It seems the perception in the event bar industry is that every well-funded event seeking to serve alcoholic beverages should aim to be an "Open Bar" event. On the one hand I can see why this is the case, being that an open bar is more likely to have something each guest would like to enjoy, but on the other hand I rarely, if ever, see an open bar done well and in a way that people walk away saying "Wow, that bar was great!" After over a decade in the service industry, I have a solid theory as to why.
Open bars provide guests with too many choices.
Many studies have been done on humans and our "happy place" when it comes to choices. What we know is that too many options overwhelm people and lead to lower satisfaction once they do make a choice. People are most comfortable and satisfied when they can start with a fairly limited number of high-quality options, and go from there.
The other reason open bars tend to be a party fail is that because there are so many options, the bar can't properly prep or anticipate all the infinite beverage options, so it tends to do none of them well.
Inherently we, as full bar consumers, have come to understand the limitations of open bars and most of us have identified that one thing you know they'll have the ingredients for and that you'll like. Mine, for example, is a G&T (gin and tonic).
Full bars generally won't have a blender or make muddled drinks. They usually won't have more than basic mixers (of which everything will be store bought and low in quality) and the beverages that they are best suited to make are going to be anything served straight (martini) or served with a soda (rum & coke, vodka soda, etc).
My suggestion? Provide people with variety, limit people's options, and focus on high quality and excellent execution. Here are a few ways this would be executed:
We put this bubbly bar together for a calligraphy workshop by White Ink Calligraphy and The Nashville Bride Guide. We paired sparkling wine with options like rose-infused vodka and elderflower liqueur, rosemary simple syrup and grapefruit juice, and raspberry lemon verbena simple syrup. (photo by Hanna Helaine Photography)
Worried a bubbly bar won't provide enough options for your guests? Pair it with a...
Not just for men, a whiskey bar is a sophisticated and fun way to introduce your guests to whiskeys and bourbons they may have never tried before! Japanese whiskey, a good southern bourbon, Scotch with a splash of water. Bar Magnolia can help make a few well-selected bottles become a bar they'll remember. (photo from pinterest.com)
There is no limit to the options that one can make muddling mint with fruit. Let us build you a menu exploring the refreshing and variety of the mojito, or let us go Mexican and do a Paloma bar! (photo from spiritcompany.com)
Don't underestimate the amazingness of the Tiki cocktail. They are SO much more than the overly sweet and coconutty concoction you may be thinking of! There is an entire tiki movement out filled with the best mixologists in the world that are dedicated to creating world-class tiki cocktail recipes and we'd love to grace your guests with them! (photo from liquor.com)
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