Bartenders in black shirts standing behind a brick bar topped with black slate are pouring artisan beers listed on the hanging blackboard. Across the ballroom, girls in cowboy boots, Daisy Mae cutoff jeans and knotted shirts concoct “moonshine” cocktails. The beverage stations are the latest examples of the Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort’s 4-point event strategy called V.I.B.E —Visionary, Innovative Banquet Events.
The overall concept focuses on a variety of event themes created by a collaboration of unique beverages, food, service staff and décor. The artisan beer and moonshine stations are two of the trendiest party themes. Others include the Lowcountry Boil with jambalaya and shrimp & grits. We like Cib’s Smokehouse, named for executive chef Robert Ciborowski, who created the tantalizing menu of downhome barbecue brisket, pulled pork and St Louis babyback ribs.
An event’s success depends on the details, explains Tony Porcellini, director of F&B for the Swan & Dolphin. “As long as we are true to V.I.B.E’s four elements—food, service, servers and décor, it’s incredible.”
For the Cib’s Smokehouse event, the hotel bought smokers and researched original recipes for award winning barbecue sauces from Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky. Tables are draped in burlap or denim and the brick bar surrounds a Bottoms Up machine that dispenses beer through a hole in the bottom of a cup. Planners can select from 200 microbrewery beers.
“The hole is covered by a magnet, which is prime visibility for a sponsor’s logo each time the cup is lifted,” says Porcellini.
The moonshine station is a new twist on an old favorite. They scavenged old doors, window frames and whiskey barrels from a junkyard.
“We topped the barrels with the doors, added elements like mason jars filled with sunflowers and the smiling Dixie Chick-styled bartenders to create a Tennessee backwoods feel,” says Porcellini. He explains there are seven moonshine cocktails from which to choose, including Apple Pie Shine, spiked with cinnamon foam, and Palmer Moon Tea, a twist on the Southern combo of fresh lemonade and iced tea.
Porcellini says V.I.B.E. begins with understanding the customer’s demographics and party purpose, then making sure the details complement one another. For the Rock & Roll Party event, the servers wear shirts that say “roadie” or “staff,” and they have backstage pass lanyards around their necks. Album covers worked as placemats.
“For one party, we had video monitors on each table,” says Porcellini. “As the lobster came out, Rock Lobster by the B52’s played.”