Today I’m sharing how I help my friends dream up and craft signature cocktails for weddings, parties and special occasions! A cute cocktail makes any celebration more memorable, and it can be meaningful, too. Read on to learn how I do it!
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Wedding season is upon us. Every year, I have at least one friend who asks for my help creating a signature cocktail, either for their wedding or for a bridal shower they’re planning for a friend.
These requests are always super fun for me, as a blogger who writes so much about cocktails. (I even wrote a guide to making delicious drinks at home!)
I know I don’t usually write about weddings here, but I get enough requests that it felt worth writing about.
The reality is that anyone can come up with a signature cocktail for a wedding, and I want to help!
If you’re planning a wedding event, I have a few tips for dreaming up the perfect drink, plus how to serve it and make it look beautiful. The goal isn’t to make guests tipsy but to make sure they have a great time.
Plus, it’s generally cheaper than an open bar! (But always price it out first to be sure.)
A drink that suits the bride and groom will always be well received. It’s your day, after all. Let’s start with what you love and the places that inspire your relationship, then we’ll get into the actual making of the drink!
1. What do you drink now, as a couple?
A beverage reflective of your interests will help guests get to know you better.
Lovers of whiskey? Utilizing a spirit from a local distillery is another way to show a place your love! Or maybe you’re wine drinkers, so a sangria would go over well.
Craft beer fanatics might not need a signature cocktail at all, but a cute label to go over your favorite brews. (But shandies are always fun!)
2. Where did you meet?
Consider the city, state, country, restaurant, etc. where you first met. What drinks and ingredients are famous in that region? What drinks did you love back then (or even now)?
Was it in college in New Orleans? Maybe a daiquiri would suit. Working abroad in London? Pimm’s Cups. Hail from Florida? Orange juice might have to be a part of it.
Or are you both from North Carolina, like me? Incorporating Cheerwine might be a nice touch. (For this one, you might want to buy a slushie machine!)
3. When is the wedding?
Margaritas in January? You do you, but guests might find it odd. Season is definitely important here. Think about whether your guests will be warm or cold.
For example, a spiked hot cocoa bar might be fun for a winter wedding, but makes no sense in June. Likewise, ice cold mint juleps might not be welcome in the colder months.
Also, consider which ingredients are available and when. Watermelon might be hard to come by in February!
The USDA has a great guide to ingredients by season. I also highly recommend The Flavor Bible!
4. What are your wedding colors?
Drinks are a fun way to incorporate your theme colors into your wedding. Your signature cocktail definitely doesn’t have to coordinate, but it’s great if it does!
Here are a few ingredient ideas by color to get you started:
- Red: cranberry, red wine, cherry, pomegranate, tomato
- Pink: strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb, watermelon, grapefruit
- Orange: orange, kumquat, sherbet, peach, apricot, cantaloupe
- Yellow: pineapple, lemon, ginger, champagne, white wine, mango
- Green: lime, mint, rosemary, honeydew, apple, green tea, kiwi
- Blue: curaçao, blueberries
- Purple: lavender, blackberries, plum, fig, grape
- Black: root beer, Kahlua, Guinness, cola, coffee
- White: vanilla, ice cream, milk/cream, eggnog
- Brown: ginger, beer, rum, tea, chocolate
Another way your drinks can coordinate is with garnishes, straws or stir sticks in your theme colors. Even cocktail umbrellas! I love these gold and silver straws for a statement.
5. Who is coming to the wedding?
Try to come up with a signature cocktail that most people would enjoy.
If you have lots of elderly folks at your event, they might be less likely to enjoy your bloody mary bar or craft brew cocktail. But if your guests are mostly your college friends who love to drink together, then more booze might be required!
Similarly, a divisive spirit like gin or tequila might deter folks, even if it’s REALLY GOOD. (And I know it will be.) Some people just don’t know what’s good for them!
Weighing this along with your headcount will help you decide how much to make, too!
6. What booze will you use?
Nuptials are expensive, so it’s important to budget out signature cocktails for weddings.
Top shelf liquor comes at top shelf prices. Can you maybe use a cheaper vodka to stretch your budget? Can you buy your liquor in a nearby state at a cheaper price?
Keep price in mind as you plan your drink. Reposado tequila may be your fave, but it might be too expensive for 150 people!
Check out these guides for popular spirits (including my favorite bottles of each!):
Gin | Tequila | Vodka | Rum | Whiskey/bourbon | Champagne
6. How many cocktails do you need?
Once you have your recipe ready and tested, it’s time to figure out how much you need to make.
Multiply the recipe ingredients by the number of people attending (or how many drinks you expect folks to imbibe) and make your grocery list.
Most cocktail recipes are simple ratios, so they are easily multipliable. Look for simple recipes like this Elderflower French 75 Cocktail, or for ones that already work well in big batches, like this Pineapple Mango Tiki Punch.
Smaller crowds mean smaller demand, so you can get more complicated if your bartender is cool with it.
Most people will enjoy one or two cocktails, and some won’t have any. You know your guest list.
If you have family and friends who are religious, pregnant or just non-drinkers, they’re unlikely to enjoy one of your drinks. Consider offering a mocktail for them! (I have a whole section on mocktails in my home bar guide!
7. What glassware & garnishes do you need?
Paper or plastic or glass? Is it something you can rent, or do you need to buy it? Pitchers or punch bowls? Maybe a drink dispenser?
Consider all of this when you are pricing your drink and making your budget.
And don’t forget the garnishes. Do you need cocktail skewers or sprigs of rosemary? Factor it all in!
8. Who will prepare the drinks?
Check the liquor laws in your state to see if there are any laws around who can serve alcohol. You may need to hire a bartender. Your venue might have rules about this, too.
Make sure the recipe is simple enough for a bartender or your brother’s BFF, whoever is preparing it. You probably don’t want to muddle anything!
If you are preparing a big batch ahead of time, keep open container laws in mind too when you transport the drinks. No jail time for the maid of honor or best man, please!
Now you should be on your way to making fabulous signature cocktails for weddings, parties and other special occasions!
Get my guide to making great cocktails at home!
Let me know what amazing drinks you come up with in the comments! // susannah
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