Ask an Expert: Impress Clients with Cocktails at Your Corporate Event

Photos via Liquid Infusion Mobile Bar & Beverage Catering.

Cocktails: they're easier than one might think to add to your event's bar menu. How does one avoid huge wait times at the bar? What's blowing the socks off clients in 2017? Today, we chat to a guy who's made it his business to make cocktails accessible to large-scale corporate events, as well as average Joes ready to party hard in their yard: Jacob O'Connor, Head Mixologist at Liquid Infusion Mobile Bar and Beverage Catering.

A couple of notches above your standard beer and wine, cocktails have long been the marker of a sophisticated night out. Luxurious and pricier than your usual post-work pint of beer, they can be a little out of reach for both a regular night out with friends, and as part of the menu behind the bar at an event.

Aside from the price tag cocktails add to the average beverage package (or the way they deplete a bar tab), cocktails naturally take longer to prepare for a thirsty guest than it does to pour a glass of wine. The stakes become higher when there’s a large number of guests in attendance and bar staff are spending multiple minutes on a single drink – lest they sacrifice quality and taste for the sake of speed.

Think about it: who doesn’t have a story about a good event being marred by painfully long wait times at the bar?

Even if you don’t know Liquid Infusion by name, chances are you’ve attended an event with one of their pop-up bars providing all of the beverages, or an event in which they’ve supplemented a venue’s existing bar with their high-volume cocktail-making prowess.

Liquid Infusion’s Jacob O’Connor believes cocktails should be (and are) accessible for those planning an event, no matter how large or small. In fact, it can be downright simple to insert cocktail classics or a bespoke concoction into a large-scale corporate function – if you’ve planned adequately and you have a solid team behind you.

First things first: it’s vital that you understand your crowd.

"If we’re dealing with 30 guests over a long period of time, with three staff members, we have the luxury of making everything fresh," says Jacob. "If we have 200 guests and a 30 minute service window, a different methodology must be applied to meet the requirements of the event."

According to O’Connor, this is just as vital for smaller, private parties. Take into account the number of guests, how many of each beverage you’ll require – along with what goes into each of those beverages – and the time frame in which you’ll be serving them.

When it comes to these large-scale events, a team will prep all fruit, garnishes, and even squeeze fresh juice, back at the Liquid Infusion warehouse. That means the team on the night can maintain speed and consistency even during the busiest times.

When time is of the essence (and you have hundreds of people to serve), pre-made cocktails can similarly be a godsend. Pre-made certainly isn’t a sign of a sub-par product; whether designed from scratch or an old favourite, it’s merely a matter of ensuring the pre-made cocktail is made from high-quality fresh ingredients.

With this in mind, Jacob cheerfully declares that signature drink design for corporate events is easier than one might think. What better way to wow clients and guests when they arrive at an event? Ranging from something as simple as the colour of a drink matched to a brand’s style, or a specifically designed cocktail for a high-concept launch event, bespoke creations are in high demand.

Delivering on these unique client briefs is one of the more rewarding challenges that comes with day to day work for O’Connor. A recent event for L’Oreal launching Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb perfume called for a signature drink, which ended up being a ‘Moroccan Sunset’. Vodka, cherry liqueur, orange juice, elderflower and grenadine. "We dressed this baby with a cherry garnish and served 150 of them en masse over the course of one hour!"

This can extend to the theming of the bar, the staff, and the garnishes. "We worked an event recently in a penthouse, a masquerade-themed party. We wore gold cufflinks, white New York jackets, gold bow ties. We used edible gold as garnishes across our espresso and classic martinis – it was a great experience to deliver that for clients."

So, what were corporates loving in 2016 and the first part of 2017?

Easy: according to O’Connor, summer was all about ‘frosé’ (frozen rosé). And with a sigh, he admits that the mojito and espresso martini were by far the most popular drinks for Melbourne clients. That said, variations on the spritz – Prosecco, soda and a bitter liqueur – was also super popular, allowing for some creativity from his team.

"I love cocktails that are classy and simple, without too many moving parts – that’s required for speed and quality delivery. I love classics that are delicate, and require a touch of skill to perfect."

And for 2017? While currently "watermelon is trending" with corporate groups and lavish events, O’Connor admits he’d "love to see whisky-based cocktails making a solid move to the front over winter, especially using herbs like rosemary". Aside from that, it’d be wonderful to get creative with beer – giving the old reliable favourite a creative twist to blow the socks off guests.

Inspired? Ready to take that event from 'pretty good' to 'amazing'? Find and book the perfect corporate function venue with VenueNow >>

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