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Pick Your Signature Drink Like a Pro

Pink Grapefruit MartiniPink Grapefruit Cocktail via the Cake blog


One of our favorite parts of wedding planning (as you can probably can tell from our company name: Cocktails & Details) is choosing the menu and signature drink.

Much like the menu, the signature drink is very reflective of the couple’s personality, theme or menu. Composition and color are very important.  You want to choose something that is fun, but is also going to appeal to your guest list. We had the opportunity to chat with Brian Van Flandern, master mixologist and author of the books, Craft Cocktails and Vintage Cocktails about choosing the perfect signature drink for your wedding. I think Brian and his work is utterly amazing, he’s the Daddy of the signature drink– being a Michelin three star mixologist being known all around the world.  So yes– I worship in the house of Brian Van Flandern!

Craft Cockatils Book by Brian Van Flandern

C&D:  Which is your favorite from Craft Cocktails?

Brian: I am often asked what is my favorite cocktail to drink, to which I usually reply “ the one in my hand”.  There are so many delicious and fun recipes in CRAFT COCKTAILS, I encourage readers to work their way through the book and find the ones that really appeal to them.  There is something for everyone in this book.  For me, I am partial to my house made Tonic with Gin.  It is the cocktail that I created for PER SE in 2004 and it kick started the global artisanal tonic water fad.  Today dozens of bars all around the world are making their own tonic water from scratch.

C&D:  Which would you suggest for a wedding?

Brian:  The Tiffany & Co. cocktails is ideal for a wedding.  Served in a champagne flute with a little effervescence, it is sophisticated, elegant, taste sublime and is the perfect shade of Tiffany blue (not to mention the white ribbon tied around the base of the flute).

C&D:  What are the keys to picking a great signature cocktail for an event that everyone will love?

Brian:  There are several factors to consider.  You definitely want to have a cocktail that will appeal to the majority of your guests, but playing it safe with a vodka cocktail will very likely make your special drink unmemorable.  In the hands of a professional mixologist, a great gin based, or even tequila based cocktail with fresh juices and herbs will be a smash hit that people will be talking about for years.  Fresh ingredients, balanced flavors with an unusual twist often wins the day.  For the home bartender, just remember to follow the recipe, TASTE the cocktail (before serving) and balance the acidity, sugar or alcohol.  You can’t go wrong.

C&D: How can garnishes, sugars, salts, etc. enhance a cocktail?

Brian:  Garnishes serve three purposes, first they should be functional, second they should be relevant to the other ingredients in the cocktail and third they should look consistently beautiful on each cocktail served.  Sadly, many bartenders only take into consideration the visual.  The right garnish can greatly enhance the flavors or aromas of a well made cocktail and contribute to all the senses, not just taste.

Mango Jalapeno CocktailMango Jalapeno Cocktail via How Sweet It Is

We also caught up with award winning libationist, Joyce Garrison who is the head of the W Austin’s popular cocktail program.  Joyce is a strong believer of incorporating unique and local flavors for a memorable signature cocktail.  She even uses honey cultivated from her rooftop apiary above the hotel!  Here are Joyce’s tips for creating a unique and delicious cocktail sure to wow wedding guests.

1. Make it personal – Cocktails can be very personal. Think about selecting flavors and special touches that highlight both the bride and groom’s personalities. For example, a drink that incorporates both sweet and spicy flavors (like W Austin’s Jalapeño & Cucumber Lemonade’s recipe below) is a great way to symbolize a bride with southern charm and a groom who loves spicy food.

2. Think outside the glass – Dating back to the pre-bar days, punch bowls were an important part of the community and a great way for everyone to socialize. Create a special punch to serve during cocktail hour as a way for guests to mingle or try a masculine punch to place near the Groom’s cake. For another personal touch, freeze water in a letter jello mold and have your own floating initial ice cube.

3. Keep it local & seasonal – Using seasonal, local ingredients can help integrate the wedding location and any regional features, while also keeping costs down. Check out local farmers markets to see what is in season and available near your venue. There’s no need to pair the cocktails with the food, as your signature cocktail can be an experience on its own.

4. Parting is such sweet sorrow – Receptions are usually a little crazy towards the end. Create personalized bottles of a cool-down drink for the road, such as a coconut water spritzer with a sprig of mint. This amazing parting gift is refreshing and will help guests recover from the evening’s festivities.

