Signature Cocktails to Remember
You’ve set a date, you’ve booked the venue, you’ve said yes to the dress and to the band and to the photographer and of course, to your fiancee! While planning a wedding can feel like an endless onslaught of decision after decision, there is one choice you should not overlook: the signature cocktail. What really sets a wedding apart comes down to the details, and the drink you choose to feature is a great place to incorporate your personality and to give your guests moments to remember. A cocktail is another medium to tell your story, as Carlos Figueroa, Director of Beverage and Food at W Fort Lauderdale says, “When it comes to creating a signature cocktail for your big day, it’s really your moment to shine and create a concoction that you feel embodies you and your partner.” From harnessing new trends to tweaking age-old classics, here are 8 tips for crafting a creative wedding cocktail that will wow your guests:
1. Let Your Love Story Inspire You
Your wedding is more than a celebration of the couple, it’s a celebration of the moments that have become your love story. Memories from your past make for great cocktail inspiration. Figueora notes, “It could be as simple as looking back to the moment you met. Was there a specific color, scent, season or setting that’s memorable from that day? We can always create a unique drink off of that and tie in that color, scent or other element. It’s also key to create a cocktail that’s able to be replicated at home. That way, you and your loved one can shake it up and sip on it at home at any time to remember your big day.”
Michael Boivin, Boston Harbor Hotel‘s Wedding Expert, recalls, “A recent couple celebrated their alma mater, Syracuse University, with a nod to their experience with the ‘Big Orange’. Others chose to honor the wine in which they enjoyed while getting engaged in Paris.”
2. Honor Your Furry Friends
Who better to toast than your beloved pets? It can be challenging including our four legged friends in the wedding festivities, so keeping them in mind when creating a signature cocktail is a fun way to pay tribute. Jennifer Tower-Whitfield, Director of Sales at The Common Man Family in New Hampshire, advises,”To make [signature drinks] stand out, you can also accent them. For instance, a recent couple at The Barn on the Pemi, Plymouth, NH, created cocktail napkins with photos of their dogs; which are an important part of their lives, noting on the napkin that the drinks were compliments of the dogs. This was a big hit!”
3. Keep it Local!
Highlighting local flavors is a great way to reflect the setting of your special day, and to make sure the flavors are in season. Michael Wilson, Director of Food and Beverage at Mission Point Resort l Mackinac Island, MI notes, “For our special weddings at Mission Point, we love taking advantage of Mackinac Island’s beautiful flora, particularly its lilacs, to curate vibrant libations that celebrate our natural surroundings for a one-of-a-kind experience for all guests.”
General Manager of The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park in El Paso, TX Adrian Gonzalez says, “We’re seeing an increase in guests wanting to incorporate thoughtful, destination-centric experiences into the events they are hosting at The Plaza, and the tequila toast program not only offers the opportunity to do something innovative and different, but also educates guests about the incredible craftsmanship behind these premium tequilas.”
4. Layer it Up!
Perhaps just as important as the taste of a bold cocktail is the aesthetic. In addition to adding striking layers of color and textures, layered cocktails also take guests on a flavor journey. John Bokon, Lead Bartender at Artisan Traverse City, says, “Multi-layered cocktails can be a taste sensation. A truly delicious cocktail blends the strong bold flavors of the base spirit such as tequila, gin, rum, or vodka, then artfully combines something bitter and sweet, such as supplementary fruit juices or herbs, for that perfect balance. Then, of course, a striking visual appeal with strong color and unique decorative embellishments is key to making a cocktail memorable.”
Contrast is another visual element that can make a drink stand out. Theresa Valiante, Director of Catering at Café Boulud Palm Beach, describes a drink sure to grab attention: “Inspired by the original cosmopolitan, Café Boulud’s White Cosmo (pictured above) swaps out the red cranberry for white to make the drink see through and allow for the visual effect of the orchid ice ball. Tart, yet refreshing at the same time, the cocktail is slightly sweet and parfumy – a crowd pleaser for all occasions, but especially weddings!
