Signature drinks that showcase the bride and groom’s style, whether tray-passed or hand-shaken to order, provide an opportunity to express creativity at a cocktail hour. From eye-catching custom garnishes and organic spirits to fresh-from-the-garden ingredients and interactive bubble bars, the possibilities are endless. Four wedding and event planners share the latest trends in wedding cocktail knowledge and recipes for some of their favorites.
Bubble Bars With Unique Additions
“Champagne is a timeless cocktail that is perfect for celebratory occasions,” says Fort Worth wedding planner Tami Winn. “The fun and more current twist is the addition of items to the bubbly.” Those additions go beyond fruit. Cotton candy, splashes of liqueur and even small flowers frozen in ice cubes are appearing in flutes and coupe glasses of bubbly. “Cotton candy is a very unique element because it melts into the drink and changes the color, as well as adds a hint of sweetness,” Winn says. Bubble bars with rows of colored sugar-rimmed glasses allow guests to pick and choose garnishes and additions based on their preference.
“You can definitely taste the difference in using garden ingredients rather than premade, packaged ingredients you buy at stores,” says Angie Moors, general manager of The Ashton Depot. Fresh herbs and fruit are used in many of the event venue’s cocktails, picked directly from the on-site garden behind the 19th-century building. Herbs and produce range from lemon verbena and Thai basil to apricots, plums and pomegranates. The latest addition is a fruit-bearing peach tree, thanks to a peach pit salvaged a couple of years ago by Ashton Depot chef Cesar Gallegos. Fruit is not only muddled into drinks and used for garnishes, but incorporated into house-made syrups and liquor infusions. Popular wedding cocktails at The Ashton include a jalapeño-blackberry margarita, a strawberry-rhubarb margarita and the strawberry-basil vodka concoction they share — all fresh from the garden.
Garnishes have evolved beyond basic lemon wedges and paper parasols. Brides are now using garnishes to convey their personality. Pamela Moncrief, spirits director at Spirits by Sedona, a luxury cocktail and bar service in Fort Worth, says garnishes are now about making a real statement. Clothespinned labels, bundled flowers and even small toys are finding their way to beverage glasses in striking fashion. “Today you’re seeing people treat the drink like a piece of art,” says Moncrief. “It has to look as good as it tastes.” In the Double Backbone, embellished with a sleek floral bundle, locally made TX Blended Whiskey is smoked and “fat-washed,” a method of incorporating rich and savory flavor to spirits. Infusing liquors is another big trend in wedding cocktails, as is showcasing local spirits to out-of-town guests, Moncrief says.
Eating organically is now mainstream, but drinking organic alcohol is also on the rise. According to recent studies, organic beer and wine are expected to grow at a rate of nearly 25 percent from 2013 to 2019. Lottie Fowler, owner of Grit + Gold, a Fort Worth-based wedding planning group, says more brides are requesting organic cocktails using organic liquor. Organic fruit and garnishes like lemon, thyme and lavender are also incorporated. Big stems of fresh greenery add visual appeal. The components lead to a more sophisticated cocktail experience, Fowler says.
You Had Me at Rosé
- 1 small organic rose bloom
- 5 ounces rosé champagne
Using a large-form ice cube tray, freeze the rose bloom in water. Pour rosé in a coupe glass and serve with rose ice cube.
— Tami Winn Events, www.tamiwinn.com
Sweet On You
- 1 1/2 ounces Tito’s Handmade Vodka
- 3 basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon strawberries, quartered
- 3 ounces lemon-lime soda
- 1/2 ounce Strawberry Syrup (recipe follows)
Fill a rocks glass with ice and add vodka, basil leaves, strawberries and soda. Stir. Slowly add Strawberry Syrup and gently stir.
Makes 1 cup
- 1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
Add all ingredients to a small pot and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Puree in a blender and pass through a fine strainer.
— The Ashton Depot, theashtondepot.com
The Double Backbone
- 2 ounces butter-washed, mesquite-smoked Firestone & Robertson TX Blended Whiskey (see note)
- 1/4 ounce Heering cherry liqueur
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar simple syrup
- 2 dashes El Guapo chicory-pecan bitters
- 1/2 dash aromatic bitters
Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Stir and strain into a glass. If serving warm, combine all ingredients, add 1 ounce water and heat to 160-185 degrees.
Note: To fat-wash, add 1 to 1 1/2 ounces melted butter to a 750-milliliter bottle at room temperature. Let sit for a few hours, then chill or freeze until fat solidifies and can easily be skimmed off. To smoke, place whiskey into a mesquite-wood smoker for 10 minutes.
— Spirits by Sedona, www.spiritsbysedona.com
- 2 ounces CapRock organic whiskey or brandy
- 1/4 ounce Fernet-Branca liqueur
- 1/4 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur
- 1 dash orange bitters
- Juice of 1 organic lemon wedge
- Greenery, for garnish
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice and add all ingredients except greenery. Stir with a spoon until chilled. Strain into rocks glass with a large ice cube. Garnish with greenery.
— Grit + Gold, www.gritandgoldweddings.com
Sparkling champagne poured freely on an unexpectedly snowy spring night seven years ago when freelance food news writer Celestina Blok (@celestinafw) tied the knot.