In praise of wedding cocktails

The Atlantic’s resident mixologist Derek Brown’s latest column advises against offering signature cocktails at a wedding:

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.

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.)

These are all good points. When there are dozens of people arriving to a reception all at once you don’t want to leave them waiting while the bartenders labor over complicated drinks. And you don’t want to entrust random banquet bartenders with anything too novel; even with specific directions, there’s no telling what they could do to a carefully crafted recipe.

However there’s one very good reason to serve something special at a wedding: Guests’ expectations for catered cocktails are low already, so it’s easy to exceed them. They’re anticipating vodka tonics, Jack and Cokes, maybe hastily mixed Cosmopolitans. You don’t need hand-carved ice and intricately prepared drinks to make them happy, you just need to give them something beyond the ordinary.

Pre-batching is your friend here. It gets most of the work done before the reception and allows the bartenders to quickly serve the arriving crowd. I worked two weddings this month, each with an appropriate cocktail that was partially pre-batched. The first had a Mexican theme and the bride requested something with tequila, so my partner and I served cucumber and jalapeno-infused Margaritas. The second wedding requested vodka and took place on one of the last warm days of summer, so we served vodka with lemon, honey syrup, Campari, and soda with a sprig of mint. These weren’t groundbreaking recipes by any means, but they were far better than the cocktails normally served at catered events and guests loved them.

Obviously budget is a consideration and skipping hard liquor entirely to focus on providing higher quality wine and beer can be a good approach. But if you’re going to offer cocktails at a wedding, it’s not hard to keep things simple and still please the crowd.


2 thoughts on “In praise of wedding cocktails”

  1. I think it’s a great idea as a way to make the event more personal, pull together your theme even more, and a possibly cheaper alternative to having a variety of hard liquor available. I hate the whole prom night cookie cutter wedding and signature cocktails is yet another way to get away from that. My favorite example was an outdoor barn theme wedding that had versions of spiked lemonade and mint juleps served in mason jars. Though the signature cocktail doesn’t work well for the getting all your guests drunk off their asses wedding for those who actually wan’t that.

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