Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Choosing YOUR Bar!

As if you don't have enough choices when it comes to planning a wedding in comes the (new) age old bar or open bar.

Working in the wedding and event industry has allotted me the opportunity to see a variety of bar options and opened my eyes to the realization that it doesn't have to be black or white, open vs cash. Clients are doing full cash, open, 'toonie bars', open for dinner-cash for reception, two free drink ticket then cash bar, free signature drink or 'limited open' bar-the options are endless and no one option is best for the masses. 

Open Bar- Guests are free to enjoy beverages without purchase. This option, although costly, is a welcome contender when taking into consideration the cost of attending a wedding or event. 

Pros; easy and cost effective for your guests, elimination for the need of a special occasion permit, allows brides/grooms/hosts to choose the quality and quantity of alcohol and gives your new step father the liquid courage needed to split jump and russian kick his way into an early night (This is a true story...Sorry Fred.) 

Cons; possibility of overindulgence by a small group of your guests-think 'passing out in a shrub' overindulgence and the expense of having an open bar can really tug at the purse strings.

Limited Bar-Free alcoholic beverages during cocktail hour/dinner or 'X' Free Drinks and the purchase of beverages during reception time. This is for the bride, groom, host that WANTS an open bar but for whatever reason is limited to the possibility of having it, wether it be cost, opportunity or otherwise.

Pros; Assists in diminishing cost, reigns in over indulgence closer to a time where guests will make their trek home (for the guests idiotic enough to even consider drinking and driving) and allows you to still cover some cost of the bar.

Cons; If not properly communicated to guests, it can cause confusion, it can unknowingly encourage over indulgence before the commencement of post dinner wedding events-when your guests will forget everything post cake cutting.

Toonie Bars-$2 drinks all night. The happy medium. This option has been increasingly growing in popularity. It's affordable for both guests and hosts!

Pros; Simple, cost effective, will most likely cover the cost of the bar supplies and alcohol, unless you have a really rowdy crowd like mine-shout out to the 4am'ers!

Cons; You will need an ample cash float.

Full Cash Bar-All alcoholic beverages are subject to a cash price. 

Pros; Easy on the budget, covers expenses.

Cons; , Have to obtain Special Occasion Permit to sell liquor, depending on the cost of alcoholic beverages, some guests may be inclined to be disgruntled. Like the wedding my husband and I attended... $7.50 bottles of Coors Light...YIKES. (You can imagine how negated the bar was at that wedding.)

When it all boils down, the type of bar you have at your wedding is up to you. Each option has it's pros and it's cons and really as long as you end up MR & MRS by the end of the night, everything is as it should be. 

Happy Planning!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Don't Serve Warm Drinks...and other Bar Preventables.

A couple of years ago at a friends wedding, I arrived to find myself in a massive line up for drinks. I don't mean the typical few minute wait, giving you enough time to get your tickets/money out, chat with the couple ahead of you in some nonchalant attempt to pass the time or change your mind, at least once, about which poison you were going to pick...I mean, the line did not move for at least 15 minutes. I wondered if they had run out of liquor (oh the horror!) or if they were having issues turning away an over intoxicated patron, but when I finally got to the front of the line I saw the issue, clear as day. At an event with well over 200 people there were 2 bartenders. Whom I recognized as friends of the groom. Whom I also never knew to be bartenders by trade. 

They were clearly in over their heads, overwhelmed and unorganized. Empty cups were strewn about the bar top, money was falling off the edges, people were huffing and puffing and I'm pretty sure one of the bartenders was about to cry/in the midst of a mental breakdown/about to pull the fire alarm in an attempt to thwart any plans of the bar getting any busier. Just then two members of the wedding party, who were obviously intoxicated, came to help behind the bar. This posed all new risks to the event that I'm sure they weren't even aware of. Legal risks. The line began moving again, I ordered my rye and ginger, received it and took and sip. Warm. El Nino warm. If you've ever had a warm rye and ginger when you were expecting a cold one your probably as horrified reading this as I was sipping it. The bartender, noticing, my less than subtle reaction, advised me they had run out of ice and "someone" was going to go get some "when they had a chance." Knowing this was not her fault, I thanked her, the empathetic server in me tipped her, I took my drink and reminded myself to order a beer next time. 