Berry Merry Christmas CocktailBerry Merry Christmas Cocktail via Single Minded Women

For more  inspiration ideas, follow our signature drink board on Pinterest and check out our favorite red, green and purple signature drinks!

do you need to seat everyone for your wedding? Cocktail wedding reception event party
Feb 26 2013

How to Have an Awesome Cocktail Style Reception

 

 

I’ve been talking to a few colleagues about this growing trend of brides wanting to do a cocktail style reception, yet having very heavy “buffets” that could be classified as a full meal instead of great hors d’oeuvres known as small plates.  We all came to the agreement that some couples unknowingly do their guests a disservice and  “if they have feet, they need a seat

Cocktail Style Reception ideas Photo by Harwell Photography

Photo by Harwell Photography

While I know there are differing opinions on this, but let’s consider the following:

•  If your food requires heavy dinner plates, it’s not necessarily a cocktail style reception, and a table should be offered to accommodate your guests.

•  It is absolutely horrid for guests to arrive at a reception without a seating chart or enough seating.  From someone who sees this a lot– they are very confused and at times frustrated.  From guests who want to sit together may find a table that lacks enough chairs to accommodate their party to being stuck  in an undesirable area that is far away from all the action.  Confusion grows deeper as it is not clearly communicated as to exactly whom is entitled to have one of the coveted tables. People get up and lose their seats which can be even more frustrating.

•  A lot of brides say, “We don’t need seating for every one because… my friends are young” or “they’ll be too busy dancing!” or “I don’t want it to be too formal”.  No one stands the entire time while drinking and dancing at some of the hottest clubs in Hollywood.  Why would you expect them to at your wedding, where they are expected to be treated as guests.  Expecting guests to stand for four hours is unrealistic.

•  It is extremely hard for some guests to juggle a plate of food, drinks, purse and whatever else they are trying to carry and enjoy themselves.  If most of the seated tables and cocktail tables are full, you have guests standing in open spaces trying to find a respite.  With non-wedding cocktail parties, this can work to an advantage, because not everyone is eating at the same time. People may be mingling, dancing, or participating in some other activity. With a wedding, most of your guests will be doing the same thing at the same time.  Be prepared for some guests to leave early.

Wedding Planning Advice Tips Ideas

To be clear, I’m not against cocktail receptions– I think they’re gorgeous, fun and allow for more mingling.  Most cocktail receptions, while lacking formal seating, does offer rest/lounge areas for their guests.  Brides believe that if their venue is small and they overinvite, they can switch to this style seating, under the premise of “not everyone needs a seat”.  A formal seat, no– not necessarily.  Somewhere to sit, absolutely. Here’s how to make it fabulous, but still with the vibrant cocktail party type atmosphere you want:

• You should have tables for at least 75% of your guest list.  You are not just limited full five and six foot tables. Incorporate a mix of different table sizes like cocktail tables, bistro tables  and even a banquet table or two to mix it up.  Offer a few with chairs and stools to give those a break if they need it.

Cocktail Style Reception Ideas

Cocktail Style Reception Seating Ideas

• If you don’t offer seating for everyone, then offer a lounge area where people can still relax, regroup and enjoy a cocktail and food.  Rent lounge furniture or incorporate furniture from your venue.  Make it your own by bringing in your own cushions and centerpieces to complement their furniture.

Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception

Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception

Outdoor Wedding Lounge for Cocktail Style Reception Ideas

• Don’t let this become a money issue.  Your guests would probably enjoy being comfortable more than a welcome bag or favor.  When we ask most of our couples what is most important to them on their wedding day, they say, “good food, good music and for everyone to have a good time”.  It can be hard to enjoy the good food from the five star caterer you hired or enjoy the smooth crooning of your 10 piece band if your guests are uncomfortable and frustrated.

•  Have a cocktail style reception because you want to. Not because you have to.  If your space dictates that only a certain amount of people can fit in your venue, be prepared to make the sacrifice.  With cocktail receptions, space and food are major issues.  You need enough room for people to flow in and out of the space comfortably, not spilling out and displaced.  You may have to sacrifice on the full dinner you wanted or cut your guest list down.  If you make the sacrifice, you still have many hearty options available to serve to your guests without them going away hungry.

