This is a written adaptation of my Drink Services class.
These are some ideas for times you can insert drink services into your routine.
- First thing. First thing in the morning. This could mean waking the person you’re serving up with a drink, having it waiting for them just before they get up, bringing it to them as soon as they’re awake, or other versions.
- Meals. Serving a specific drink with meals, or a type of meal (breakfast, dinner, etc.), or at least making sure they’re always served water. Or asking for their drink order.
- For the road or on arrival. When they’re entering or leaving the house. Something to take with them, or something as soon as they settle in at home. This could be having something waiting for them or fetching one as soon as they arrive (especially if their order might change).
- During personal service. If you provide any services in the health and beauty categories like running a bath, giving a massage, manicure/pedicure, etc., these are great times to be sure to at least offer a drink as you get going.
- Make a habit of asking/refilling their drink. For example, part of our protocol for when I leave Mistress’ presence is that I first ask if there’s anything else I can do to be of service. 99% of the time, if the answer is yes, it’s, “Get me more coffee (or water).” There’s also a refill request button on her pager transmitter (so my pager buzzes and displays the message, “Refresh coffee and water.”
- At turndown. If you have any kind of turndown or nightly routine, this is a great place to insert a drink service. Or, simply put, “last thing”.
General suggestions for things to keep on hand, or ways to approach making your own list.
- Think of it like a menu. Basically, pretend you’re running a restaurant. What’s the standard menu, the items you can always offer? Think of offering both the basics, and a few house specials/favorites of the household and frequent guests, or a limited time or seasonal offering.
- Ice. So many good uses. Keep a drink cold, cool a hot drink down a little, water down something strong. Have plenty of it. Themed ice molds or adding food coloring can be fun for an event. You can also freeze many non water drinks to chill that beverage without watering it down. (There are also “reusable ice cubes” on the market.)
- Appropriate glassware/cups/etc. Many drinks, especially alcoholic and hot drinks, are associated with a specific type of glassware/cup. You don’t need to have every kind known to man, but have the ones for the drinks you make most often, a selection you can improvise a little with, and enough for the largest amount of people you might serve at once. Have the basics at least. Also, many options can be placed in the freezer to be chilled, keeping drinks colder longer and giving you that translucent effect. Keep a selection there if you generally have the room, or just place them in a few hours before service. We’ll talk about one more idea for this later.
- Keep basic drink accoutrements (and favorites) around. This can include standard cocktail garnishes, lemon, milk, and sugar for hot drinks, or even whipped cream and marshmallows.
- Coasters and bar napkins. There are a million options to protect your tables, but also remember that bar napkins are used to hold drinks as well, even if you’re thinking you don’t care about the ring marks. I like to crochet my own for a personal and environmentally friendly touch.
- Straws. Again, if you’re concerned about the environment, there are reusable options. Even if you’re not a straw fan, they can be important for guests with sensitive teeth, so keep some options around.
- Teaspoons/stirrers. Pretty self explanatory. Keep them handy.
- Servingware needed. Any items that come between you making a large batch of a drink and that drink being in a guest’s cup. Pitchers, ladles, sugar bowls, shakers, whatever it may be.
- Openers and corkscrews. Yeah, don’t be caught without these. Even if you don’t need one for what you’re planning to serve, having it handy for a guest who brings something is a great idea.
- Small appliance needs. Coffee maker and/or grinder, electric kettle, blender, whatever little appliances you need for what you’re making. One overlooked idea here is the crock pot, which is excellent for keeping drinks warm with little cleanup (especially with those handy liners) and without burning them.
- Organize things with signs and stations. Signs giving a quick overview of what’s at that station, a note that says “please help yourself” (or whatever your policy is), and notes on any useful items that may be stored in the fridge or freezer instead, are often a well appreciated touch. Especially for guests, if you’re labeling something pretty specific, allergen warnings are (sometimes literal) lifesavers. In general, stations are useful. In our house, we have a coffee station and a separate soda station, both in the kitchen area.
- Maintain your supplies. Make sure everything above is kept clean, in good repair, stored properly, etc.
Matching With Food
There’s a whole art form to matching beverages with food, especially alcohol and hot drinks. Here are some pointers.
- Contrasting and mirroring. In general, you’ll want the drink to either contrast (be an opposite of) or mirror (have the same qualities as) the food in question. A lot of this is a matter of opinion; there are times one person would say you should contrast and another would say you should mirror, but at least knowing which one you’re going for is a place to start. We’ll talk about what qualities can be contrasted or mirrored below.
- Body. Is the drink/food light, medium, or full bodied? Think of this kind of like thickness. Cream versus whole milk versus two percent versus skim, say. It translates across other food and drinks.
- Acidity/Brightness. Think of words like tart or sour. Acidity is especially associated with citrus (citric acid).
- Tannins/Bitterness. Bitterness isn’t always bad, but play with it carefully. This is another area to consider.
- Sweetness. This is an especially debated point in the contrast or mirror area, especially when it comes to pairing with desserts. Sweet with sweet may seem like too much, but sweetness can easily overwhelm a lot of subtler flavors.
- Umami. Umami doesn’t translate neatly, but it is sometimes associated with dark, earthy, and savory flavors.
- Alcohol levels. Consider how strong of an alcoholic drink you’re serving with what foods. Alcohol can especially make many spices seem hotter, so you might want to use caution in pairing these together.
- Pair texture. Pairing carbonated drinks with crunchy foods is a popular example here.
