There are three things every good party needs: Lively guests, awesome music, and a stocked bar. But the thing about a stocked bar is: it’s not much use unless there’s a person behind it who knows how to whip up everyone’s favorite drinks and keep the party going (while also ensuring no one’s over-served). And while you could be the person running around trying to keep everyone’s glasses full, why when you can hire a bartender who will save you time, money, and make sure you actually have fun at your own event?
Accordingly, we chatted with David Sanchez who runs a highly-rated bartending service in Southern California to find out what you need to know when hiring a bartender for your event. From champagne toasts to signature cocktails, he filled us in on all of the details for a super fun night. Cheers!
1. Set a Date, Place, and Time
Sure, it sounds obvious, but the first thing you’ll need to know when hiring a bartender is when and where you’re having the party. After all, there’s no point in continuing the conversation if the bartender isn’t available that day or if it’s out of his area of service.
2. Find Out If the Bartender is State Licensed
This doesn’t technically matter if you’re having the party in a private space, but many venues won’t allow someone who isn’t licensed to serve drinks and the last thing you want on the day of your event is a stocked bar with no one to make cocktails. That sounds like the saddest party ever.
3. Ask How Much Experience the Bartender Has
You also want to know what kind of experience he or she has, especially if you’re going to have a big crowd or have guests who will be requesting craft cocktails. And in this day and age, you’re probably going to have at least a few of those.
4. Decide If You’d Like a Signature Cocktail
Sanchez says he likes to find out if the host wants a specialty drink for the event. Oftentimes guests rely on him to come up with an idea based on the theme of the party, so after he gets a sense of what they might like, he’ll send them several drink ideas for them to choose from. Specialty drinks are also a great way to save money if you’re on a budget; that way you don’t necessarily have to offer a full bar.
5. Get the Shopping List
After you’ve figured out how many guests and what your budget is, you should decide that you want to serve. The bartender you hire should then be able to provide you with a detailed list that includes everything from the booze to the ice to the garnish. If you aren’t going to have time to do the shopping, see if the bartender is able to do it for you so that they can bring everything with them. Sanchez says getting a detailed list from your bartender will also help you save money as everything you need will be calculated ahead of time so you won’t buy unnecessary liquor that lots of times can’t be returned.
6. Figure Out How Many Bartenders You’ll Need
A good number is one bartender for every 50 guests, but you’ll also want to consider hiring a bar-back to collect glasses and fetch ice, so that the bartender doesn’t have to take a break from pouring drinks.
7. Discuss the Dress Code
Sanchez says that his bartenders typically wear all black unless a different dress code is stated. Still, he and his staff try to go with the flow because they don’t want to stand out, so if there’s a theme, like “Roaring 20s” or a Halloween party, they’ll show up in the appropriate attire. Just be sure to let your bartender know in advance.
8. Make a Plan for Underage Guests
Sanchez says it’s good for the bartenders to know ahead of time if there will be kids at the event and what you’d like them to be served, especially because some venues won’t allow kids to request drinks from the bar. In addition, tell your bartenders if they’ll need to check IDs. Everyone has that one nephew…
9. Handle the Details
Sanchez says it’s important that the bartender have contact information for any coordinators the day of the event, in case you aren’t going to be available. In addition, you’ll want to make sure your bartender has a back-up plan if she isn’t able to make it for some reason. You’ll also want to decide how you’d like to handle tips. (Will there be a tip jar or will you be tipping the staff yourself?) Lastly, everything including deposits, cancellations, overtime fees, etc. should all be laid out clearly in a contract. Get everything in writing.
David Sanchez owns Party Services So Cal, a bartending service that caters to all of Southern California who has been hired over 300 times on Thumbtack.