Wedding Cocktails: Too Much Work?

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There must be something in the air. As I sat down to pen a post on wedding cocktails, I was alerted to an article that Jonathan Miles had written in the New York Times. But cocktails aren't a newly trendy wedding accessory--they have a history entwined with nuptials.

The Brandy Alexander, a pop cultural icon in itself with a list of songs and TV shows touting how delectable this pre-cursor to the "Chocolate Martini" is, was said to be invented at the 1922 wedding of Princess Royal Mary and Viscount Lascelles. Yet, if I were you I'd leave wedding cocktails to royalty. If you're getting married, trust me--you have enough to worry about. Don't bother having a signature cocktail at your reception. That's the advice I give when asked what cocktails should be served at a wedding reception.

Go to your favorite bartender, ask him to try some drinks out on you, select one, and then tip him big.

If you're a glutton for punishment, have a punch or two. Punches are easier to make in advance and serve medium to large groups. They don't require any à la minute preparation. I recently got hitched myself and was lucky enough to have "mixtress" Gina Chersevani of PS 7's create three different punches for me. They were amazing, and all the work was front-loaded. The bartender had only to lift the ladle and serve. (Banquet bartenders are not always the most skilled of servers, although there are certainly exceptions.)

If you're hell-bent on ruining your day with unnecessary details, then don't say I didn't warn you. Below are cocktails for your special day according to wedding custom.

Something Old

Why not have champagne cobblers? The cocktail itself is thought to come from the late 18th century. Cobblers predate the cocktail. You can dress them up with seasonal fruits, and they are both fairly simple to make and festive. You can also serve them in wine glasses without fussing over unusual or odd glassware. You will need crushed ice, but hopefully you can order that from your caterer or ask the venue you are holding the reception at.

Something New

Want to create a cocktail that's brand spanking new? Nothing lacks originality more then serving a Cosmo and calling it the "Tim & Jill Cocktail." My suggestion is to go to your favorite bartender, ask him to try some drinks out on you, select one, and then tip him big. If you don't know a bartender, then here's an outline for experimentation based on a standard sour recipe:

    • 1 1/2 oz. to 2 oz. Liquor (Vodka, Gin, Tequila, Rum, Bourbon, etc.)
    • 1/2 to 1 oz. Sweetener
    • 1/2 to 3/4 oz. Citrus

Combine ingredients, add ice, shake and serve in cocktail glass.

Remember that white spirits are more likely to please the crowd. An example is:

    • 1 1/2 oz. Vodka
    • 1/2 oz. Honey
    • 3/4 Grapefruit juice

Combine ingredients, add ice, shake and serve in cocktail glass.

Add a touch that makes it uniquely yours like an herb or special garnish.

It's About Thyme
    • 1 1/2 oz. Vodka
    • 1/2 oz. Honey
    • 3/4 Grapefruit juice
    • Sprig of thyme

Combine ingredients, add ice, shake and serve in cocktail glass.

Something Borrowed

Borrowing a recipe from one of the bartending greats can make sure you are serving a cocktail that will distinguish your wedding. Food & Wine's Cocktails 2009 is bursting with cool but accessible drinks. Try something from Todd Thrasher or Joaquin Simo.

Something Blue

OK, so I usually rail against blue cocktails. But one cocktail comes to mind right away that is delicious and appropriate, the Blue Moon. Gin and Crème Yvette, or Crème de Violette, is a delicious and simple drink. It's also a very pretty shade of blue. Just make sure you stock some whiskey or beer should your groomsmen feel uncomfortable lifting the light blue sipper (although believe me, I have no such reservations).

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Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He sits on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail. More

Derek Brown is a writer, illustrator, bartender, and co-owner of acclaimed bars The Passenger and Columbia Room in Washington, D.C. He travels throughout the country and around the world in search of great drinks, and the stories behind them. Derek's methodical approach to cocktails was profiled in the Wall Street Journal's "A Master of Mixological Science" and his martini lauded as the best in America by GQ. He's been in numerous media outlets featuring his approach to better drinking, including CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show and FOX. Derek is a founding member of the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild and on the board of directors for the Museum of the American Cocktail.
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