This was the bar situation ALL NIGHT. The wedding was beautiful, the music was great, don't even get me started on the heartfelt speeches (I'm a crier, I'll admit it) but it was brought up on more than one occasion how horrible the bar situation was. A year later at a mutual friends Jack and Jill, the bride confided in me that her now husband had said his friends offered to get their smart serves and work the event for free, just collecting tips and she thought nothing of it at the time but to that day, harboured regret and even embarrassment about the decision. 

The bar aspect often gets overlooked but in truth, it's a pinnacle of your event. It's where people culminate to chat, catch up, where you provide your guests with drinks to celebrate your big day, where your Uncle Jerry gets the liquid courage to do Russian kicks on the dance floor, even when he has no business doing Russian kicks in the first place.

Here are a few mistakes to avoid in regards to the bar aspect of your event.

Paying Less and Expecting More. There is a saying that ‘you get what you pay for’. It's a coined term for a reason..because a lot of the time, it's true. The same applies to hiring bar staff.  Sure, it's great to throw your sisters-best friends-brother a bone and hiring him at 50% of the cost of a professional company but consider the work you are getting. Is he experienced? Is he certified? Does he have insurance? Will he care about the 'review' you give him on his non existent website? Will he feel the need to work within the AGCO and Smart Serve guidelines? Does he have a float? Bar utensils? Backup liquor? Is this his passion or his 'bread and butter?' Quality bar staff may cost more but they are the better option if you are to end up with a successful event. 

Taking too much time in deciding. Event planning takes a lot of time, energy, organization and everyone has areas they put more and less into. Don't let the bar aspect be the latter. I say this for a variety of reasons, one being my own experience with being a hired professional bartender. I often have brides contact me only mere months from their wedding, saying either their "bartenders" fell through, they forgot to hire a bartender or thought their venue or caterer supplied them, only to find out I am completely booked for that weekend. I feel bad turning people away knowing the importance and necessity of needing a licensed, experienced bartender. There are only so many 3rd party bartending companies and so many weekends for weddings and events. Make the bar a priority, your guests, wallet and sanity will thank you for it. 

Leaving out the details. No drink menu? It happens more often than you think. Your guests should be aware of not only what you are serving, but what you aren't and the costs associated. Most importantly...I cannot believe the amount of times I have been to events with a heavy bar presence where there is no information on safe rides home. This, as a licensed bartender, makes me cringe. There is not only legal responsibilities but those of your conscious as well. Leave cab company cards or a notice with info for safe rides home on your bar, this is especially important for your out of town guests who do not know the area or the cab companies. 

Doing it ALL yourself. DIY is great. I'm a sucker for Pinterest'ing well...everything. But some things are just out of reach and that's okay. Especially when your planning an event. Handle what you want or what you can and let the professionals do the rest. One thing I was adamant about when starting Alewife was that I was going to make customer service and client relief a top priority. I don't charge my clients for the 'extra's'-if they need advice on how much ice to buy for an event of 150 people, I gladly supply it, instead of allowing them to spend hours on Google trying to siphon the good advice from the bad and still ending up serving warm drinks.  Don't be afraid to reach out to your event vendors and ask for a little help, advice, etc. It's what you hire them for after all!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Having Fun with Signature Drinks

With websites like Pinterest becoming the holy grail of event planning, it's no surprise to see a sudden increase in requests from clients for something "a little different." Sometimes they want to go big with their ideas, sometimes small-but always something unique, fun and significant.

Enter Signature Drinks.

Recently I have fallen in love with the creation and decoration of signature drinks. Whether it be for the guest of honour at her 50th birthday party, a bride and groom's own favourite drinks or the drink that best reflects the cause of the fundraiser, signature drinks are the new "oh la la" of any bar aspect. It allows people to incorporate their own little touch into the bar to make it stand out, with possibilities and tastes that are endless. 

Here are some tip, tricks and general info about making signature drinks a part of your event:

Ingredient List. This is important for a variety of reasons; from allergies to "Oh my Gosh, I CANNOT drink tequila," to "I want to make that at home"-ensure your providing your guests with the ability to bow out of or take on the signature drink you have selected to serve at your event.

