There’s something about summer that draws people to the outdoors. Everything from dinners, mixers, and weddings find their way outside. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep enough ice on hand in the heat, so we have tips for maximizing your ice supply while catering events outdoors.
Ice may not be the talk of a party, but it will quickly will be if you run out.
When planning a party, reception, or mixer, most people focus on cocktails, flowers, and whether to serve chicken or fish – but ice is just as important.
For catering events outside during spring or summer, it’s critical to know the amount of ice you need and how to use it to keep your guests refreshed for hours.
There are some hard and fast rules you should follow when providing ice for an outdoor event.
Make Sure You Have Enough Ice
You need plenty of ice to host any event where drinks are served, but it’s even more important if the event is outside. The outdoor heat makes ice melt faster and makes people thirsty, meaning repeat trips to the bar.
So, how much ice do you need per person for catering an event hosted outside?
As a rule, you should plan on buying one pound of ice per person and multiply that by how many hours you think your event will last. The amount of ice doubles if you plan on catering the event outdoors.
For instance, if you plan on having 10 guests at a three-hour outdoor event, plan on getting 60 pounds of ice. If you need to keep food items chilled, plan on getting a few extra pounds.
Put Drinks on Ice Before the Event Starts
Have you ever been the first one to an outdoor event and reached into a stocked ice bin full of bottles only to find the beverage is still warm?
Ice cools a 12-ounce bottle faster than just throwing it in a fridge. If you want your beverage nice and cold, it only takes about 15 minutes to chill on ice. For a larger bottle, like a bottle of champagne or 2-liter of soda, it takes 20 to 30 minutes. If you are putting a lot of bottles and cans into a large ice bin, 30 minutes should be enough time to make sure all your drinks are ready for guests.
Pick the Right Type of Ice Cube and Storage
Did you know different types of ice cubes are used for different reasons?
For instance, that crescent-shaped ice used in bars is designed to prevent splash back when bartenders pour a drink.
Smaller cubelet ice is designed so hospital patients can chew it to stay hydrated.
For outdoor events, you should choose a larger ice cube rather than a smaller one. Large ice won’t melt nearly as fast small, crushed style ice.
Hoshizaki crescent cubes are a great choice for outdoor parties, since they are clear and slow-melting.
Choose the Right Storage
When it comes to keeping your ice cold, the type of container you use to store your ice makes a big difference.
You may have seen those large beer troughs made of galvanized metal. Yes, they look professional, but when catering events outdoors, it’s much better to go with plastic coolers.
Why plastic over metal? Well, metal is a better conductor of energy, and metal transfers heat to ice faster than plastic does.
So, if your goal is to keep ice frozen, go with a cooler.
Have Two Separate Supplies of Ice
Outdoor receptions and mixers often have a bartender who dishes out cold beverages to guests. In some cases, beer and sodas might be placed in an ice bath, so bartenders can focus on making cocktails.
The problem with ice baths is they can become free-for-alls where guests help themselves to drinks. There’s always that one person that insists on taking ice from the beer cooler and tossing it into his cocktail.
Don’t encourage this type of behavior!
Ice from beer tubs and drink bins is not sanitary for drinking. With so many different hands dipping in and out of those containers, dirt and all kinds of contaminants end up mixing with the ice.
It’s important that you have two separate supplies of ice: one to chill bottles and cans and one for drinks.
The ice supply you use for drinks should also come with a scoop, so guests don’t reach in with their hands and defeat the whole purpose of separating the ice.
Make Sure You Have Plenty of Towels
When catering events outdoors, make sure to have plenty of bar towels on hand for accidental spills.
Towels are a necessity even if you ordered bar service. Don’t expect the bartender will bring their own. Nothing will irritate guests more than staining the elbow of their suit or dress on a bar messy with spilled cosmopolitans.
You should also keep towels near the ice bins. One common party foul is forcing guests to reach into a bin of half melted ice and pulling out a soaking wet bottle. This leaves guests with wet, cold hands and water all over the place. With a towel present, guests won’t have to endure a wet handshake.