How to Create a Fabulous DIY Drinks Bar
By Lorna Urwin

30 December 2016

If you’re looking for a way to mix things up with offering drinks at your wedding, the DIY drinks bar trend might be just up your street. Often saving money over a traditional bar, the idea is really versatile and also provides an opportunity for guests to get more involved and maybe even get creative with their choice of beverage! Here we’ve gathered some practical advice to help make your dream DIY bar a reality.

Practicalities

diy beverage bar

Images by Melissa Schollaert Photography and Jen Rodriguez Photography

1/ Licensing

Depending on the licence coverage of the venue you’re using, you may need to apply for a special licence in advance if you’re supplying your own alcohol. Check in with Wellington Council to see what you need to do ahead of time! 

2/ Timing

In order to keep costs down and avoid things getting too chaotic, you may want to consider keeping the DIY bar to a specific time, like cocktail hour.

diy beverage bar

Image by Jessica Lorren Photography

3/ BARTENDER

Often with a self-serve bar the intention is to save money on hiring staff, but depending on the size of your wedding you may want to consider having someone behind the scenes to supervise the goings on. They can offer guidance on mixing drinks, keep things tidy and, perhaps most importantly, oversee replenishing if supplies run low. It doesn’t have to be a professional bartender, but they should be over 18 in case they’re required to help mix drinks. 

4/ Glassware

Whether you opt for plastic or glass, ensure there are enough tumblers to go around and that they’re suitable for the drinks you’re serving (pint glasses aren’t usually the best option if cocktails are on offer!). While you could rent your glassware or go disposable, an especially nice touch is to double up your glasses as wedding favours/escort cards. Mason jars with a waterproof nametag are a gorgeous and rustic take-home option, and ensure that guests reuse their own glass. 

diy beverage bar

Image by Sara Richardson Photography

5/ ICE

For keeping bottles chilled and for adding to glasses, large amounts of ice are a must! Ensure you have a good supply based on how much alcohol you’re providing and number of guests and provide scoops for guests to transfer ice from buckets to their glasses.

6/ Bottle openers, stirrers and shakers

If you’re offering bottled drinks like beer and wine, ensure there are plenty of opening tools available along with containers for disposing of the caps. To avoid the tools going astray, it doesn’t hurt to attach them to the tubs or bins where the bottles are stored. For cocktails, on the other hand, consider whether you might need to supply shakers, muddlers or stirrers (as well as jiggers or other measuring items) for the recipes you’re planning to serve.

diy beverage bar

Image by Bring To Light Photography

7/ INSTRUCTIONS/RECIPES

If your plan is a cocktail bar, be sure to give guests some guidance. Set up boards or signage with clear and easy-to-follow directions for making a single drink with specific measurements given and measuring instruments provided and labelled. See below for some example cocktail recipes!

8/ Rinsing and clean up

If guests will be having a variety of drinks and reusing glassware, you might want to consider how they will rinse their glasses between drinks. Outdoors, you may be able to use a water cooler as a rinsing station, with the excess water sprinkled onto the grass (do check this with your venue!). Indoors, you may need to think more creatively to provide a way for people to clean their glasses and then dispose of the water.

If your bar is focussed on bottles, rinsing won’t be an issue. You will, however, want to have a good system in place to dispose of all the leftover glass. Don’t forget to have plentiful bar rags or paper towels to clean up, whether to dry off dripping bottles or clean up spills.

Bar Format

diy beverage bar

Image by Marissa Lambert

This is where things get really flexible. You can give your DIY bar any format you prefer, from a row of bottled offerings in tubs to cocktail-specific bars (with ingredients for, e.g., sangria, mimosas or ice tea) to an ‘any-drink’ bar with a large variety of bottles, mixers and garnishes. 

One way to keep things more straightforward is to supply a pre-mixed punch or juice mixture that guests can spike as they see fit (or leave plain as a non-alcoholic option). Or you could go with fully pre-made cocktails in dispensers or bowls, but with a pretty garnishing station to dress them up with fruit, herbs or syrups. Add a few bottles of spirits, champagne or mixers on the side so that the strength can be altered to each guest’s taste. 

Cocktail Recipe Inspiration

diy beverage bar

Images by Tory Williams Photography

The options are endless when it comes to cocktail recipes you could cater for at your wedding, but here are a few simple, summery ideas to get you started!

Paloma

Ingredients:

Ice
30-45ml tequila (blanco or reposado)
½ lime (or lemon)
Grapefruit soda (All Good white grapefruit for a tart version or Six Barrel Soda Co. grapefruit and hops for a little extra bitterness)
Plate of salt (or a pinch)

Recipe:

  • Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and dip it in the plate of salt (or just add a pinch of salt to the drink)
  • Fill glass with ice, add the tequila and grapefruit soda, squeeze the lime in and leave the lime shell in the drink.

Margarita

Ingredients:

30ml fresh lime juice
60ml white tequila
30ml Cointreau or triple sec
Plate of coarse salt
Lime wedge

Recipe:

  • Rub the rim of the glass with a lime wedge and dip it in the plate of salt.
  • Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add lime juice and spirits and shake.
  • Add ice to the tumbler and strain the margarita. 
  • Squeeze in a wedge of fresh lime.

Mojito

Ingredients:

1½ limes, cut into wedges
20 fresh mint leaves (plus extra for garnish)
2½ tsp granulated sugar 
A handful of ice
65ml white rum
Soda water, to taste

Recipe:

  • Muddle/mash the lime wedges, mint and sugar in a glass, to bruise the mint and release the lime juice.
  • Add the ice and pour over the rum.
  • Add soda water to taste and stir well. 
  • Garnish with a mint sprig and serve.