Planning a Cocktail Hour - With a Twist


You’ve said ‘I do’ and sealed it with a kiss – now it’s time to raise a glass, along with your guests, to your newly minted married status. But what’s in your glass as you say cheers?

When it comes to your cocktail hour, think beyond traditional beverages. From coffee-infused cocktails to drinks that light up, the possibilities are truly as limitless as your imagination (and budget).

Here are a few expert tips and trends for kicking your reception off with a fun and fresh cocktail hour that will leave your guests happy – and a little buzzed.

1. Bring on the Bubbles

Nothing says celebration like a bubbly beverage, but don’t limit yourself to straight prosecco or champagne. “Bubbly is a fun and festive way to start the evening,” says Chris Binney, owner of Beck ‘N Call Bartenders in Florida. “Recipes for mimosas and cocktails utilizing club soda or sparkling waters can be less expensive and may actually better tie into your theme.”

For a summer wedding, consider offering a selection of cocktails mixed with fruit flavored La Croix for a sweet and refreshing bubble bar. Sparkling cider based drinks, on the other hand, are perfect for a fall event.

2. Floral Infusions

Flowers don’t just make beautiful décor – they can also make a tasty drink. Elderflower liqueur like St. Germain is a popular cocktail base and pairs well with white wine or a classic gin and tonic. Or, take the flower power to the next level with a lilac soda, lavender bee’s knees or hibiscus margarita.

3. Mix Up Some Mocktails

Binney recommends starting the party off light and saving the hard liquor for later in the evening, especially since many guests may not have eaten yet. “Offer beer, wine and a mocktail or light cocktail along with some kind of finger foods,” she suggests. “And don’t forget non-alcoholic options, even if there aren’t children on the guest list.”

4. Add a Fun Finishing Touch

Garnishes are an easy way to jazz up or personalize an otherwise simple cocktail. Top off your drinks with a sprig of mint leaf, citrus peel twist, flower petals or themed stir stick for an added element of fun. Or, keep your beverages cool with ice cubes filled with herbs or fruit.

5. Light It Up

To really pump up the party factor just add a little extra fun lighting to your cocktail hours, suggests Binney.

“Our bars now incorporate lighting that ties in with the rest of the wedding. We use programmable LED lights for uplighting around the bar area, menu boards, displayed alcohol bottles and even waterproof lights inside our drink dispensers – makes a huge impact and totally adds to the ‘wow’ factor,” says Binney.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how trendy your cocktails are if you don’t have talented bartenders creating them.

“Event bartending takes a certain kind of flair – especially for a wedding. The bartenders need a charismatic, chameleon like, personality and know how to inject energy and excitement into the room,” says Binney. “Every event is different, the style, theme, formality, the guests personality – a good bartender knows how to read all that and give the crowd what they need and enhance the guest experience. Having the right bartender is a huge part of a receptions success so this is not where you want to skimp and go shopping in the bargain basement.”

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