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After choosing a date, a location and a time for your event – whether it’s a wedding reception, a birthday party or a team outing – you can get down to the fun stuff, like stocking the bar!

At Robert Ryan Catering & Design, when we’re catering at Columbia Station and at Barn on Bridge, we supply the bar 100 percent of the time, which makes your planning a breeze if you’re working with us at these places. But we do give our clients the option to supply their own bar supplies at Philander Chase Knox Estate, The High Point, and at home and in other venues. 

We turned to our in-house experts and pulled together this handy list of tips for purchasing alcohol and other supplies for your bar, no matter where your event is held. Looking for libations for a longer event? We also have a suggested alcohol list for a five-hour reception, available upon request.


Bar Options

You can offer a full bar, a beer and wine bar with a couple of signature cocktails, or just a beer and/or wine bar, depending on your preferences and your budget. You know your guests best, after all, and there’s no right or wrong option. Friends and family will be happy to celebrate with you, no matter what’s in their glasses. And if you want to offer a nonalcoholic bar, that’s your choice, too!

Stocking a Full Bar

  • Call to order well in advance of your date. This will ensure the liquor store/vendor has exactly what you want and can order anything that they may not typically carry or keep a large stock of on hand.
  • Choose what you and your guests love when it comes to wine, beer and liquor. If you’re working with us, we can give specific recommendations. If you’re hosting at home, the liquor store/vendor or distributor can point you in the right direction.
  • Check to see if you can return unopened bottles. This can save you money later — always a plus!
  • Mixers typically include tonic water, club soda, grenadine, lime juice, sour mix, triple sec and simple syrup. Also, you’ll want a variety of sodas and juices, including cola, diet cola, lemon-lime, ginger ale, pineapple, grapefruit, cranberry, and orange juices. Remember the bar fruit, too, such as cherries, olives, limes, lemons, and oranges.
  • You’ll need bar supplies, including pitchers, corkscrews, strainers, mixing glasses, bar spoons, galvanized tubs, stirrers, and ice scoops. And, of course, don’t forget the ice!

Other Considerations

  • Are you offering a signature cocktail that can be made in batches? This is a fun way to greet your guests and, if prepared in advance, can be a way to cut down the wait time at the bar. Here are some of our favorites.
  • Hiring a caterer? Ask if they can supply your alcohol or, at the very least, the non-alcoholic beverages, mixers, supplies, and ice! Here are more key questions to always ask your caterer.  
  • You don’t want your guests to have to make their own drinks, so you’ll definitely want a bartender. A party with 75 to 100 guests should have two bartenders; 150 guests need three; and a 200-person party needs four. In general, the rule is one bartender per 50 guests for a smooth, line-free evening.
  • If your event is at a venue, it should have insurance. If you have a caterer, make sure they carry proper insurance. And you should make sure you are covered, too! Here’s the lowdown on wedding insurance.

Being prepared early is the best way to avoid any confusion later, so make sure stocking your bar is at the top of your event’s to-do list.



Ready to learn more? Schedule a consultation with one of our event managers today!

Robert Ryan Catering and Design plans and executes over 400 events each year, boasts a 5-star rating on WeddingWire and has received WeddingWire’s Couple’s Choice/Bride’s Choice Award seven years in a row. Learn more about Robert Ryan Catering & Design and tour our venues. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for exclusive offers, up-to-date news and recipes from our executive chef.

Kim MacKinnon