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Couple’s Cocktails: Signature Sip Secrets + 6 Custom Recipes
There are many great ideas when it comes to adding creative touches to your wedding, but couple’s cocktails continue to be one of our favorites. Signature drinks not only showcase your personality to your guests, they add flair to the evening’s menu. Here, local mixology masters share their expert advice on choosing the perfect signature cocktails for your big day, as well as a few of their favorite recipes.
Signature cocktails are all about personalization, so begin by thinking about flavors that you and your fiancé love. “Start with your favorite liquor, then choose seasonally appropriate flavors to add to your cocktails,” says Hanna August-Stöhr, editor and social media specialist for CRAVE Catering in Minneapolis. “To provide some variety, lighten up one of the drinks with champagne, or try infusing it into a punch.”
If you’re primarily concerned with making the majority of your guests happy, go for classic, crowd-pleasing cocktail ideas. “My go-to is always some sort of fresh sparkling lemonade,” recommends Greg Jones, owner of With a Twist Bartending in St. Louis Park. “They can be made alcoholic or non-alcoholic, look and taste refreshing, and always go great in the heat of summer. I like lavender, fresh watermelon, strawberry and cucumber variations.”
Consider a type of alcohol that is versatile in both appearance and taste. “Start with vodka,” suggests Keith Hanson, vice president of operations at Mintáhoe Catering & Events in Minneapolis. “Vodka, being relatively tasteless, easily takes on other characteristics such as infusions or other flavored mixers, without competing with those flavors.”
Vodka-based drinks are also a great option if you want your wedding cocktail to be a signature hue, since the clear liquor can adapt to almost any color. Pair a clear spirit like vodka with a colored sparkling wine, like a blush rosé or aqua-hued Blanc de Bleu cuvée for a simple yet chic wedding cocktail.
Once you’ve identified the liquors you want to serve, the next step is deciding what flavors and mixers you want to add to make the drinks come to life. Think about on-trend ingredients, as well as longtime personal favorites. “Mint, lemon, ginger and lavender have been very popular,” notes Jessica Kielblock, senior event planner with D’Amico Catering in Minneapolis. “Lighter, more refreshing flavors are perfect for spring and summer weddings.”
Herbs like rosemary and basil also lend themselves to a variety of lovely libations. “Herbs do a terrific job of pairing with fruity flavors (peach bellini anyone?), as well as some of those darker flavors you’d find in a Manhattan or old fashioned,” adds August-Stöhr. “They’re great when muddled into a drink or transformed into a simple syrup, but do just as well adding an aromatic element to a simple cocktail.”
Just as you and your fiancé wonderfully complement one another, your couple’s cocktails should also make the perfect pair. “To have a cohesive and successful experience, I think it’s important to have at least two cocktails, one on each end of the flavor spectrum,” says Marco Zappia, managing partner at Bittercube, a Midwest-based cocktail consulting and bartending service. “We all have different palettes, so go for one cocktail on the citrus/shaken trajectory and one that is a more spirit-forward/stirred variety.”
Zappia’s dream wedding cocktail combo? “If I were getting married, I would choose a Jackson Pollock, and my lovely bride or groom would choose a fennel pollen Sazerac—one light and citrus-infused with bright color and herbs, the other dark with a touch of fennel and honey.”
All Dressed Up
Once you’ve crafted your ideal signature cocktails, it’s time to accessorize. You can easily increase the aesthetic appeal of your cocktail by using colorful garnishes, sugars and salts. “Even your typical vodka-based soda looks extra-appetizing with a sparkly sugar rim, fresh-fruit skewer or custom drink stirrer,” says Kielblock. “People eat (and drink) with their eyes first.”
Presentation is everything. “Be sure to display decorative signage behind the bar so guests are enticed by the specialty offerings,” Hanson advises. “Or butler-pass the signature cocktails as a feature during guest arrival. Incorporate wine charms on wine and champagne glasses, and let guests keep them as favors. It’s all about making it fun and, most importantly, making it personal.”
As with the rest of your wedding food and drink, you’ll need a plan for who will make and serve your signature drinks. “Definitely hire a professional, insured and licensed bartending service—not just a bartender,” says Maari Cedar James, director of sales and events at Chowgirls Killer Catering. “This takes the guesswork out of your bar and leaves the work of hauling, stocking, chilling, mixing, pouring, cleanup—not to mention liability—to the experts, so you and yours can enjoy your day hassle-free.”
It’s also crucial to hire a company that’s familiar with the wedding industry. “These kinds of events are dramatically different than bartending behind a bar at a restaurant, where everything is at your fingertips,” says Jones.
Jackson Pollock & Fennel Pollen Sazerac
crafted by Bittercube
- 1½ ounces Bombay Sapphire gin
- ½ ounce grapefruit juice
- ¼ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- ½ dropper Bittercube Jamaican #2 bitters
- ½ ounce sparkling wine
Garnish: 6 drops basil oil, 6 drops paprika oil
Directions: Combine first five ingredients, light shake, double strain, top with sparkling wine, garnish.
Fennel Pollen Sazerac
- 2 ounces Bulleit Rye whiskey
- ¼ ounce fennel pollen honey syrup
- 2-4 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
Rinse: Sirène absinthe
Garnish: Lemon round, expressed, placed in drink
Directions: Add ice to glass, rinse with absinthe, set aside. Pour the rest of the ingredients into a mixing vessel, add ice and stir until desired dilution and temperature have been achieved. Pour out absinthe rinse, strain cocktail into chilled glass, garnish.
Custom cocktail signs and late night snack menus, accompanied by “Best Day Ever” matchbooks with gold foil, designed by Paper Rock Scissor.
Bootleg & Cucumber Basil Gimlet
crafted by D’Amico Catering
- ½ cup fresh lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- ¼ cup light agave nectar, cane sugar or honey
- 2 packed tablespoons fresh mint leaves
- 2 ounces bootleg mix
- 2 ounces gin or vodka
- 2 ounces club soda
Glass: Mason jar
Garnish: Sprig of mint and lemon or lime wedge
Instruction: Create bootleg mix with lemon/lime juice and sweetener blended with mint (yields 4 drinks). Combine bootleg mix and liquor, top with club soda, stir.
Cucumber Basil Gimlet
- 2 fresh basil leaves
- 2 cucumber slices
- 1.5 ounces vodka
- 1 ounce lemonade
- ¼ ounce lime juice
Garnish: Cucumber wheel and basil leaf
Instruction: Muddle basil and cucumber, add remaining ingredients, shake, strain into martini and garnish.
Custom cocktail napkins from Paper Rock Scissor. Wood cutting board from the Foundry Home Goods.
Lavender Royale & Salted Honey Bourbon
crafted by With a Twist Bartending
- 4 ounces champagne
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 1 ounce lavender simple syrup
Glass: Champagne flute
Garnish: Lavender sprig and lemon twist
Instruction: Add lemon juice and simple syrup to glass, top with champagne, garnish.
Salted Honey Bourbon
- 2 ounces Bulleit bourbon
- 1 ounce salt and honey simple syrup
- Dash of Bittercube Blackstrap bitters
Garnish: Honeycomb cube (optional)
Instruction: Pour ingredients in shaker, shake, pour over ice, garnish.
Custom “Signature Sips” drink menu, coaster with rose golf foil embellishment and cigar wrap by Paper Rock Scissor.