5. Stay on Season
Keeping it local also means including seasonal ingredients. Jami Barry of Vinwood Caterers says, “We suggest seasonal flavors to reflect the theme of the menu and decor that have been selected. For example, Seasonal Sangrias are popular batched cocktails… Each specialty cocktail has a particular garnish reflecting the ingredients – a cinnamon sugar rim for an Autumn Dark and Stormy with orange juice, local apple cider, ginger beer and craft dark rum. In the winter, rosemary sprigs, cranberries or peppermint sticks are festive touches.”
Another drink that can be tweaked for each season are spritzes. Nicola Dresser, Director of Catering at the Kimpton Marlowe Hotel, notes, “Spritzes are a festive way to greet guests to any wedding upon arrival, and changing up the garnish is one way to keep them seasonally in demand. Think rhubarb for the spring, strawberries and blueberries for the summer, apples for the fall, and pears or oranges for the winter wedding season.”
6. Word Play
It is truly all in a name. Crowds love a good pun and naming your signature wedding drink is a fabulous way to show off your creativity and eye for the details. Take for example the “Spicy Mattarita” or “Moscow Jules” (pictured above)– this is your chance to name a drink after you and your love. The wedding occasion lends itself well to word play as well– how about a Mai “Tie” the Knot or a “Bloody Marry Me”? The possibilities are endless.
7. Don’t Compromise
When all is said and done, the most important factor when choosing a signature cocktail is that it makes you happy, “The guests are there to be a part of their special day and they want their guest to get a sense how detailed the planning is and what they love. We can always tweak the cocktail to make it more approachable to the masses but at the end of the day it’s all about the bride and groom,” notes Pelham House Resort’s Food and Beverage director, Chris Celli
And if the bride and groom can’t agree? Still not a reason to settle. James Porter, Catering Beverage Director at Wild Dunes Resort, says, “This year, we’re seeing ‘his and her cocktails’ coming back to the forefront with couples wanting to bring their personality into their wedding details – so instead of doing one signature sip, each has a concoction to match their style. When it comes to the fixings, bourbon and tequila are in high demand and we’re seeing couples craving fresh-picked ingredients – think rosemary, thyme, mint, basil and berries.”
8. Classics & Comebacks
“2022 will be the year for all things classic,” says Kate Scheffler, Assistant Director of Food and Beverage at The Ritz-Carlton, Boston. “Gin and sparkling wine make a wonderfully refined bubbly duo, which is why the classic French 75 cocktail is one of our most popular wedding beverage offerings. This cocktail is crafted with meticulous attention to detail and playful garnishes ranging from a long spiral lemon twist to a fresh lavender sprig further enhance the aromatic flavors of the gin. Our newlyweds will agree that this is one classic beverage that’s perfectly suited for any wedding celebration.”
Putting a twist on an age-old favorite is an effective way to create a unique cocktail. Hilary Neville, Events Manager at Woods Hill Pier 4 describes some drool-worthy examples: “Our Hoppah Doble is a variation on the classic Hemingway Daiquiri using our very own private label barrel aged rum from Privateer in Ipswich, Ma and a house made hopped grapefruit cordial made with hops from our farm in Bath, NH. Our La Pastora is a variation on the classic Old Pal where we highlight a local coffee roaster by infusing Campari with one of Fazenda’s Reserve Roasts, ‘La Pastora’.”
Another great source of inspiration is the past. Tommy Brennan, Director of Food and Beverage at The Exeter Inn and Epoch Gastropub explains, “Aperitivos and amaros have been trending upward and are a hot trend for 2022. They’re certainly not new to the market, but consumers are better educated today than ever before on more than just the usual suspects when it comes to spirits (vodka, gin, tequila, etc.). Amaros and aperitivos have gone largely overlooked for years mostly due to a lack of understanding. Drinks like the Aperol Spritz and Negroni have made huge comebacks especially at weddings and I believe that is a trend that will continue.”
Emily Marcus is a Boston-based freelance lifestyle and travel writer. A recent graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Emily’s work can be found in numerous regional and national publications including Connect Corporate Magazine, Alma, New England Living, and Bride and Groom. She has served as the Arts Editor for both Southeast Florida Style and Design Magazine and Charleston Style and Design Magazine. Emily is currently an Academic Advisor at Northeastern University where she also teaching writing courses.