Last time we talked a little bit about what you’re your planning on eating at your dinner party, but equally important is what you’re drinking with your dinner! Alcohol can be an overwhelming and expensive part of your dinner if you aren’t thoughtful with what you’re getting, but it also can make a meal sparkle and not break the bank.
The first thing to remember is that you don’t need to have all the options. I think having 2-3 drink options is perfect for most parties. It is nice to have a couple options to give people with different taste preferences something they may like, but don’t feel like you need everyone’s favorite drinks.
The next most significant thing to consider is how your drink is going to pair with your food. You can get really granular with your pairings and make sure you precisely match the varietal of wine with your meat (google is your best friend if this is the route you are going). I prefer the path of just making sure my food and drink make sense together. I love a frozen margarita, but it wouldn’t really make sense if I was serving lasagna.
I think your typical dinner party drinks break down into 4 main categories (with one bonus):
Wine: Wine is the classic dinner party pairing and with good reason. Wine can really complement the food you are serving and require very little prep (you just need to pick up a couple of bottles from the liquor store and pop anything that needs to be chilled in the fridge). If you are only doing wine, I recommend selecting a red and white bottle, but if you will be offering another alcohol option feel free to choose just one.
How much do you need? The average rule of thumb is 1 glass per person per hour. Most bottles of wine contain about 5 glasses of wine (depending on how generous your pour is). So if you are having a party that you plan on lasting from 6-10pm for 10 people, you’ll want about 8 bottles of wine, if you are only serving wine. Naturally, adjust that as necessary to your friends and their drinking habits. I typically recommend purchasing an extra bottle or two just to make sure you won’t run out (and I don’t mind having an extra bottle of wine hanging around the house)
Rules for Wine Pairing Beer: Beer is another easy option for a dinner party beverage selection. It’s a little more casual, but it doesn’t need to take you back to your college party days. There are tons of small breweries that make really unique beers that will make this part of your menu feel a little more special.
How much do you need? The rule of thumb is similar to wine with about a drink per hour per guest. Depending on your crowd, beer tends to be the less popular option generally, so if beer is only one of your choices make sure to take that into account. If you are only serving beer, make sure to get a couple different types of beers (something lighter and something darker), so you have the best chance of finding something that most people will enjoy.
Cocktails: Cocktails can be really fun additions to a dinner party menu. I refuse to spend half my night mixing drinks, so I only do big batch cocktails for dinner parties. As the name indicates, this means that instead of mixing drinks individually, I like to put together a large pitcher with the cocktail premixed that people can serve themselves. There are a ton of recipes online for this style of cocktail.
How much do you need? Cocktails (especially ones where guests are serving themselves) are a little harder to gauge how much you will need. Technically one serving should be equivalent to one shot of alcohol, but depending on how strong your drink is the actual size of the drink can drastically differ and can be hard for guests to judge appropriately. My biggest tip for this is to make sure the glasses you are serving are appropriately sized to hold about 1 serving of your cocktail. Plan on guests drinking 1 glass per hour per guest, rather than 1 serving size.
Non-alcoholic: I love to have a fun non-alcoholic option for people at dinner parties, so those who aren’t drinking still have something more than water to drink. You can keep it pretty basic and just offer sparkling water or add some flair and offer a mocktail.
How much do you need? I would following the same rule as with a cocktail and think about the size of your glasses rather than serving size when it comes to a mocktail or other non-alcoholic options. Plan of people drinking a little more than 1 drink per hour per guest.
BYOB! Having guest provide drinks can be a great option if you are doing all the food. I like to give a theme for guidance, so guests have some idea what to bring. Like maybe I ask guests to bring each bring a bottle of rose or champagne or their favorite beer. You can also assign certain guests to bring certain things if you want more of a variety. Your pairing might not make quite as much sense as if you picked out the drinks yourself, but everyone should have something they like to drink since they brought their own. Having each guest (or even each couple) bring either a 6 pack of beer or a bottle of wine should give you the perfect amount of alcohol.