovers home.

Making decisions on what we wanted and making booze purchases was a seven month process. After a brilliantly curated California beer tasting that Jonathan put together for us to try, and what felt like endless wine tastings, here are the final choices (and quantity) for the bar…

our wonderful bartender

  • Cielo Viola, Ruby Hill,  Livermore Valley – 1 case
  • Crimson & Clover, Concannon, Livermore Valley – 1 case
  • Pinot Grigio, Fel (previously Breggo), Anderson Valley – 1 case
  • Chardonnay, Concannon, Livermore Valley – 1 case
  • Mourvèdre Rosé, Cline, Sonoma County – 1 case
  • Nina’s Cuvee, Cline, Sonoma County – 1 case
(That’s 72 bottles of wine… and we only had 85 guests.)

  • 21st Amendment Hell or High Watermelon Wheat, San Francisco  – 2 kegs
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA – 1 case
  • Trumer Pils, Berkeley – 1 case
  • Anderson Valley Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout, Boonville – 1 case
  • Anchor Steam Beer, San Francisco – 1 case

This doesn't even touch on the liquor, of which we bought Costco-sized containers of gin, vodka, bourbon, and rum—along with appropriate mixers, bitters, and garnishes for each. (You know: tonic, Coke, ginger beer, limes, oranges, cherries, etc...) It was all so extensive, I can't even remember everything, hence why it isn't listed here.

In the end, we bought way too much alcohol, but happily milked the remaining bottles of booze and wine for a year and a half afterwards. We only used one keg of the Watermelon Wheat, and my overly generous father took the keg back to the bar we rented it from and offered it to the patrons there for free.

In hindsight, we could have nixed all of the liquor and mixers and stuck with wine and beer, plus whiskey at the whiskey bar (see below), and we probably still would have had plenty for a guest list of 85 people. You live and learn.

So, the bar was open for guests the moment the reception started at 5 PM until the party ended at midnight. The plan for the whiskey bar—located up the walkway from the bar, next to the fire pit and photo booth—was to open it after the first dance (around 7 or 7:15 PM), where my dad and Uncle Tom would host and pour for one hour. Then the remaining bottles would be moved to the bar, where guests could continue to taste and drink, but without my dad and uncle’s time being eaten up.

Cut to nearly three hours later when not only were my dad and uncle still hosting what was clearly the most popular attraction of the night, Jonathan had also started pouring and refused to shut the thing down. One of the event planners came and told me that she “tried to get him to stop and come spend time with other guests, but he wouldn’t listen.”

Finally they wrapped things up, around the time our late night sandwiches (BLTs, grilled cheese, and tri-tip—personal highlight of the night for me since I barely ate dinner) were ready for guest consumption.

A full list of the whiskies we featured, in order of their line-up in the top photo:

  • Eagle Rare 10-year-old Bourbon Whiskey
  • Blanton Single Barrel Bourbon
  • Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
  • High West Rendezvous Rye Whiskey
  • Bulleit Rye Mash Whiskey
  • Johnnie Walker Black Label Blended Scotch Whisky
  • Bowmore 12-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky
  • The Balvenie 12-year-old Double Wood Single Malt Scotch
  • Jameson Irish Whiskey
  • Bernheim Kentucky Straight Small Batch Wheat Whiskey

Did you host a fun activity at your wedding? Was it a hit with guests? Would you do it again?

Special thanks to my Aunt Lynn and Uncle Peter for introducing us to the most delicious white wine I've ever had (Fel), and my Aunt Julie and Uncle Tom for graciously utilizing their Cline wine membership to help us cut costs on several of our favorite featured wines.

Psst… in case you missed it: my wedding day lookour wedding venue, and our wedding soundtrack.

** All photos by Joe Gunn Photography, courtesy of The Sleep Peach

1 comment:

  1. This was easily the best part of the wedding. Even people who didn't drink whiskey found themselves at the bar for hours just doing pour after pour. NOT having a personalized whiskey bar at a wedding now feels like a total oversight for anyone planning an event. A total must.