Seizing a window of opportunity, beverage alcohol retailers are keeping the summer buzzing by supplying spirits, wine, and beer to weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and parties. “There was a period in the spring of 2020 when we had phone call after phone call of cancellations,” says Marty Holland, manager of The Party Source in Bellevue, Kentucky. “Now the outlook is very rosy. We are not seeing any let up.”
Located in northern Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, The Party Source has been delivering beverage alcohol to five or six weddings and other events each week this summer. These weddings tend to be at private venues and host 100-150 guests. “When it comes to beverage alcohol, some people have no idea what to get, how much to get, or what size to get,” Holland says. “Our golden rule is to keep it simple.”
Other retailers agree. “Keep choice options to a minimum to save cost and confusion,” says Crystal Burciaga, bartending manager of Fisher’s Discount Liquor Barn in Grand Junction, Colorado. Fisher’s has been providing beverage alcohol for two to three weddings and events a week this summer and has a roster of seven bartenders available, with one or two often working each event. “We are in for a busy rest of the year,” says general manager Josh Matteson. “Wedding season is coming this fall, along with office parties people didn’t get to have last year.”
Although the wedding season is not up to full speed for all retailers supplying such events, it’s busier than last year. “Overall the wedding season hasn’t come back to pre-Covid levels,” says Jack Backman, owner of Cheers Liquor Mart in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “Before the pandemic, we had four to six weddings a week. Now it’s about half that. A lot of people here are still scared to do a whole lot, and many are having destination weddings.”
Customers planning weddings tend to need more advice choosing wines as opposed to spirits and beer. Holland often suggests Italian Pinot Grigio, such as Cupcake ($9 a 750-ml.), Mezzacorona ($9), and Kris ($14), or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc like Nobilo ($11). Premium red blends are highly recommended, including Apothic ($10 a 750-ml.), Ménage À Trois ($11), and 14 Hands ($10). “Red blends cast the widest net in our experience,” Holland says. “They are flavorful but not overly aggressive.”
When it comes to spirits, clientele tends to be more decisive. “Most people will do a basic generic bar vodka, gin, rum, Bourbon and Scotch and mixers to go with it, while others want total top shelf, such as Grey Goose ($39 a 1-liter) and Bombay Sapphire ($25 a 750-ml.),” Backman says.
The Party Source customers often choose Jim Beam ($16 a 750-ml.), Old Forester 100 Proof Bourbon ($22), Tito’s ($19), Three Olives ($12) and Smirnoff vodkas (both $12 a 750-ml.), Captain Morgan Spiced rum ($17 a 750-ml.), and Bacardi Superior ($11). Weddings may have a mix of premium domestic and local craft beers and hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly (both $17 a 12-pack of 12-ounce cans). Holland’s patrons also favor local Ohio specialty beers MadTree ($10 a six-pack of 12-ounce cans), Rhinegeist ($9), and Braxton ($10).
Fulfilling events allows retailers to build their footprint and cultivate customer relationships. “It’s an outstanding growth opportunity,” Holland says. “If you do it right, you have a four figure sale to ring up, and if you do it really well, they’re going to tell their friends.”