Handy hints for the basic bar and handling champagne

Opening Champagne

Pull out all the stops, and set up a bar for your outdoor gathering. Let us guide you through beverage dos and don'ts for a successful party. We've even included basic guidelines on handling champagne, a quick chilling method for the unexpected celebration, and our secret technique for popping the cork so your guests won't need to duck for cover.

  • The basic bar should include liquor and mixers for what your guests prefer. Scotch, vodka, bourbon, gin, and rum are popular requests. Make fruit juices and sparkling water available.
  • To calculate how much to purchase, consider the number of guests, how long the party will last, and what other beverages will be served.
  • For each guest, estimate one drink, one beer, or two glasses of wine per hour. For those who don't consume alcoholic beverages, figure in three to four cans of cola or bottles of water.
  • It's difficult to determine in advance how much liquor, beer, or wine you'll need. Err on the side of caution by buying too much, rather than too little. When purchasing liquor, ask if the store gives refunds for returned unopened bottles.
  • Use this guideline to help gauge what is needed for your party:
    1 (750-milliliter) bottle liquor = 17 (1 1/2-ounce) jiggers
    1 (33.8-ounce) bottle liquor = 22 (1 1/2-ounce) jiggers
    1 (750-milliliter) bottle wine or champagne = 6 (4 ounce) servings.

Pop the Cork: Handling Champagne

  • The degree of sugar in champagne is conveyed by its name. Brut or Natural is the driest; Extra Dry is less dry than Brut; Sec is sweet; and Semi-Sec is even sweeter. Spumante is sweet, fruity sparkling wine ideal for serving with desserts.
  • Champagne doesn't age; it's ready to drink when it leaves the winery. Bottles should be stored on their sides to keep the corks moist and retain their elasticity.
  • To open a bottle of champagne, remove the foil and the twisted wire hood. Grasp the cork with a dish towel; twist the bottle, and you'll feel the cork loosening. Fit the pocket of a pot holder over the champagne bottle. As you give the bottle a firm twist, hold the cork tightly with the pot holder, and capture the cork in the pocket.
  • Tall, thin glasses are designed for sparkling wines. They guide the bubbles, concentrate the aromas, and hold the carbonation longer.
  • Store sparkling wines three to four hours in the refrigerator at 43 to 48 degrees. When drop-in guests arrive, don't place champagne in the freezer. Get a fast chill by submerging the bottle in a mixture of half ice and half tap water in the kitchen sink or an ice bucket. This will bring it to the correct temperature faster than ice alone.