From craft cocktails to Microbrews to local wines, booze presents a lot of choices for planners. Brian Croze, wine consultant for Holiday Market in Royal Oak, shared tips and trends with MIM+E for getting it right.
Planners can expect a 30/30/30 breakdown, Croze says: For each 100 guests, about 30 will drink wine, 30 will drink beer and 30 will drink liquor.
From there, it’s about budget and the type of experience you want to create. "Are we going to select domestic approachable session beers so that you can drink several of them?" Croze says. "Or a Michigan craft beer that’s more for enjoyment? Liquor is the same way. Am I using Smirnoff and approachable liquors or getting into single malt scotches, single-barrel bourbons?" Following are trends in beer, wine and liquor and Croze’s tips for making the most of them without breaking the budget.
- Trends -
> Malbec is big, and pinot noir is on the upswing. Malbec offers the weight, balance and viscosity of a cabernet without a cab’s tannic astringency, while American and French pinot noirs offer multiple weights and styles.
> The transition from single malt scotches to single barrel bourbons is popular. Partially, this is about growing support of American products, but it’s also tied to bourbon’s unique flavor differences, Croze says, and the cost benefit-bourbon costs about one-third less than scotch.
> The number of seasonal craft beers released, especially in Michigan, is growing exponentially every year, Croze says. "That’s something a planner could really benefit from-the unique opportunity to offer that beer at his or her event."
> Vermouths are popular, as are high-quality ingredients and essences. For a distinctive cocktail, layer alcohols with each other to give fullness and a sense of flavor. "You have to be careful, though," Croze says. "Your party could wrap up early with too many of those."
- Tips -
> Avoid having too many offerings. Endless variety can overwhelm guests and drive costs up fast-you’ll need mixers, garnishes and glassware for all those different concoctions. Instead, "focus on a couple of really beautiful or thoughtful selections," Croze says.
> Be mindful of how people drink at events. "When you’re socializing, you take two sips, set your glass down, go to the buffet and then it’s, ‘Where’s my glass?’ So you go get another drink," Croze says. "I see a lot of clients who say they want to serve something like Stag’s Leap for their event. It’s $50 a bottle, and a $15 bottle will do just fine."
> For fall, think richer, heartier drinks like porters, stouts and ambers. Select chardonnays that are oakier and more vanilla than the lighter, citrusy varieties popular in the summer. "Wines go to rich and viscous and silky, getting ready for holiday entertaining and fuller, richer foods," Croze says.
> If you’re going to offer multiple bars, limit what each serves. "Unless you’re breaking it up- a beer bar, a wine bar, a liquor bar- you’ve tripled the bottles you’ve opened and are going to spoil." And don’t open everything beforehand, but rather as you go. A bottle of wine is only good for a few days. A couple dozen half-consumed bottles are going to go to waste.
> Support your local shop and it will pay off. You’ll get the insights of your local expert, and many shops in Michigan pride themselves on maintaining the minimum shelf price through the state liquor commission, Croze says. "Relationships make your job very easy."
- Brian Croze
Brian Croze is a certified specialist of wine. Prior to joining Holiday Market in 1999, he worked with the boutique wine firm Decanter Imports; opened Big Rock Chophouse in Birmingham; opened Wabeek Country Club; and was beverage director at Oakland Hills Country Club during the planning and execution of the 1996 U.S. Open.