Mini Burger Mini Grilled Cheese Mini Beer for Cocktail Hour Reception

Mini Fried Chicken and Coke Hors D'oeuvres Cocktail Hour Reception Corn and Crab Salad Hors D'oeuvres Cocktail Hour Reception

• Be sure there is something to do to keep people active and happy.  Naturally, you have your dance floor and your bar.  Some sort of table or seat will keep them busy and give them a place to keep their belongings, but get them to be interactive with games, a photo or video booth, a dessert or popcorn bar  or even a tour of your venue.  The more people have to do, the less they are standing in one spot.

Custom Cornhole for Weddings

Photo by Anna Pociask Photography

Chocolate Dessert Bar for Wedding

Photobooth for Weddings

The Perfect Holiday Cocktails

Entertaining this Christmas?  We’ve got some festive cocktails that will make your bartending skills the life of the party.  There are some amazing flavors that are wrapped up in this beautiful season and when combined perfectly with the right spirits and appetizers, you’ve got one fabulous party on hand.

Our friends at Wedding Chicks came up with some of their top ten favorites that we thought were swoon worthy (recipes at the aforementioned link):

white winter cosmo holiday cocktail Golden Cadillac Holiday Cocktail Gingerbread Martini
Want more?  We’ve got more!

Ruby Red Sparkling Wine Aspic (jello shooter)

Ruby Red Sparkling Wine

Recipe and directions from Pane e Acqua di Rose:

Ingredients (makes 18):

1,5 bottle of dry sparkling wine
120g of white sugar
38g of gelatine leaves
2 pomegranates
300g of frozen raspberry
1 orange

I put the gelatine leaves in cold water to soften them. In the mean time, I boiled 150ml of water, the sugar and the grated peel of the orange. When the liquid boiled, I filtered it with a strainer, eliminating the orange peel. I melted the squeezed gelatin in the microwave oven, then I added it to the liquid and stirred well. I added the sparkling wine and left it to cool.
I peeled and husked the pomegranates. In every small cup I put some husks of pomegranate and some raspberries, still frozen. I poured the jelly on them and left it to cool. I took the cups out of the fridge a few minutes before serving.

Pomosa

Pomosa

Ingredients

2 ounces of chilled pomegrante juice
Champagne

Directions

For each drink, pour about 2 ounces of chilled pomegranate juice into a champagne flute and fill rest of the way up with chilled champagne.

Rudolph Tipsy Spritzer

Rudolph Spritzer

Ingredients

5 cups orange juice
2 cups chilled lemon-lime soft drink
1 1/2 cups vodka
1/2 cup maraschino cherry juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
Garnishes: lemon slices, fresh rosemary sprigs

Preparation

1. Stir together all ingredients; serve over ice. Garnish, if desired.

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove Martini Holiday Signature Drink

 Vanilla Vodka, Hazelnut liqueur, Amaretto and Cream

Mulled Wine Sangria

Mulled Wine Sangria
Ingredients

1 (750-milliliter) bottle merlot or other red wine, chilled and divided
1/3 cup sugar
1 sachet Mulling Spice Blend
1/2 cup fresh orange juice (about 1 large orange)
1 (16-ounce) bag frozen unsweetened strawberries
1/2 orange, thinly sliced and cut in half
1 (12-ounce) can club soda

Preparation

1. Combine 1 cup wine, sugar, and sachet in a small saucepan; bring to a simmer. Cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat; cool. Discard sachet. Pour mixture into a pitcher; add remaining 3 cups wine. Chill thoroughly. Add juice, strawberries, orange slices, and club soda.

Berry Christmas Cocktail

Berry Christmas Cocktail

Pomegranate Vodka, Triple Sec, Peach Schnapps, and Cranberry Juice

Spicy Rum Punch

Spicy Rum Punch

Ingredients

1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
6 star anise
4 (3-inch) cinnamon sticks
2 (64-ounce) bottles cranberry-pineapple juice drink (such as Ocean Spray)
2 cups dark rum
4 (12-ounce) bottles ginger beer (such as Stewart’s)

Preparation

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large Dutch oven; bring to a boil. Remove from heat; let stand 30 minutes.
Strain cranberry mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl; discard solids. Chill thoroughly. Stir in rum and ginger beer just before serving.

Do you have a favorite holiday cocktail? Be sure to share it with us, and happy holidays!