In Any Event 

Beer, wine, specialty drinks surge in popularity

Event planners used to fill a bar with the four standards – bourbon, gin, scotch and vodka. Beer and wine were available but not too much in demand. That has changed over the past two decades for two primary reasons.

Specialty drinks – in this case blue martinis – have become popular at events.

The first is cost. Beer and wine simply are cheaper to stock for an event than liquor. The second is a change in drinking tastes. Wine has become more popular, a trend especially noticed by Thad Cox Jr.

“The hardest thing now is determining how much red and how much white,” said Cox, the longtime proprietor of Ashe’s Wines & Spirits.

Ten years ago, the split was 70-30 in favor of white wine, according to Cox. Now, it’s 50-50 overall, though the time of year can cause the percentage to fluctuate.

In the warmth of summer, planners should buy 60 percent white and 40 percent red. If you buy four cases of wine, split them into 2.5 cases of white and 1.5 cases of red. Cox said white wine is definitely more in demand in August.

Ashe's Wines & Spirits can provide the bubbly when needed.
Ashe’s Wines & Spirits can provide the bubbly when needed.

Red wines increased in popularity as the variety expanded. Two decades ago, most reds were rather robust and while cabernet remains the standard selection, more easygoing blended reds, such as pinot noir, and the drier, fruity red wines are showing up at the bar stands. The most popular white wines are chardonnay and pinot grigio.

Champagne can be popular at weddings – flutes are sometimes passed for the guests but it’s often a one-and-done drink. If offered at the bar, a case of champagne for every 100 people is usually sufficient for an event.

Jerry Kruse, owner of The Pour Guys, said the economic downturn several years ago did cause liquor orders to dip, and while he has seen a resurgence lately, it doesn’t reach prior levels.

But vodka remains a popular choice year-round while bourbon orders increase in the winter. Summer often means gin and vodka.

Jerry Kruse, owner of The Pour Guys, with Janet Testerman at an event at the Knoxville Zoo.
Jerry Kruse, owner of The Pour Guys, with Janet Testerman at an event at the Knoxville Zoo.

Thanks to Pinterest, flavored and infused liquors and specialty drinks are popular. So is organic vodka. The popular social media site has recipes and photos of drinks, and people come prepared to duplicate it.

Signature drinks have become especially popular at weddings and fundraisers as an option to a fully stocked bar. It is not only cheaper, but guests often remember the unique beverage and get ideas for their own events.

For example, Kruse presented “blueberry vodka lemonade with a lavender flower in it and floating blueberries” for an event by request. He also filled drink orders for Jim Beam Honey whiskey, cilantro, soda water, lime and ginger ale.

“Instead of a full bar they’ll go with something like that,” Kruse said. “We have seen a big shift in specialty drinks.”

Time of day, type of event and location also matter when stocking wine and beer.

Beer margaritas by The Pour Guys.
Beer margaritas by The Pour Guys.

A wedding reception in the summer means load up on beer, especially the light varieties such as Miller Lite. Kruse said Samuel Adams Summer Ale also is popular for weddings, as is New Belgium Fat Tire for a darker selection.

The same event in the winter requires a larger quantity of wine. An outdoor barbecue is a beer event. A black-tie dinner means wine.

The shift in drinking tastes doesn’t mean the bar should be bereft of liquor. A full bar always will require the classics, but event attendees are consuming less of the hard stuff.

“It has definitely shifted now to wine and beer,” Cox said.

Maria Cornelius, a writer/editor for Moxley Carmichael, populates the EventCheck calendar. She is more likely to attend your event if animals are present. Or Miller Lite, preferably in the vintage can.


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