Cut the Line: Planning Your Bar Menu for Events

Everyone's least favorite part of life, including our own, is waiting in line. Our cocktails are fresh, made to order, and taste and presentation are of utmost concern to us. This process takes time. We also hate long lines as much as the next guy, so we work with clients to balance several factors when planning their "garden to glass" craft bar to help avoid lines without sacrificing quality.

Quantity of Bartenders

First, we recommend using ours, or another really reputable company's bartenders who specialize in event bartending. Working events is an entirely different set of skills than most bar and restaurant experience gives you, and you want to hire someone who has done it well. We generally have one very talented, funny and good looking bartender (we gotta keep these guys happily employed, and flattery doesn’t hurt!) per 75 people at an event. One skilled bartender can serve a group this size very well unless large or complex menus come into play. However, there are several other factors that come into play to determine the number of bartenders needed and the possible efficiency of an event bar, and they are enumerated on below.

 

Planning Your Bar Menu

 The complexity of the menu plays a huge role in our possible efficiency. Unlike a fixture bar with tons of space, storage, and refrigeration, our mobility and limited space mean that a leaner menu will be helpful to promote efficiency and allow us to make your drinks faster. We just don't have the luxury of keeping everything under the sun cold and fingertip ready in the approximately 15 square feet that space we usually have to work in. Also, the larger the menu, the more your guests will hem and haw at the front of the bar line, especially if all of the options sound delicious, as is (not so humble brag) usually the case with our menus.

 I can assure you, this line moved very quickly! Photo by Toni Christine photography

I can assure you, this line moved very quickly! Photo by Toni Christine photography

With 1-2 light spirit cocktails, one dark spirit cocktail, beer, and wine offered, everyone is going to be able to find something exciting to order. The only exception we have ever seen after hundreds of events worked is the one time one woman wanted to order only a Bloody Mary. She was #bloodymaryorbust and walked away when it wasn't on the menu. But the truth is, it's an event bar, not a neighborhood bar, and guests generally expect to see a edited menu and are happy as long as you have a good quality selection and tasty sounding drinks to choose from. They will be able to order faster, keeping the line shorter, if you don't overwhelm them with choices. For these reasons, we highly recommend a curated menu of 3-5 wine varieties, 2-3 beer/cider options, and up to 4 signature cocktails.

Selecting the right signature drinks for events

Drink choice- as well as the number of varieties offered, the type of drink offered will play a role in the speed of preparation. Cocktails can contain 2, 3, or 7 steps each so working with your bartender to pick a recipe that is either simple or has steps that can be combined in a partial pre-batch will hasten speed per guest served. Definitely keep on the menu drinks that have special meaning to you, as one recent Pisco-Sour loving couple did (This egg white cocktail involves about 90 seconds of shaking per drink) but balance them with other, faster drinks on your specialty cocktail menu like they did, by also offering a spritz and a mule. Please, do not let your staff pre-batch entire drinks or try to mix batch drinks yourself to be served out of large dispensers, college party style, unless you are working with a solid understanding of cocktails and using a specific recipe made for this. Unless cocktails are either formulated with special recipes and methodology as in punch recipes, or kegged and pressurized to maintain freshness and consistency, quality of taste suffers in an extreme way! Stirred drinks like flavored lemonades, spritzes, fizzes, and spirit + soda cocktails are some of the speediest drinks to make so you might consider adding at least one of these to your menu. 

Consider hiring help for public, corporate, and non-profit events

ID checking- we typically don't ID every guest, or even most, but we absolutely have the right to and are held responsible by our state's liquor laws to do so properly. Fumbling for wallets and going back to tables to grab purses slow down the front of the line. To alleviate this time spent, have a qualified individual such as an alcohol service permitted bouncer check IDS at the door or working through the line, and use a wristband system to mark guests who have been verified to be over 21 with proper ID. This is mostly recommended for corporate events, fundraisers, and public beer garden events. At an event like a wedding, you might remind guests to bring ID's on your wedding website's travel section, take care to remind your wedding party separately since personal effects are often stored together if the wedding party got ready together.

How to Speed Up the Line at Your Event Bar

Tricks of the Trade- there are inevitably times in an event's schedule when a bar will experience a rush, such as post-ceremony at a wedding, or at the conclusion of an employee meeting. During these peak times, some things that will help move the bar faster include:

·       Signage- add signs the back of the line about ID checking and/or menu options so guests are ready by the time they reach the front. You could also print the bar menu on menus at your guest's table settings so they can dream about their order before they reach the bar.

·       Welcome cocktails- alleviate some of the line from a mad rush to the bar at the start of the evening by planning one batchable cocktail like our Spring Sangria (see note above, we make this recipe very carefully to ensure it tastes great when made ahead of time in a big volume)for your "welcome to the event" cocktail. Welcome cocktails help greet guests hospitably, quickly, and set a tone for your event, whether by incorporating themed flavors, colors, or both. With their thirst satiated by this quick-serve drink, they will meander back to the bar at a more varied pace.