Mostly aesthetic bits to consider in the presentation/serving category.
- Trays. Look, almost everyone loves trays. They immediately make things seem fancier, and they’re great for grouping small items, like drink accoutrements. Consider using one to serve drinks on or from, and learn to carry one properly. Stick to the person your serving’s preferences when acquiring them (and try thrift stores for cheap finds); personalized ones can be fun, too.
- Try edible spoons. Edible spoons are simple, quick, and relatively cheap to make. Get a spoon shaped baking mold (check Amazon or craft stores; silicone ones are common) and fill the mold with melted chocolate or candy melts (any kind), then freeze, or crushed peppermints, then melt, and let solidify at room temperature. They can add flavor to a drink as they’re stirred and be consumed by the end!
- Try rimmed glasses. Many alcoholic drinks are paired with specific salts or sugars on the rim of the glass. You can also try dipping in melted chocolate and sprinkles for a dessert oriented touch, whether it’s for a milkshake or milk served with cookies. Stick that version in the freezer for the chilled effect mentioned above and to solidify the chocolate. (Some people don’t like to feel like they’re chewing chocolate off the glass at the end of their drink, but even just the drink poured over that rim as they sip will add some flavor/aesthetic).
- Speak when spoken to/be quiet. Try to keep your gestures, footsteps, voice, serving: quiet. Speak only when spoken to/necessary unless you have different protocol, and generally don’t attract too much attention. We have a protocol that when I’m entering Mistress’ office (as she’s there much of the time and this is by far our most common scenario), I wait in the doorway quietly until I’m acknowledged, if I want her attention, and I can pass through without that and exit protocols if I don’t make eye contact (more below).
- Watch the eye contact. This is as distracting as being spoken to for a lot of people, and tends to indicate that you have something to say. Try to keep your eyes lowered/on the task at hand.
- Don’t interrupt physically. If two people are speaking, don’t get right between them. If the person you’re serving is working on a task, don’t get between them and the task. If they’re moving around, don’t get in their way. Certainly don’t set a drink in those places, either. Set it just to the side.
- Also, make sure you “hug the guest”. A part of the serve from the left, clear from the right tradition, the most important part here is that you serve the person with the same hand as the side you’re standing on. Standing on their left, serve with your left hand, so that it kind of wraps around, not smacking them in the face with your elbow or anything like that. Same for the right: right side, serve with your right hand.
- Don’t ask if not needed. If you don’t need to ask if they want a refill, a certain accoutrement, a drink at all, which drink, etc., don’t. Just get it. This is a part of anticipatory service. Needing to ask could be defined here by protocol or by uncertainty, but if you don’t need to ask, maybe just get to it.
Some quick notes on basic tea service. Note that this is mostly English oriented, and traditions vary greatly between cultures and people. Obviously, serve to the preferences of the one you’re serving.
- If you’re stocking tea for general guests or an event, consider offering both caffeine and decaf options. Even if you don’t believe in decaf, this can be an important health consideration for some people, and many are very sensitive to caffeine.
- If you’re selecting a tea menu for an event, consider choosing teas that are brewed in a similar temperature range to make things easier for yourself.
- How to make a basic pot of tea:
- Heat (filtered) water to the correct temperature. Teas brew at different temperatures; follow the instructions. If need be, measure how much water you’re using. This part is usually done with a kettle, but in a pinch, there are many options.
- Warm the teapot and any cups. Some fill them with hot water and let them sit, then dump them out; some do a quick rinse. Either way, warm them.
- Use one teabag or one tablespoon of loose leaf tea (in a strainer) per cup. Some add “one for the pot”, or you might like your tea stronger via adding more. (Loose leaf versus teabags is also a huge debate.)
- Pour the hot water over your tea.
- Steep, covered, for the amount of time determined by the type of tea.
- Remove bags/strainer.
- When pouring someone a cup of tea, ask about what they’d like to add (so you know if you should be leaving any room for hot water/milk/etc.), then pour, then add those things.
Things to know for alcohol management. Laws very greatly by location, but here are some ideas of what to know for where you are.
- My first recommendation here is to get your alcohol server card/license. This should teach you everything below for your area. Here in Nevada, it’s called a TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management) Card and can be acquired with an online course and in person exam.
- Know the minimum drinking age (and exceptions around this). For example, some areas allow minors/people under the usual minimum age to drink alcohol at home under parental supervision. Ages for purchasing, selling, possessing, and consuming may be different. Here, the key age is 21.
- Know drinking and driving laws. There’s likely a BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) level restriction on this. This will affect your household policy for guests as they are leaving. Here, it’s .08%.
- Know public intoxication laws. Again, you might be hosting a public event, or it’s just good to know as guests start to head home. In some places, it’s illegal simply to be intoxicated in public. In others, it’s just noted that public intoxication makes it more likely for you to break other public conduct laws (like public urination). Here, it’s not illegal to be publicly intoxicated.
- Know open container laws, both for public spaces and vehicles, for the sake of guests and public events. This may be based on the type of container, and if it was purchased nearby. There are a lot of situation based laws on this here.
- Know how BAC works. Look up the math, but since you’re unlikely to be doing the math in the moment, just know what level usually looks like what effects. This’ll inform your household policy on things like when to cut someone off or not let them drive.
While getting someone a drink sounds simple, there can be a lot of things to consider and a lot of ways to spice it up. I hope you found this educational and/or inspiring. Stay hydrated!