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Someday soon we will all be entertaining again. I swear it’s true, and when we do, watch out because we are going to have a lot of catching up to do! Drinks are a huge part of entertaining and making guests feel welcome. As you know from reading older posts, Dinner Table Doctor and I truly enjoy our wine and put a lot of thought into our wine selection when we are having guests for dinner. When planning a gathering, most of us spend time selecting the right wines or beers or signature cocktails we might serve. Sometimes we forget that it is equally important to have a wide variety of non-alcoholic drinks for our guests.
There are many reasons your guests might prefer a non-alcoholic drink. Maybe alcohol consumption is against their religious beliefs; maybe they are pregnant; maybe they don’t like feeling tipsy; or they tied one on last night and need a break! They could be a recovering alcoholic or simply don’t like the taste or effects of alcohol. Honestly, you don’t need to know. Your job as a good host is to have more than one option available and always a few that clearly contain zero alcohol. If you don’t drink, there is no reason you need to serve any alcohol, unless you want to. As long as you have a few options and not just water, your guests will feel comfortable.
A guest who is not drinking alcohol for whatever reason truly appreciates it when you go out of your way to provide some thoughtful alternatives. This is easy to do. For example:
- A large pitcher of water and a bowl of fresh lemon slices with a fork is always a great idea. Most guests are going to want water at some point, even if they are drinking alcohol, and a slice or two of lemon makes water more flavorful. If you really want to go all out, use a drink dispenser and pre-mix some cucumbers and lemons or berries to flavor the water and make it look elegant.
- You can serve punch or a blended drink made with alcohol and a second one made “virgin” style. When both versions look festive it’s a treat for the non-drinkers as well. Just make sure they are very clearly labeled so no one mixes them up!
- Think about your glassware. If it’s a large gathering and everyone is using plastic ware, then plastic cups are fine for your non-drinkers. But if you made the effort to put out wine glasses and beer mugs, you should have extra glasses for the non-alcohol options. When everyone is walking around with wine glasses and one person has a can of Diet Coke or a bottle of water, they might not feel comfortable. Put some pretty drinking glasses out next to the water and soda if you’re also offering glassware for drinks with alcohol.
- If your budget allows, some interesting sodas and flavored sparkling waters are always appreciated, and so is iced tea or sparkling lemonade. These are simple alternatives which many guests will enjoy.
- Always have an ice bucket with tongs and check it often to refill when necessary. Many people prefer to dilute their drinks, alcohol or not.
- Cocktail napkins and drink markers are a simple, fun extra touch and should be placed all around the drink area, not just by the wine or beer.
- If you’re having a party with kids, put their drinks in a completely separate location from the adult drinks. An adult who is not drinking alcohol doesn’t need to root through a cooler of ice and pop or juice boxes competing with the kiddos to select their drink! Keep the adult non-alcoholic drinks in the same area as the other adult drinks and clearly label anything that may cause confusion.
- Coffee and tea are a great idea because some people love them with dessert. It’s also a subtle way to encourage guests to limit alcohol consumption as the night goes on. You don’t want impaired drivers leaving your house!
If you need to spruce up your bar area to prepare for a future of entertaining, here are some helpful products with links for purchase:
Cobalt Blue Drinking Glasses which are stylish for any types of drinks
A nice drink dispenser which has labels so you can clearly mark anything containing alcohol.
A festive punch bowl – Punch bowls aren’t used much anymore, and I’m not sure why. I love mine and I think it sets the tone of a festive celebration. Plus it’s so big that you don’t have to spend all night restocking the bar area.
A lovely pitcher which can be used for water or mixed drinks and even your punch if you don’t like the idea of a punch bowl.
A coffee thermos so you can make it before the guests get there and it will stay warm all evening:
Drinking glass markers which guests can get creative with by doodling or simply write their name on any type of glass so they can always find it.
An attractive and handy ice bucket so guests can help themselves to as much ice as needed and people aren’t reaching into your freezer all night.
Here’s a great and simple punch recipe that a friend gave me years ago after I raved about it at her dinner party. I have served this for many a gathering since, and someone always asks for the recipe. You can add rum to it, but it is a real crowd pleaser even without the alcohol:
- 2 cups apple juice
- 2 (6-ounce) cans pineapple juice
- 1 (12-ounce) can thawed cranberry juice concentrate, undiluted
- 1 (6-ounce) can thawed orange juice concentrate, undiluted
- 4 cups club soda, chilled
Combine the first 4 ingredients; stir until blended. Add soda just before serving. Serve over ice.
We all want our guests to feel special while they’re in our home and to leave our house saying they had a great time. A variety of drinks and some unique accessories are easy ways to achieve both goals. If you put some thought into the non-alcohol alternatives you offer when you are setting up your bar area, people will truly appreciate it.