Decoration. My absolute, hands down, favourite part of handling signature drinks for my clients is decoration. Whether your matching it to your existing decor, reflecting the actual drink or something in between, everyone loves a decorated drink. Berry garnishes, straw flags, hot pink sugar rim, drink labels, mint infused ice cubes- the possibilities are truly endless.

Do You. Not everyone is going to like your favourite drink. I go gaga for an ice cold gin and limeade. I probably couldn't pay half of my friends to even consider ingesting it but if it were my event, THAT would be my signature drink. Why? Because it's my favourite. When it comes to things unique to you, be true to yourself and your tastes. 

Do You Part 2. Don't be afraid to incorporate things like your background into your signature drinks. Use your grandmas favourite sangria recipe or a beverage representative of your nationality. People love to experience new things so don't be afraid to give them the opportunity to.

Presentation. Another aspect important to the art of signature drinks if how you present said drinks. Champagne service, vintage inspired lemonade stand with all the fix ins or sample whisky tasting displayed on hand crafted bark tree tiers, once again, options are endless. 

Have FUN! Silly drink names, fun signs, tongue in check slogans. Signature drinks are the tasty appetizer to the sometimes mundane regular bar offerings, its something to get people talking, laughing, enjoying. So, have fun with it!

Contact Alewife about having signature drinks at your event, we can't wait to hear what you have come up with and how we can help knock it out of the park!

Monday, 15 August 2016

F.A.Q's ...The Alewife Edition

Since going full steam ahead with Alewife, I've gotten such an incredible response from not only friends and family but from the demographic I hope to reach. (Already getting inquiries for 2018 Weddings!)
But along with any new endeavour, questions do arise on the service(s) you are providing and the details surrounding them. Below I will highlight the questions I have received and how I answer them.

What do you actually do?
Alewife Event Bartending provides professional bar services. We supply certified and experienced bartenders, we rent out mobile bars and decor, we do 'full service' orders; providing bars, bartenders, supplies, mix, license and liquor procurement and every detail in-between. We take the metaphorical wheel and handle the entire bar aspect off the hands of the host/planner/etc. 

What are your "specialty services?"
Specialty services are what we offer that wedding planners have told me "no one else does."
If you want to do a vintage inspired lemonade stand pre-ceremony for your wedding guests or a craft beer sampling station for your Jack and Jill-we can do it! It allows you to be creative and have fun-without the work. 

What if I just need bartenders?
Sounds great! We have an inventory of certified, experienced, eager and energetic bartenders to tend to the bar at your event. They handle set up, clean up, provide a float and bar utensils. 

Can't I just hire bartenders from my catering company?
Of course you can! Just be mindful of the difference in WHAT is being supplied for how MUCH, quality and cost. Some caterers will lead you to believe you HAVE to hire them for the bar aspect. and they tend to charge on the higher side for those bartending services, a lot of the times adding a mandatory 18% gratuity-without any added benefits. At Alewife we like to provide MORE for LESS. Fair rates, great service and a main focus-making the bar a hit.

When in my planning process should I contact Alewife about my event?
To ensure we are available for your date...the sooner the better! As an example of how our clients book us; we still have dates available in 2017 but we have already started booking for the 2018 season, with Spring to Fall being our busiest time of year. Reaching out to us early, not only secures our services for the date of your event, but also allows you the ability to cross that off your 'to do' list and focus on other aspects of your event. 

Do you just service weddings?
A great deal of our business comes from wedding and wedding related events but we revel in the ability to work events of all different natures. Birthday parties, retirements, corporate functions, fundraisers, holiday parties-if there is a bar at your event, we would love to service it. 

Where can I get more information about Alewife Event Bartending?
To learn about us and our services, you can visit us at a number of different online outlets; Facebook: Alewife Event Bartending, our Website:, send us an email at OR you can come visit our booth at the Quinte Bridal Show on Sunday, October 16th. 

Why did you start this business? 
Passion. Enjoyment. Fulfillment. Alewife came to be out of a passion to work with people, an enjoyment in providing the services we do and the fulfillment in the knowledge that you helped clients in their pursuit for a flawless event and bringing to life their ideas. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

To Wine or Not To Wine.

