Alcohol Service Tips for the Holiday Season

Alcohol Service Tips for the Holiday Season

4 Min Read

Holiday festivities are upon us! Learn our top tips for alcohol service over the busy holiday season.

Licensed establishments are entering what may be their busiest season — the holidays. For all staff from servers to bartenders, to Food Handlers and managers, it’s important to keep some tips and best practices in mind to make sure the season is both safe for customers and profitable for the business.

While serving alcohol is a fun job, especially during the festive holiday season, it also comes with significant responsibility. Make sure alcohol service goes smoothly this holiday season by following these simple tips.

Know the alcohol serving size of holiday drinks

Not all drinks are created equal. For example, a typical 12 oz beer is a standard drink — this contains 5% alcohol by volume. If you’re serving a 12 oz draft winter warmer, the ABV is usually between 5.25% and 8%, with some reaching as high as 10%. This means what looks like one beer could equal 1.5 or even 2 standards drinks.

Drinks made with wine and spirits can be just as deceptive. Fortified wine, for instance, is wine to which a distilled spirit, often brandy, has been added to boost its alcohol content. Port and sherry are common examples of fortified wine; while a typical 5 oz pour of a red or white may be 12% ABV, the same fluid amount of fortified wine could contain up to 20% alcohol by volume — so what appears to be one drink is actually closer to two.

Ensure you know the true alcohol service size of holiday drinks, pay attention to the number of drinks customers order and make sure to factor in the possible increased alcohol content of specialty beverages when estimating their Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC).

Create non-alcoholic drink specials as an alternative

If your establishment is making traditional cocktails or serving up a unique twist on old favorites, make sure you dedicate some time and energy to creating delicious cocktails that don’t contain alcohol. Many people won’t be drinking for a variety of reasons — they may be trying to cut down their alcohol intake over the holidays or aiming to cut calories, or they may be pregnant or acting as the designated driver — and providing non-alcoholic holiday drink alternatives can help them partake in the festivities. Show your support for these customers by crafting cool cocktails that are every bit as tasty as their alcoholic counterparts.

Keep designated driving service information handy

Designated drivers provide a crucial service to ensure everyone gets home safely, although sometimes, no one in the group can fulfill this role. In the hustle and bustle, people may forget to arrange a safe way home, and if they’re out socializing and having fun, they may end up drinking more than they intended to. They may also be planning to drive, but have underestimated how much alcohol they’ve really had.

It’s your responsibility, while monitoring customers and their orders, to make the call on whether they’ve reached the legal limit of intoxication to drive. Be prepared with an alternative option to get them home safely. Have the phone numbers of the designated driver services in your area as well as taxi information easily accessible for when you need it.

Be ready to ID everyone

Checking IDs is always important, and even more so during the holidays, as families and large groups will be gathering at your establishment. Always checking IDs can help you avoid guesswork — someone can look older than 21, even if they’re younger. Guessing someone’s age and accidentally serving someone under 21 can lead to serious consequences, so when in doubt, ID the whole table. Make sure minors are not drinking from their relatives’ or friends’ glasses. If this happens, stop service to everyone at the table.

There is no leeway in the law on this issue. Remember: there’s no penalty for checking IDs or refusing service, but there are major consequences for serving alcohol to minors.

Offer food with drinks

This is another all-year-round best practice if your establishment also serves food, and it may actually be easier during the holiday season, when festive menu items or seasonal foods are plentiful. Special appetizers and hors d’oeuvres can be served before a main meal — these treats are crowd-pleasers with the added benefit of slowing customers’ intake of alcohol and slowing the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. If they’re drinking alcohol, encourage customers to enjoy tasty foods as well.

Be transparent with possible allergens

Some holiday drinks could contain allergens, or high-risk ingredients. For example, eggnog often contains raw egg whites; egg is a common allergen, so don’t assume people are already aware of what allergens are in what drinks — play it safe and disclose the full ingredients list on signs or menus. Make sure all staff know the contents of each drink, and that they communicate this information to customers.

This holiday season, keep safety at top of mind by following these tips for alcohol service — your business and your bottom line will thank you!

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