Tuesday, July 15, 2008


That would be ethanol, aka alcohol. Woohoo!

Last fall, my brother had a part-time job at a liquor store to make some extra cash. It sounded like a pretty easy job for him: some stocking, manning the cash register of a not-horrendously-busy liquor store, helping to run wine tasting parties, and learning a decent amount about wine. It was a great job for me, because he got to purchase things at wholesale, and I had a wedding to plan.

Going into venue hunting, we knew that we had to be allowed to bring in our own alcohol, to take advantage of our amazing hook-up. I had a pretty good idea of how ridiculously pricey catered alcohol can be, and I didn't want to have to skimp in this area.

[Glassworks actually is supposed to charge us a $300 fee for using our own alcohol, but we will still come out ahead. Plus, at this point, they haven't charged us the fee, and I'm not really sure how they are going to figure out whose alcohol we are using. Oh well. We'll see what happens come May.]

It was pretty fun to come up with our bar needs. We knew we were going to have an open bar, and wanted to offer liquor, wine, and beer. I had alcohol options from two different hotels I had (very) briefly considered, so I could see what they brands they suggested for their "house," "call," and "premium/top shelf" liquor packages.

Next I checked out online drink calculators. Evite has a drink calculator, and I also found this calculator and guide. I also found out that even though evite gives you results in whole liters, alcohol generally comes in either 750mL or 1.75L bottles, not 1L ones. It was a little stressful to try to run all the calculations not really knowing how many people we're going to have (150 is the number we're using, but it will likely be less than that), but in the end, a good rule of thumb is that too much alcohol is always better than too little :)

We bought the liquor first, back in January, because it was convenient for my brother to do so and I knew we could store the liquor safely for pretty much forever. I also figured that we should probably have enough for two separate bars, because I hate long bar lines, so I bought accordingly. Here's what we got:

  • Two 1.75L bottles of Smirnoff vodka
  • Two 1.75L bottles of Tanqueray gin
  • Two 1.75L bottles of Knob Creek bourbon
  • One 1.75L bottle of Bacardi rum
  • One 750mL bottle of Bacardi rum
  • Two 1.75L bottles of Johnnie Walker red scotch
  • (We also already had an unoped 1.75L bottle of Bacardi, so now we're saving that for the wedding as well.)
I didn't really feel any need to have tequila, since (in my opinion) they're pretty much best used for margaritas, and we'll have enough mixed drink options without margaritas, and the only other good use for them is shots, and, well... tequila shots and I do not get along. (Actually, we got along fabulously initially, but then things take a turn for the worse.)

The bourbon was a little stressful; Kentucky is obvious bourbon country, and we needed a good one. However, since a lot of bourbons aren't marketed aggresively outside of Kentucky, the store where my brother worked didn't keep a lot of them in stock. (And to be completely honest, he wasn't really supposed to be buying things at cost; as long as he was buying from the store's stock, though, the assistant manager didn't mind. Because of this, though, we were trying to avoid having him place any special orders.) But, Knob Creek is a good bourbon, so I'm happy.

We weren't planning to buy the wine or beer until next spring, closer to the wedding, because I was worried about storing it. However, my brother called me back in April to announce that he had given his two weeks' notice, and that if I wanted wine, I should act soon. Yikes!

When it comes to wine, I do not like merlot or chardonnay, which are the standard wine offerings at a lot of weddings I've been to. My go-to choices are pinot noir and pinot grigio, and I have a few other reds I'm partial to as well. Eric has a broader palate than I do, but in general we agree on wines, which always makes it nice when we order a bottle at a restaurant. Don't get me wrong, though; I am by no means a wine connoisseur, and if I were doing a blind taste test, I can't guarantee that I wouldn't declare a merlot quite palatable.

In the end, the wedding isn't all about me (shocker!), or even about me and Eric, so we're providing a wider selection of wine. Here's what we got:
  • Three 1.5L bottles of Rex Goliath chardonnay
  • Four 1.5L bottles of Yellow Tail chardonnay
  • Six 1.5L bottles of Fish Eye pinot grigio
  • Six 750mL bottles of Rex Goliath pinot noir
  • Six 750mL bottles of Yellow Tail pinot noir
  • Three 1.5L bottles of Rex Goliath cabernet sauvignon
  • Three 1.5L bottles of Yellow Tail cabernet sauvignon
  • Six 750mL bottles of Yellow Tail rose
These are brands (Rex Goliath, especially) that we like a lot, so I'm comfortable with what we got. I know they're not super amazing wines if you have much of a wine palate, but I'm also fairly certain that none of our guests is really going to be able to tell the difference. I also know that a lot of caterers offer simply a merlot and chardonnay in a "house" brand of some sort, so I feel that what we're doing is at least a step and a half above that.

We also went ahead and got champagne; just enough for everyone to have a toast. At first, my brother recommended Freixenet extra dry; it's a cava, which is a Spanish sparkling wine. I was able to get my hands on a bottle before my friend Jamie's wedding back in April, and we all had a taste. It was a little too dry for my liking, and I was going to stress about choosing one that I really liked, when again, I realized that at a lot of fancy hotel weddings (such as the black tie one that Jamie had), they simply offer whatever their house champagne is, and no one has a choice. So I let go, told my brother it was too dry, and when he suggested the St. Hilaire semi-sweet as an alternate, we went with it. In the end, it really doesn't matter.

All the liquor and wine is now sitting in my parents' basement, in the storage closet behind the Christmas decorations, and my brother even bought a dehumidifier for the closet to keep everything nice and un-damp (my parents' house is in Maryland, very near to two different rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, so un-damp is hard to come by), and someone will be driving it to Louisville next May.

It doesn't look like too much here, but I didn't open up all those boxes to take a good look; the Christmas decorations were in the way and I didn't feel like moving them all!

The only thing we have left to buy is beer, and we're definitely going to wait on that, because storing beer is asking for trouble. We're going to provide mostly Yuengling, which can't be bought in Kentucky, so someone will be driving more alcohol west come May. I guess we'll also provide a light beer of some sort, but we'll most likely just get that locally.

We'll also buy some mixers, like vermouth for martinis, and maybe some liqueurs, but maybe not. We'll also have sodas and something else non-alcoholic, like iced tea or lemonade, and we'll most likely buy all of that at one of the club stores in the weeks before the wedding. One of the caterers we're interviewing right now pointed out that to have both the ceremony and ensuing cocktail hour on the roof, an extra bar would either need to be pre-set up on the roof (meaning more money for another bartender and a bar in our ceremony space), or we should opt for passed drinks only during cocktail hour. I really like the idea of passed drinks for cocktail hour, because then we have an excuse to come up with signature drinks! Right now I'm thinking about mint juleps (naturally) and mojitos, as well as mint iced tea (sense a theme?).

All of that alcohol cost us about $750, and will create (roughly) 500 drinks. The hotel caterer, on the other hand, would have charged us $6 per drink! I'm pretty sure we have way too much alcohol (we don't even have the beer yet!), but better safe than sorry. I also know we have some groomsmen who would be more than happy to take some of the extra home.


Laura said...

Hi! I am a Louisville Bride and I am having my reception at Glassworks next year as well (7/11)! I have been reading your blog and was wondering if you have decided on a caterer yet. I have visited several now, but still have not decided! I thought we could share insights if we had spoken with different ones! :)

hwong14 said...

Hi Laura! We have not picked a caterer yet, but we're getting close to narrowing it down. Email me and we'll chat! On the right side of the blog, click on "View my complete profile" under "About Me." Then, in my profile, there's a link to my email address. Hope to talk to you soon!