A bride told me last week that the corking fee at a venue she looked at was $22 PER bottle.  I almost fell off my chair, almost flung my overpriced Starbucks iced coffee right in the air, almost laughed at the sheer insanity of the idea that a venue would or COULD charge that. At that moment, more than ever, I understood her choice to have a backyard wedding. She then said she really didn't care all that much for serving table wine at her wedding but would rather do something fun and inspired. We discussed her options for table beverages, which led me to writing this blog. What used to be expectancies of a wedding or event are now merely options in the vast variety OF options available.  Your event is YOURS. Make the most of the opportunity to be creative and have fun with the idea of beverages on your table. No one ever said the road most travelled was always the 'right one.'

*(Of course, keep in mind the rules and requirements of the venue or location you are holding your event at to ensure you are allotted this decision in the first place.)

Imagine a beautiful fall event, decorations plentiful with the humbly vibrant colours of the season, the falling leaves, the crisp air and CIDER. This isn't just #1 on the list because its my personal favourite, okay maybe it is, but also because of what you could do with this idea. Pear, Apple, Cinnamon. The options continue; individual serve in mason jars, antique glass swing tops, hollowed out apples. It's something unique, affordable (wine stores often sell kits!) and most of all, delicious.

Now, hear me out on this one. With the increasing popularity of craft beer, the way in which it is bottled, sold and presented has changed dramatically, becoming quite aesthetically pleasing.  If you want to highlight your favourite kind of beer or you just plain and simple, have a 'beer drinking crowd'-this option may be for you. You can highlight your table decor with a vintage looking growler full of the finest local brew or have custom engraved swing tops or growlers with table numbers. It's off the cuff, but a great alternative. 

An event is a celebration, is it not? Why not indulge a bit and opt for some bubbly? Some would say this option is too much like wine but I like to refer to it more as wine's fun cousin. If your someone always looking for something a little different but don't want to wander into completely unconventional territory than this option may be for you. It's sophisticated, unique and who doesn't love a little Bambino every now and then. Yes, I said Bambino. (it doesn't have to be expensive to be good!)

Have an idea for your very own "off the cuff" table beverage? Let Alewife help with the planning! Website in "About Us"-check it out! 


Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Making your bar YOU'nique.

See what I did there? Corny joke 101. But this blog really IS about making your bar unique and special to you. Hosts, most especially brides and grooms, often forget that the event they are hosting is supposed to be a reflection of them and their likes and dislikes, or those of the guest of honour. When considering your only going to get one kick at the can to impress the guests with your own creative touch to the bar-the real question is-why NOT do something fun and different? Here are some ideas gaining a lot of momentum on sites like Pinterest and some of my personal favourites...guilty.

Craft Beer Sample Bar
Your hubby to be loves craft beer? Why not have a craft beer sample taste bar? It adds a touch of his interests (which trust me, once your married will be yours too...regardless if you like it or not!) and also adds a little extra flair to your wedding bar. Have the MR. pick out 8 of his favourite craft beers and serve 2-3 ounces in each glass with the information of each brand listed. This gives him the ability to show off his tastes, literally and figuratively and gives guests the ability to try something they may not have normally tried. 

Mojito Bar
Have you ever been to a summer wedding where the heat was unbearable, like dancing on the equator unbearable? Where you felt it in your BONES. And where all you want is the most refreshing drink humanly possible and available (save water, because lets be honest.) Enter Mojito Bar. Nothing is more refreshing, or aesthetically pleasing as a mojito. You have endless options to display and serve and your guests will be nothing but giddy with the idea to be there own bartender and concoct their very own signature drink.

Lemonade Stand
This cute, vintage bar idea is great for hydrating your guests while they wait to enter the reception or for your ceremony to start. Not all weddings jump right into serving alcohol and some events are dry so this works great as a non alcoholic option as well. Pink Lemonade, Limeade or Classic lemonade-the gang is all here, or it can be! (Plus-how endearing and vintage are the displays? LOVE.)

Whisky (Or Whiskey, for my fellow Irish folk) Bar
I had to put this on the list. Partly because my wedding ran out of whisky promptly at 11pm so I see its true value, but also because it is the definition of class and sophistication. Think 'Mad Men.' Choose a few whisky's that boast different origins, flavours and ages. There is so much room to have fun with this idea. Adorn your table with Ron Burgandy approved decor, add some post meal cigars and let the swirling begin. 

