THE BEST SIGNATURE COCKTAIL PAIRINGS FOR ANY OCCASION & SEASON
Picking two signature cocktails for your wedding reception just got a whole lot easier …
Wedding season is right around the corner! Whether you’re planning your own or helping a friend with the party planning, there’s a lot to think about, especially when wondering what to serve at the bar. Beer and wine are the biggest players, but adding a couple signature cocktails can take your wedding reception (and the dance floor) to a whole new level! These cocktails can be an expression of your personalities, a local specialty, or even a riff on your favorite hometown drinks.
HOW TO PICK YOUR SPECIALTY COCKTAILS
First, consider your budget and discuss options with your venue, catering company, or whoever is supplying the bar supplies. It’s important to know what each liquor costs, along with any additional ingredients required to make the drinks. A more alcoholic beverage like a Martini or Manhattan will likely cost more than a drink with a non-alcoholic (and readily available) mixer, such as a Gin and Tonic. If an Old Fashioned is your top choice, consider a lighter, more refreshing option as the second cocktail to keep the drink tab in the budget.
Also, it’s important to consider how complicated you want these drinks to be. While many specialty cocktails can be made in batches beforehand, others might require a minute or two of the bartender’s time. This might not be a big deal for an intimate gathering, but for larger parties it could mean a significant wait time for guests to get a drink. Avoid this problem with easy-to-mix cocktails and simple garnishes.
CONSIDER MATCHING YOUR DECOR OR THEME
While specialty cocktails aren’t totally necessary, they can really add to the ambience of the occasion. There’s a good reason why a cosmopolitan isn’t usually seen at a rustic country wedding, and the same goes for a vodka lemonade at an urban-chic venue. Think about where you’re getting married, what appetizers you’ll serve, and how people will be dressed. After all, it’s likely these cocktails will end up in some of the photographs, and it’s best if they add to the occasion!
That being said, you’re not trapped into fancy drinks at a formal-looking venue. There are plenty of casual favorites that can work almost anywhere including a glass of Sangria, a Whiskey Soda, an Aperol Spritz, or a Moscow Mule. The same goes for a casual backyard wedding. Mint Juleps, French 75s, and Mojitos are some crowd favorites that feel like a special celebration, or you can dress up a simple drink with a beautiful garnish.
And if you’re planning a destination wedding, ask your wedding planner what specialty cocktails they would recommend. After all, guests are not just celebrating you, they’re experiencing a new place! Sipping on a Mai Tai in Hawaii or enjoying White Russians at a ski resort will ensure your guests are relaxing in style.
CHOOSE A SIGN
Remember this big wedding planning rule: don’t leave guests guessing what you’re covering at the bar. A sign will help guests know what specialty cocktails you’re serving up, and can even give them some background on your choices. For example, a hometown showdown can show off the best of both worlds. And if you can’t decide who's drink is who — represent your pets with a custom watercolor sign.
Regardless of how you choose to display the signature cocktails, make sure to include on the sign what is hosted. This could say “Hosted wine and beer, along with our two specialty cocktails” … just don’t leave guests guessing what they’ll have to pay for.
FAVORITE SIGNATURE COCKTAIL PAIRINGS
Now that you know how to choose your specialty cocktails, here are some favorite pairings that balance flavor and color. Note that the drinks listed below are traditionally alcoholic, but don’t disregard a mocktail option! Mocktails are a fresh and hydrating choice on a hot summer day, and good to include if the majority of your guests are expected to drive home at the end of the night.
Here are our favorite signature cocktail pairings:
Whiskey Sour + French 75
Tom Collins + Whiskey Smash
Cucumber Martini + Peach Bellini
Mint Julep + Strawberry Margarita
Classic Daiquiri + Gold Rush
Aperol Spritz + Whiskey Smash
Mai Tai + Pineapple Mojito
Whiskey Sour + French 75
Gin & Tonic + Greyhound
Red Sangria + White Sangria
Dark ‘N Stormy + Spiked Apple Cider
Negroni + Dirty Martini
Hot Toddy + Moscow Mule
Manhattan + Fall Spritz
Sidecar + Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan + Old Fashioned
Cranberry Moscow Mule + Irish Coffee
White Russian + Pomegranate Mimosa
Espresso Martini + Dirty Martini
Sazerac + Gimlet
Erin Hooker is a writer with experience creating wine, food, and interior design content. She began contributing to Graham + Fisk’s blog in 2021.