How to Save Money on Large Quantities of Alcohol

Important information for your wedding, the holidays, and every other day of the year.

Photograph by Tamara Gruner Photography.

In the planning of a wedding, every couple has good reason to be conscientious of the bar tab. Expensive liquors, especially when being served to a crowd, can tally up fast, so it’s important that those planning a wedding–or any party, for that matter–are smart about their cocktails. To get the best tips on cutting costs when it comes to alcohol, we turned to the hip duo behind Stir Bartending Co., cofounders Liz Ball and Carlie Steiner. Here’s what they’d recommend.

Limit cocktail offerings to cocktail hour.

This is the easiest way to cut costs, hands down. A fun spin on this concept is to offer aperitif cocktails to prep the palate and digestif cocktails to settle the stomach after dinner. By choosing a pairing for your dinner service, your guests will feel like they are enjoying a trendy tasting menu.

Avoid big-name bottles.

Spirits don’t need to be top-shelf unless you intend to serve them neat or on the rocks. In fact, some of the most expensive spirits don’t play nice in a cocktail.

Stick with citrus.

Cocktails that fall into the light-refreshing-citrusy category are typically the most crowd-friendly as well as budget-friendly. The strong flavor of citrus means you can cut back on your base liquor without sacrificing taste.

Know That “Open Bar” Isn’t Your Only option.

Some other ways to incorporate spirits, from most to least costly:

  • Partial Bar: Hire knowledgeable craft cocktail bartenders to set out two or three main spirits and pair them with a range of shrubs and infused sweeteners.
  • Bottled Signature Cocktails: Not only do they minimize the need for bartender service, they make for a striking reception gift and can be personalized with a custom label.
  • Punch: Ladled from a beautiful bowl with stylish garnishes, these large-batch drinks are the perfect way to serve a cocktail at high volume with low cost.

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.