Signature Drink offerings at your wedding Reception
Beer and wine bar? Full Bar?
Up to you, but either way, I highly recommend adding a “signature drink” to your wedding reception bar menu!
Sure, supply other options for your guests - Uncle Craig needs his bourbon and if Grandma Joanie doesn’t have her gin… well… you know your guests better than I do, but having a fun, colorful option does 4 things:
It makes for a unique statement - this is your bar at your wedding! Maybe the color of the drink is important - your bridesmaids are wearing hot pink - Prickly Pear Margaritas it is! Or maybe the statement is more personal, romantic - “We are honey-mooniing in the Bahamas… Rum Punch!” Or, perhaps your hubby-to-be brews his own - there you go! AND, you can name your drink whatever you want! I had one couple name their signature drinks after their two dogs! Or, how about "Mint-To-Be Mojito"! Here are some other fun name suggestions!
Saves money! Mixing up a large quantity of sangria and promoting it to your guests it with an eye catching sign and enticing fruit floating in a dispenser will likely sway your guest’s drink decision - especially the ladies! Less alcohol choices = less money spent! (oh and, PS, you can ask your bartender to go "light" on the alcohol for pre-mixed drinks not only to save money but to keep intoxication low...)
Ties in with your theme - if you are having a winter wedding, with cozy fireplaces lit and fleece throws at each seat then a warm beverage, like, perhaps a mulled wine might be a good choice. Having a taco bar? Stick with the Mexican inspiration and serve up margaritas! Perhaps you are having a brunch wedding - how about a Bloody Mary station with all the fixings! Sometimes your venue lends itself well to the signature drink choice - we have pomegranates at Agua Linda that are ready in the fall - pomegranate martini, anyone, recipe below? Mint is always in season here, so mojitos are a fun option. Some of our flowers that grow in abundance certain times of the year are edible and make a beautiful garnish to any cocktail. Our FAVORITE signature drink is a Prickly Pear Margarita! Sara, who is one of our main bartenders, harvests prickly pear fruit every year around her home north of Tucson. She makes a syrup that is available for our clients if they choose this VERY Arizona and VERY colorful signature drink - it is an incredible magenta pink!
Less wait time! Especially if your signature drink can be pre-mixed, having an option that is front and center and is the highlight of your bar options, helps many guests decide what they want to order and makes it easier for the bartender to quickly prepare the drink.
This makes a little more than a gallon. It can be pre-mixed in a dispenser then shaken on ice, and poured.
4 cups gin or vodka
2 cups orange liquor
12 cups pomegranate juice, unsweetened
shake and pour garnish with pomegranate seeds (our pomegranates are harvested in October and are great for garnish, but I recommend purchasing unsweetened juice to save time!).
Recipe for a Crowd
There are many great ideas that you can find online, but keep in mind that you need a recipe for a crowd. There is nothing better than a margarita made with fresh squeezed lime juice, but to squeeze limes for 150 guests is a daunting task. Talk to your bartender about how to mix that awesome drink for a crowd.
One of my favs is a mojito! Simple syrup is EASY to make (one part water to one part sugar, heat until fully dissolved), so to help your bartender save drink prep time, how about infusing the simple syrup with mint when you make it a couple of days ahead of time? No muddling of fresh mint for each individual drink needed! Have some fresh sprigs on the side for garnish, of course!
Not sure of how to convert a small recipe for a crowd? This is a good question for your bartender! For our bar, my couples bring ingredients and Alex and Sara take it from there!
Some couples do two drinks - his and hers. Often they guys go with something not pre-mixed, like Jack and Coke and save the clear dispenser a more colorful choice. Carbonated drinks, however, should not be pre mixed - or, at least, the carbonated portion added once the other pre-mixed ingredients are poured into a glass.
Consider offering your guests a beverage that highlights your local brewery or vineyard! In Southern Arizona, we have a few great breweries and many vineyards. Offering crafts beer and local wines is a great way to show off our area AND support a local business. One of our brides enjoyed a day of wine tours a week or so before the wedding with her bridesmaids and used that time to select their favorite blends to serve at the reception!
If ever there was a time to garnish your drink - a wedding is that time! Say yes to the citrus wedges and umbrellas, but how about a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds, fresh herbs or an edible flower! On my farm, we almost always have edible flowers to garnish with; rose petals (spring, summer, fall), hollyhocks (late spring/early summer), pansies (winter, early spring), bougainvillea (summer), African violets (early spring) or Mexican primrose (summer, spring, fall) can all be added to your cocktail, and if you are one of my clients, don't waste money on fresh mint - we always have A TON growing in the flower beds! PS, if you have a brunch wedding, then, of course, you must have the QUEEN of garnish-able drinks - the Bloody Mary! It can be a meal in itself! Bacon, salami, veggies...
Make sure there is a fun option for your pregnant guests, non-drinkers and designated drivers! Some signature drinks can be pre-mixed WITHOUT the alcohol. Your bartender can then add the rum to your mojito for those that want it, but offer a "virgin" mojito which is very yummy, too! Or, make an extra effort to thank your designated drivers with a DDD - Designated Driver Drink!
Let your guests know what your signature drink is with a custom sign! Make your own with your printer and frame, use a chalkboard (my clients can borrow one from me) or check out all these AWESOME options on Etsy!
Avoid drinks with fussy, time consuming tasks (like squeezing enough limes for a crowd, crushing ice or muddling mint). You want the line at your reception to move quickly!
Say no to shots. Most venues will not allow shots - folks just get too intoxicated!
Champagne walls and beer donkeys (yes, beer donkeys), may not be permitted by your venue, or, there may be an additional charge for having bartenders serve at these stations. (PS, Agua Linda Farm is soon to be putting our miniature horse to work as a server - Alex is not only a bartender but she is also a professional horse person... I haven't told her yet...!)
Consider having a shuttle service for your guests, especially if you are having your reception in a rural area where UBER, Lyft and taxis might be hard to come by AND, make a fuss over your designated drivers for the night - give them a badge or special glass!
Assign a responsible person to remove leftover alcohol from the venue that night (if, as in our case, your venue allows you to bring in your own!).
Glass or plastic? Weddings are a BIG garbage producer and I say, the less plastic, the better! Unfortunately, for large groups, real glassware gets a little overwhelming. At my venue, we offer a bar glassware package and encourage folks to re-use their glass (you would be surprised how many people return for that second glass of wine without bringing back the empty to refill...). Some couples provide their guests with a "glass for the night", which send the message that they will be re-using it.
Most important tip is - the one you WON'T FORGET TO GIVE YOUR BARTENDER! (Ha, ha!!) Even if there is a tip jar out and some of your guests remember to bring cash, or have VENMO, be sure that your bartenders are tipped well! This is how you thank them for their hard work and making your reception WONDERFUL!
My venue, Agua Linda Farm is a 63 acre ranch in Southern Arizona. My husband and I have been hosting weddings, harvest festivals and other events on our property for more than 15 years. I write my blog posts with my clients in mind but also hope to provide a little insight applicable to any wedding. Happy Planning!. - Laurel Loew