Ask the Experts: Wedding Booze

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This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Bride by Louisville Magazine.  

Scott Harper, General manager of the Bristol Bar & Grille in Jeffersonville and corporate wine and beverage director for all Bristol locations, talks wedding booze. 

Harper has worked at the Bristol for 23 years, earning the master sommelier title in 2009.

What bar options do couples have?

Do you want a host bar or a cash bar or a hybrid? Like, we’ll take care of beer and wine and guests pay for their liquor. Or having a broad range for the casual drinker and the aficionado: We almost always have Bud Light, but then we’ll also have Heineken or Corona or local craft beers. Generally we look at bars running for about four hours. We’ve done every scenario. Sometimes it’s all on the guest. Sometimes it’s on the house when people are mulling around having appetizers. Everybody wants to make sure guests are comfortable. Some people don’t drink, but say we’re going to have iced tea and soda, and sparkling cider to toast. Or when there are younger folks, they’ll provide something sparkly to toast.

Budgets?

Cash bar is the smallest budget. Or you could maybe do $5 per person, which is one drink for everyone and then move to cash bar, or do $30 a person. It’s not as common to do a cash bar. It’s more common to do cash liquor and wine and beer is on the host. You can start with a budget and then move to cash if you reach the budget. Everything else in your budget is fixed — you know how much the meal will cost you. Sometimes you want to make sure you have a handle on what you’re willing to spend.

What’s popular?

Craft and local beers have been in the mix, partly because there are more of those now. There has been less emphasis on premium spirits, as long as there’s a good bourbon. Signature cocktails have been popular. The couple will choose a color or maybe they met over a certain drink. They’ll put a sign up saying this is the couple’s signature drink. Sometimes there’s not even a name — it’s not a classic cocktail. I’m not sure what it is; it’s just really delicious. And we attempt to duplicate it. You find a lot of Prosecco. It’s an Italian sparkling wine that’s a good value and good taste if couples don’t want French Champagne. It’s fresh, vibrant and good for a toast.

How do you choose wine for the meal?

Depending on your buffet, if you’re serving a lot of beef, hearty reds go better. If you’re doing appetizers and seafood or lighter fare, white wines go better. That’s the rule of thumb, but it’s always good to have both. Not everybody likes it the general way.

What if the couple wants a friend to bartend for cheaper?

There’s a liability there. You want to make sure a licensed professional is serving.

Any unknowns?

Make sure you understand if there’s a fee for the bartender, or how long the bar will stay open. Make sure you ask questions. Are you required to purchase all (alcohol at the site) or is your bill based on consumption? Especially with a special order like craft wine or beer — are you expected to pay for the leftovers?

Photo by Jolea Brown

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