Coffee Bar
It's 10pm, you've been at it all day...or so it seems and then the DJ starts playing the wedding classics...(I'm a sucker for Mambo #5) and you need that little kick in the rear to get your dancing shoes in gear. Welcome to the coffee bar. But this is no typical coffee in an urn with styrofoam cups and the usual suspects; milk, cream, sugar. Introduce whipped cream, cinnamon, mocha syrups, vanilla creamer...the possibilities are endless. You can even have custom disposable cups made for a very affordable price designed with your names or even a slogan..."love is brewing." Yup, the play on words gets me every time. 

I could go on forever about the large variety of specialty bar options, these were just 5 of the ones I was all too excited to plan. This is what Alewife specializes in, making your event SPECIAL. Even if you have an off the cuff idea, we can make it happen-we revel in our ability to not just try new things but go over the fence, into the stars with them. Below are more fun ideas for bar options. Contact Alewife if anything jumps out at you as a 'must have' for your big day!

Sangria Bar

Mimosa Bar

Hot Chocolate Bar

Bride and Groom Signature Drinks

Individual Welcome Drinks

Champagne Service

Tea Bar

Monday, 1 August 2016

3 Must Do's When Planning an Event (from a business owner and regretful bride.)

Planning an event can be a very overwhelming task.
It can be fun, exciting, inspiring, rewarding...but still, overwhelming.
There are so many things to be done, items to be purchased, services to be ordered, venders to be enlisted. With all that jotted on your "to do" list (or if your anything like me, in your "to do" BINDER-I may be a litttttle over organized) you run the risk of missing some of the most important aspects of planning an event in regards to budget. 

Research. Research. Research.
Talk to your friends. Look online. Google the photographer, caterer, bartender, officiator you are looking at hiring. Websites like Wedding Wire are helping brides/hosts/wedding planners be informed on the vendors they are doing business with. This is important for a multitude of reasons. It eliminates rift raft and non professionals from having a hand in your important event. It also gives you a general idea of what to expect from a specific provider, gives you first hand experience from people who were once in your shoes and helps you determine based on feedback if it's something you want to pursue further. 

Get Quotes.
I cannot stress this enough. You may LOVE the maple bacon wrapped scallops that you ate at your cousins engagement party but you may end up overpaying or stretching your budget based on a delicious memory of a specific catering company. You may think the sangria bar you got accidentally tipsy on at your friends dads 50th birthday party was a must have but you may end up paying one company double what you would pay another for the very same thing

Get quotes. From at least 3 different vendors. It's a metaphorical nibble on the line and they will be nothing but happy to supply the quote. You may still end up paying more for one vendor than another because sometimes a higher price determines quality of work, supplies, etc. but make sure you have the option in the first place to make that decision. 

Ask Questions.
When I planned my own wedding, I found a caterer who's food had rave reviews and I booked her. She thoughtfully offered bartenders for the event as we had a backyard wedding with an open bar that required licensed, certified individuals tending bar. In all my excitement of the "two birds, one stone" theory I didn't even ask the cost. I just thought "Great!" and I gladly scratched that required service off the list.

Flash forward to the day I received my quote...
$30 per hour for each server and $50 per hour PER bartender. PLUS an added, apparently mandatory 18% gratuity.

$50 per hour plus 18% gratuity and tips for a bartender at a private residence with no float to manage or drink tickets to take seemed a little steep. I worked freelance tending bar for weddings and other events at this time and had never charged so much as $25 an hour for open bar service. And as someone who has worked within the service industry for 10 years, I was appalled to see a mandatory 18% gratuity. I had always worked on the notion that gratuities were EARNED. You worked hard, if the host or hostess determined you provided service over and above their expectations, they may hand you a gratuity and you were thankful for whatever that amount may be. However my caterer had apparently already determined the quality of work I was going to receive, through apparition or assumption, I'm not sure, but she was no Miss Cleo. My bartenders and servers were horrific. Robots with trays. And I ended up paying them close to $80 per hour once gratuity was included, not to mention tips. This still keeps me up at night. 

Which brings me to the moral of this point...ASK QUESTIONS. Know exactly WHO you are hiring and for HOW much. You always have the right to question a charge if you are unsure of its origin or necessity. Once you have the appropriate information, you can choose to proceed with your business with or without this charge, or even with this vendor but be educated.

