The rule of thumb states each guest will drink one drink per hour. By this rationale fifty guests gathering for a four hour party will consume two hundred beverages during the event. While this is not a science it is usually fairly accurate. However, if you know that your friends and family are heavy drinkers you may want to increase that amount.
This might seem like a lot of beverages, however this includes all of the beer wine and cocktails that will be served
The trick is guessing which drinks will be popular for this particular occasion. While we can guess based on our experience many times its easier for you to estimate how much and what your guests are most likely to enjoy
There are some essential items that you will need no matter what you decide to serve.
Cups or Glassware - Unless you have a dedicated team member and a washing station plan to have a glass for every beverage you plan to serve
Cocktail Napkins - There are typically two kinds of cocktail napkins the incredibly thin ones and the very plush ones. the thin ones you end up using around two per drink the thicker ones about one per drink. If you are also serving appetizers count on a couple of napkins per guest for appetizers as well.
Cocktail Straws - standard of two per mixed drink.
Ice - For a four hour event we recommend two pounds per person. That will be used both for mixed drinks and for chilling beer and wine.
Water - The one thing you never want to run out of, we recommend twelve to sixteen ounces per guest for a four hour event.
Beer - You will most likely be serving some type of beer. While there are many variations within each type there are three basic kinds of beer lager, ale, and stout. Lagers are the lightest, ales are darker and more bitter, and stouts are darker still and tend to be flavored with chocolate and coffee. During the day people tend to drink the lighter beers and drink more full bodied beers in the evening.
Wine - Wine like beer comes in all flavors and colors. I will not attempt to list all types here, however I will tell you that again there are three (very generic) categories that wine is placed into. White wine is typically consumed during the day, red wine is usually served with meals and in the evening, and sparkling the celebration wine seems to be enjoyed at any time of day or night.
Basic Cocktails - Drinks like rum and coke, vodka cranberry etc. and any other two ingredient concoction you can think of. Basic cocktails makes it easier and removes a lot of the waste from your shopping experience. The only alcoholic beverages you will need will be some or all of the big seven; rum, gin, vodka, tequila, whiskey, brandy, and cognac (the last two seem to have reduced in popularity since the 50's).
Specialty Cocktails - Perhaps simpler than basic cocktails with a more complex drink. Simply choose two (brides drink / grooms drink) or three cocktails simple or complex and only purchase ingredients to serve those specific cocktails.
Full Bar - Hosting a full bar can be as complex as you want to make it. Keep in mind that you want to provide drinks that your guests will want to drink, without having unopened cases of obscure liqueurs and flavored vodkas that you will be taking home. That being said most bartenders love a chance to create complex cocktails or at least be able to should they be ordered.