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If you were to drop by Wendy Wakeman’s annual Christmas open house at her home in North Andover, you’d find her seated at the piano playing Christmas carols while her nearest and dearest pop in and out throughout the day to visit with friends and lend their voices to the group sing-alongs. Wakeman would be singing, too, reveling in the season and enjoying her party and the company of family and friends. 

What you won’t find her doing is running back and forth from the bar pouring wine, opening beer, and clearing away empty glasses. Instead, she leaves that task to Andover Classic Wines and its bartending service, Andover Beverage Catering. “I like to play the piano the whole time while everybody sings Christmas carols,” Wakeman says, explaining that over the years that got harder to do as the party grew and more people joined in the festivities. “I just couldn’t do the hostessing and the piano playing at the same time.” 

That changed when she enlisted the help of professional bartenders, who take care of everything from delivering all the items needed for the party, both before and after, to stocking and setting up the bar, pouring and mixing drinks, and cleaning up the bar area and glassware during and after the party. “It just makes everything easy,” says Wakeman. 

Although people often think of professional bartending as a service reserved for weddings, showers, fundraising galas, or corporate events, there are huge advantages to enlisting bartenders for house parties, too, especially around the hectic holidays. “We’ve all had parties where at the end of the night you feel like you didn’t get to talk to half your guests,” says Andrea Lewis, wine and store manager for Andover Classic Wines. But that’s not the case when a bartender is there to lend a hand. “The biggest advantage is that the host gets to enjoy their party,” Lewis says. 

Plus, Andover Classic Wines can take the stress and uncertainty out of the entire party-planning, execution, and cleanup process. Their bartenders are fully insured and TIPS certified, having completed a training program designed to prevent intoxication, drunk driving, and underage drinking. 

When customers use Andover Classic Wines’ bartending services, they can choose what they want to serve their guests from among the thousands of bottles of wine, beer, and spirits available for sale at the store, as well as receiving expert advice on everything from food and drink pairings to how to stock their party’s bar. In addition, customers pay the same price as they would if they were buying the beverages themselves; there’s no upcharge for purchasing them as part of the bartending service, and the charge is based on consumption. “It is so easy to just have them bring plenty of product, because they can just take back unopened alcohol,” says longtime client Jane Cashin Demers of Andover. “They never open lots of bottles of alcohol in advance so you are left with a bigger bill than necessary…. They only open what is needed.” 

Demers always turns to Andrea Comeau, beverage catering manager for Andover Classic Wines, to bartend and guide her through her parties. Her annual Christmas party includes homemade hors d’oeuvres served on white linen–covered tables adorned with candles and flowers, as well as a piano player who plays the family’s grand piano all evening. “She is a great resource for brands, amounts, specialty drink ideas, tables, linens, napkins, glasses (plastic or glass), huge numbers of bags of ice, lemons, limes, maraschino cherries, olives…whatever you need,” Demers says of Comeau. 

For first-time clients, Comeau will often visit their home before the party to see the layout and strategize with the host on where to set up the bar and how the party should flow throughout the space. “Everyone goes to the bar first, so that’s pretty important to have it in the back of the house,” Comeau says. 

She and her team will also work with hosts to decide on the bar menu. “Some of our events are just beer and wine,” she says. “Others are full bar, where our bartenders are hand-making Manhattans.” 

Clients often also choose to create a signature cocktail for their party, including holiday drinks like sparkling winter sangria, Disaronno eggnog, bourbon maple apple cider, and candy cane or caramel apple pie martinis. The bartenders also set up an attractive bar area, tend carefully to guests, and work closely with the caterers to ensure that the party runs smoothly. Demers and Wakeman describe Comeau and her team as “wonderful people” who are charming, friendly, efficient, unobtrusive, and hardworking. 

In addition to helping the party go off without a hitch and making sure everyone—including the host—has fun, having bartenders also just adds an extra layer of festivity to any gathering. “A bartender and the bar are kind of the life of the party,” Comeau says. “Rather than a cooler sitting in the corner of the room, it adds a bit of flair to whatever type of party you’re having.” 

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