In conclusion, do your homework but trust your gut, know your budget but ensure what you want is within it by way of vendor quotes and lastly ask questions, eliminate unwanted surprises and ensure you are confident in what you are paying for. 

Happy Planning!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Alewife is Born

I have always loved bartering and serving. Truly loved being employed to do just that, tend a bar and serve drinks. The people. The atmosphere. The artistry. 

I began serving when at 18, with very few employers in our town, I was offered a position at Swiss Chalet (if your mouth is watering over the thought of Chalet sauce right now...your not alone.) This is where I began to hone my serving skills and stretch my bartending muscles. I learnt the basics; about portion control, serving etiquette, bar tending "norms," among many other aspects that I believe catapulted me into a self proclaimed strong bartender.

Soon after, I headed off to college and while taking on a heavy course load I remained passionate about serving...and working so I didn't endure the dread of lifelong student loans, if I'm being honest. I was employed at a restaurant/club/pub called On the Rocks. This is where I learnt to adapt and diversify my serving and bar tending skills, mainly because, well...I had to. On the Rocks boasted a sit down dining area and patio, along with a large pub style bar on the bottom floor and upstairs was a bonafide nightclub. A strobe light, glowstick kind of nightclub. Ahead of every shift you were uncertain if you were going to be serving flow pour keg beer or mass pouring double vodka Red Bulls. This unpredictability was exhilarating and I revelled in the chance to customize my serving style and skills to the environment I was going to be placed in that night. 

2 years and a diploma later, I made my way over to Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo where I decided to put the Athabasca credits I had been accumulating for 2 years to good use and enrolled in the necessary courses to earn a degree in Psychology. Once again, the serving life called and I answered. I reached out to a local restaurant that I had heard great reviews on and simply inquired about positions. Soon after the manager contacted me for an interview, we enjoyed a glass of wine and discussed how we could make me a part of the Rude Native team. Shortly after I began as a server, moved up to a dual role as both a server and a bartender and was then asked to run the operations as a floor manager once the manager had gone home for the evening or on days off. This is where I learnt the fine ART   of bartending. The owner of the Rude Native was a stickler for education in our employment, we had quarterly wine tasting and classes, learning about the coordination of appropriate wine and food pairings, we also underwent training on everything imaginable in regards to the bar. We learnt how to make a lemon twist, how to produce a top shelf martini and the illusive slow Guiness pour, among other things. 

After completing my time in Waterloo, I moved to Kingston and began a career utilizing my diploma and degree. For once, there was no time for serving, no ability to exercise the skills I had obtained or feed my passion of serving and bartending. Sure, I worked freelance, tending bar at weddings and other events but it never quite satisfied the itch. Then it happened, the ah-ha moment. 

Fast forward to my very own wedding day. I hate to attach any sort of negativity to the best day of my life but I have to, to illustrate the gravity of this passion project, and I will be blunt and honest-the bartenders and servers at my wedding were absolutely down right horrible. We had a decent sized backyard wedding, an open bar and our bartenders were being paid $50/hour PLUS 18% gratuity PLUS whatever tips they received at the bar, not to mention our wedding was extremely laid back (possibly due to the abundance of free alcohol but I digress.) Did I, as the bride, receive so much as a smile while approaching the bar to request a glass of white wine? You'd like to think so, but you would be wrong. A few of my closer friends and family even voiced their like experiences, all of which were as negative, if not more than my own. Weeks after the big day, I smiled at the thought of every aspect of our big day, the flowers were beautiful and abundant, our officiant was incredible and sweet, our wedding party were absolutely amazing, the die for and lets be honest, I got to marry the man of my dreams, my best friend and partner in crime-what could top that!? But I literally cringed when I thought about the bar. My poor guests, how must they have felt interacting with these robots passing themselves off as bartenders. 

And thats when the metaphorical light went on. People shouldn't have to pay good money for lack lustre bar service. And I decided to make a point to ensure they wouldn't be. And thus Alewife was born. Born to provide over the top service at an affordable rate. Born to work with clients, create, customize and provide a great bar experience, making their event that much more special.  

I am so excited to give my clients what they truly deserve...incredible service. In hopes, one day, Alewife itself can be a highlight of the event for the all the right reasons.