·       Disposable cups- as well as being nearly equally earth-friendly when compared to the transportation, washing, and packing required to serve an event with rented glassware, recyclable or compostable disposable cups are much faster to use in service. We provide skilled bussers to stock and bus all glassware service for best possible results with glassware, however, nothing will be faster than reaching for a sleeve of earth-friendly single-use cups.

·       On that green note- save the seas and a tiny bit of your bartender's time by forgoing straws. Most guests ignore them, they pollute our waterways, and adding a straw takes about a half second.

 

Fauxchella: A Boho Bar Extravagazna

Corporate event season is upon us again! Summer picnics are popping up all over town and already, the holiday event planning has begun in offices all over this Emerald City. I can hear the event design gears turning now: "Flower crowns! Rockaroke! PNW Camp Out! Balloon arches! "Hook!" Lost Boys style food fight on a tarp-covered football field with colored pudding ammunition and large donations given to FoodLifeline to counterbalance the waste karma!" (Ok that last one is just mine, several times proposed to my old boss at Microsoft, and never seized as the genius bucket list style activity it is. I have the logistics all worked out if anyone is interested in hiring me to pick this one up out of the so to speak 'round file.')

As we just approach our last summer 2018 corporate gig next week, and as Seattle corporate event planners finish up their employee picnics, corporate barbeques, and end of the year parties city-wide, I have some inspiration for future you.

Shindig! Events and CRG Events did INCREDIBLE work in summer 2017 for their clients, and we were honored to be a part of the surprise and delight they delivered, via providing bar service for some of Seattle's top companies. Given that each of these events took place approximately one year ago, I thought that it would be fun to take a look back at the good times. 

As a fun and conversation-starting centerpiece for their #wayoutwest (Shindig) and #fauxchella (CRG) events, our camper bar and wooden bars shone, and more importantly, provided craft cocktails of the highest quality to its discerning sippers.

The guests at these events are the same folks who flood our city's craft cocktail bars, farm to table restaurants, and microbreweries, so it only makes sense that they should expect to drink the same quality beverages at their corporate picnics. After all, there is nothing more sad to us than a black tablecloth covered, 6-foot table "bar" pouring liters of generic wine by the glass. We were proud to deliver local beer, wine, and our garden to glass cocktails, mixed with Washington state distillers' spirits and our own farm's edible flower garnishes to these thirsty guests.

Propriety stops me from oversharing the details of these events, but I would like to share with you more about the bar service we put together.

Offerings included Seattle Cider Company's cider, Fremont Brewing's draft brews, and an inventive and on-theme menu of seasonal"garden to glass" cocktails curated specifically for our clients. We poured Heritage Distilling vodka and bourbon by the case in our signature bourbon peach teas, lavender lemonades, watermelon tequila smashes, as well as a dozen gallons of the drink of the summer, our own secret recipe frose- a frozen slushie of wine blended with Washington grown Strawberries. 

One event hosted 500 guests, the other welcomed 1,500 for a summer bash. We staffed up, built new bars, and rolled up our sleeves for fast, efficient, and craft dedicated "garden to glass" bar service for all. 

You can feast your eyes on the pretty party results below, and then give us an email to reserve your bar service for Holiday season 2018 and summer 2019. Trust us, it's not too early!

Way Out West: (photos by Barbie Hull photography)

 

Fauxchella: (photos by Bow and Arrows Photography)

Simple Goodness Syrups: a Sister Business to Happy Camper Cocktails

Simple Goodness Syrups is, quite literally, a Sister Business to Happy Camper Cocktail Company. 

Appropriately, this new venture of ours is launching the week of International Sisterhood Day. My sister and I have been sisters since my birth in 1988 and business partners since earlier this year. 

Who are the Simple Goodness Sisters?

For those of your who don't already follow along on our little corner of the interwebs, here is the backstory. As we matured into the lovely young ladies we are today, we realized we could combine a few of our new favorite hobbies: eating, drinking and gardening. We began to be very interested in pulling the purest and most vibrant flavors possible from the foods we grew in order to make tastier food and drinks at home. Venise was drawing from her college experiences on ranches in Montana, while I was fascinated by environmental science and sustainable farming after college in food-centric Portland. We both felt a strong connection to the economy, thrift, reverence, and routine of small family farms after hearing stories from our grandparents, both sets of whom raised their kids in Kent, WA on small plots of land that they farmed for their own uses. Venise ended up buying a 10 acre farm in Buckley and slowly bringing it back to life with her husband, farmer Ross. For me, my passion for ethically raised food and fascination with farm to bar cocktails coincided with the end of my corporate career and the start of the Happy Camper Cocktail Company. We began crafting our own cocktail mixers using the ingredients from my own small garden and the farms of others: our neighbors, friends, and mentors in the farm community here on the Plateau. Soon enough, I went knocking on the door of my sister's farm looking for some help growing our "garden to glass" cocktail ingredients.

 Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows Photography

Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows Photography

I had been having trouble sourcing locally for events, which was a huge problem considering that the part of my company I was MOST proud of was the quality of our ingredients and our support of local farms. Certain items, mostly herbs and flowers, were increasingly hard to source in the growing quantities I needed. She had a 1 acre field free after forgoing a garlic planting, and agreed to plant it in herbs and edible flowers for Happy Camper Cocktails. 

One year, much hardwork and much googling later (we un-sheepishly farm by google, being first generation farmers who hold other jobs outside of the farm and frequently do not know what we're doing), and our herbs are growing steadily. They will mature in 2-3 more years, and until then we harvest them carefully to keep the plant healthy. We do not spray pesticides on the farm and maintain all organic practices for farming, though we have not paid for the expensive "organic" label certification. (I say "we," but the farming is 98% Venise and Ross, I just come when the SOS is called to weed the wilds in-between the mulch plastic, no spray means much more hardwork.)

So we grow our own "farm to bar" botanical cocktails, and now we grow them for your home bar as well.

 

 Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows Photography

Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows Photography

At Happy Camper Cocktails, we add garden to glass goodness to our signature cocktails in a few ways- fresh juices, tinctures, bitters, shrubs, syrups and garnishes are all components we use to bring the ultimate tastiness and freshness to our drinks. By far, a guest favorite has emerged. Our syrups have proven extremely popular in our event cocktails and we've been fielding requests for the 3 years since our launch to bottle them up so our clients can recreate our drinks at home.

With Simple Goodness Syrups, my sister and I combined forces, and we finally listened, unable to turn down a single additional request. We went through the arduous process of learning to make a product, source our largest batch of "farm to bar" ingredients yet (100 pounds of locally foraged huckleberries! 2 pounds of sustainable grown, female farmer grown Mexican vanilla beans! 100 pounds of Sumner, WA organically grown rhubarb!), bottle it according to FDA standards, create a recipe appropriate for a bottling facility and a 72 gallon batch, etc., etc...

To say there was a learning curve would be an understatement but to say these syrups are the best in Washington state would not be an overstatement, in my humble opinion. We put our hearts and souls into these syrups. We made decisions carefully, even when they were more expensive and meant less profit, because we wanted a product we could be THAT proud of. We bottled a locally and sustainable-grown product with zero preservatives or additives and we did so in a recyclable bottle made in America. Effyeah! We did it for you guys and now you can finally buy them. 

Without further ado, here is the link: http://simple-goodness-sisters.mybigcommerce.com

Thank you for your support along the way, your demand for this product, and your patience as we will inevitably mess up this fulfillment and shipping process at least a few times!

 Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows photography

Photo by Rylea of Bow and Arrows photography

 Pay no attention to my freaky eyes, I am very happy to be launching these and am apparently bad at photobooths. This is maybe the only photo in our history in which Venise is more photogenic. Win some, dimsum. Photo by Erin Perkins' That 70's photo Bus

Pay no attention to my freaky eyes, I am very happy to be launching these and am apparently bad at photobooths. This is maybe the only photo in our history in which Venise is more photogenic. Win some, dimsum. Photo by Erin Perkins' That 70's photo Bus

Seattle Bride's Best Bar Service and Best New Vendor

Guys, I️ don’t know if you know/care/remember this but we won Seattle Bride Magazine's best of Bride!!!

We were voted the best new vendors in the Seattle wedding industry, AND the best bar service. 

Let that sink in. I know I still am!!!

I know, it was a while ago, but pardon me, i am just catching up on sleep/life after the busy season! We won in BOTH of the two categories we were nominated for, best bar service and best new vendor. The night of the awards I️ was on my couch in maternity sweatpants nursing a brand spanking new baby. I️ had a single glass of wine and went to bed at 9. I️ followed the party via friendors instastories and loved seeing their cute dresses and smiling faces as they won. I️ went to bed happy. Tired as a mother cuz of the 2 week old baby and all, but happy. Funny thing was, no one told me we had won until the next morning. I found out via instagram eventually, because I️ got a congratulations message after congratulating another winner. I️ couldn’t believe it, I️ was so elated! And tired. But elated!   

 

A lovely human (Cheyenne Gillooly) sent me this video and I️ wanted to finally share it with all of you. I️ also want to send belated congrats out to all the nominees in every category- we all work our tails off in this crazy events industry and I️ salute you! I️ raise my one glass of wine to you, and I️ go to bed at 9 o’clock. Cuz I’m tired as a mother, still.

And, I very humbly but enthusiastically ask you all- will you please vote for us again?

Please please please vote for us for Best of Bride 2018!

You can do so right here:  http://seattlebridemag.com/vote-now-best-2018-2

Voting closes February 16th so please take a moment to go and cast your vote for some of the wildly talented vendors we have here in our area!

100 thank you's!

- Belinda

 The breathtakingly beautiful reason why we missed the party. 9 day old Photo by Angela of This Little Pic Photography

The breathtakingly beautiful reason why we missed the party. 9 day old Photo by Angela of This Little Pic Photography

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