Category: Entertaining, Products & Ingredients

Early in my career, I had excellent guidance from some real pros. It was their confidence and ease with people that made me strive to become the Sommelier I am today. When it comes to big events in people’s lives, I try to be the most painless part of the process. At the holidays, with all the running around to do, the quicker and easier things go, the better. That’s why I’ve created a Party Planning Beverage Cheat Sheet. We’ll lay out all the most popular Beer, Wine, and Spirits, and explain how to decide how much to buy.

Essentials for the Bar

Here we will give three spirits: one Ultra Premium, one Premium, and one Standard, along with three common cocktails they can be used to make.


The most popular spirit by far due to its mixability and clean flavor

Grey Goose – Le Fizz
Absolut – Grey Hound
Smirnoff – Bloody Mary


Though not as popular as it used to be, gin is crisp, refreshing, and makes killer cocktails.

Hendricks – Jimi Grape
Tanqueray – French 75
Gordon’s – Gin and Tonic


Classically distilled from sugar cane, rum is a touch sweeter than vodka. You can find it in light, golden, dark, and spiced. We recommend having light and spiced on your bar.

Cruzan Aged Light – Classic Daiquiri
Captain Morgan’s Spiced – Captain’s Nest
Castillo LightCuba Libre


Tequila is optional for the bar. However, the Margarita is the most popular drink across America.

Patron Anejo – Elegant Flower
Jose Cuervo Gold – Classic Magarita
Sauza Blanco – Cinnamon Tamarind Margarita


It is always good to have a good-quality scotch on the bar.

Lagavulin – Neat or on the rocks
Glenmorangie – Neat or on the rocks
Dewar’s – Dewar’s and Ginger


With richer flavors, whiskeys are great on the rocks or mixed.

Eagle Rare Bourbon – On the rocks
Jameson Irish Whisky – Jameson Almond Old Fashioned
Canadian Club – Manhattan

In addition to these spirits, you will want a couple of liqueurs for mixing or for after dinner. Cream liquers, such as Baileys, are good to have, as is an orange liqueur, such as Cointreau or Triple Sec. Other mixers that are important are club soda, cranberry juice, tonic water, orange juice, and cola.

Here are two fun and festive cocktails I like to make for the holidays-

When it comes to measurements, the basic 750-ml bottle contains about 40 1-ounce shots, four 4-ounce glasses of wine, and seven 3-ounce glasses of Champagne. Generally, each party guest will consume one beverage per hour, whether it is one bottle of beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail. Multiplying the number of guest by the length of the party will help you figure how many bottles of spirits, wine, or beer you will need for your party. McManis or Raymond Cabernet Sauvignon and Kendall Jackson or Angeline Chardonnay are very easy-drinking, enjoyable, and popular wine choices. I generally recommend having a generic beer like Labatt Blue Light for a party, but make sure you grab a couple of popular craft beers like Bell’s Two Hearted IPA or Detroit Brewing Company’s Saunders Chocolate Stout to add variety.

Well, there you have it–my tried-and-true guidelines for perfect parties. Always take into account that you know your guests better than I do. If they are drinkers, bump up the number of drinks per hour. Also, make sure you don’t run out of ice! The more, the better!


– Jennifer Laurie

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