Signature drinks have gone from trendy to expected at weddings. In fact, signature drinks are being served at holiday parties, bridal showers and even at Friday night hangouts with friends. But what makes the perfect signature drink? It’s more than what you put into it.
If just grabbing a recipe off a google search isn’t good enough for you, read on to find out the 10 secrets how to create the perfect signature drink!
10 Secrets How to Create the Perfect Signature Drink
Perfecting the signature drink is, surprisingly, a source of stress for a lot of engaged couples. Some of my clients worry that it’s too cliche because they see them offered at every single wedding they attend. Others leave it to the last minute because they can’t come up with anything until they’re finally forced to. But, designing a signature drink is supposed to be fun! It does, after all, include ALCOHOL. And whether you’re planning a wedding, a holiday party or just having friends over on a Friday night, putting together an event can drive anyone to drink.
Which brings us to our first secret:
1. Mix it up at home
Leaving the signature drink on the “last minute decision” list, takes all the fun out of this. As a wedding planner, I tell my couples to start designating one night a month (or a week if they’re super stressed) playing at home bartenders. Part of planning a wedding is talking about the wedding with your significant other non-stop. Every once in awhile, those chats can get heated or stressful and that is the time to do a little signature drink research.
Let’s say you’re in the beginning stages of planning your wedding. Maybe you’re trying to do something extra fun like, figure out the budget. (That was sarcasm for those that missed it). It’s really important to not let the only conversation you have with your fiance be only about wedding details.
Schedule time to discuss the wedding with each other as much as you schedule time to discuss literally anything else together. On one of those nights, you’ll end up talking about the budget for the wedding and, wow, that is a great time for adult beverages. Before heading home for the evening, swing by a liquor store and pick up ingredients for 2 or 3 different signature drink options. Once you get home, and before the budget talk starts, mix up one option to try.
As you go through the budget talk, move on to the second and third option, marking down your favorite for the evening. Can’t agree on a favorite? Mark down your favorite and your fiance’s favorite and I’ll talk more about that later in this blog.
Of course, figuring out 1 recipe, let alone 2 or 3, isn’t always a simple task for engaged couples. You might have your “go-to” drinks, but you probably want to offer something that isn’t also everyone else’s “go-to” as well. Aside from doing endless Pinterest research, there are a ton of amazing mixology books out there. Not only will you find a signature drink to love, but you’ll always have the recipe and the book for future parties together.
Check out my list of recommended books on mixology right here! Still want more? Here is another list I have put together with books as well as barware sets and wedding champagne flutes.
2. Do an inventory check
Depending on where you’re getting married, you’re probably working with a liquor provider. They might be part of the catering company, or a completely separate entity. Unless you’re doing the BYOB thing, it’s really important to find out if your signature drink will be possible. What do I mean by that?
There are three components of a drink: the liquid ingredients, the garnish(es) and the glass it is served in. Before you mix up anything to try at home and definitely before you make any decisions, talk to the person supplying the liquor at your wedding about those three details. Let’s break it down:
The liquid ingredients for a signature drink might be the easiest components to discuss. You’re liquor provider likely has a full bar available and is stocked with the basics. Ask them to provide a list of everything they offer within the package you have purchased. If there is a specific brand you want, be sure to find out if it’s included, available and/or an upgrade.
A garnish for the signature drink can be a piece of fruit or veggies, an herb like a sprig of rosemary, and even a sugar or salt rim. Many times, the garnish is a big part of the drink. Without the garnish, the signature drink just won’t be the same.
The last part of the signature drink is the glass in which it is served. Just as white wine is served in a glass with a stem, glassware often is chosen for both practical and aesthetic reasons. In terms of practicality, if the drink you’re serving is chilled, then a glass, mug, or whatever you’re using, should have a stem or handle. This will keep the drink from being warmed by the hand holding it. But if it’s a drink that is either served on the rocks or at room temperature, stems and handles aren’t a necessity.
Aesthetically speaking, many people are drawn to particular drinks because they like the way it looks. The color of the liquid and the garnish are part of that look as much as what the drink is being served in. Furthermore, there are certain drinks that are famous for being served in very specific ways; such as the “mule” drinks, which are always served in a copper mug or cup.
Wedding Planner Tip: Glassware, along with other serve-ware, is typically supplied by the caterer assuming they are also supplying the alcohol. However, if the two are separate, you will need to find out which group will be supplying the glassware so you ask the right person whether or not they have what you need.
Starting to get anxiety over everything that goes into selecting a signature drink? Number 3 will fix that:
You don’t have to bring your signature drink to the level of expert mixologist during The Prohibition Era. This is supposed to be fun, and when it stops being fun, you’re taking it too seriously. Whether you choose to play at home bartender or go out once a month to a new bar for “research purposes”, follow this one rule:
Keep. It. Simple.
The ingredients, the garnish and the stemware should all be kept simple. None of this “setting it on fire” or that liquid nitrogen stuff. This isn’t a science experiment or some best bartender ever reality show. The liquor and mixers should be something you could pull off a shelf at a standard liquor store. Every bar you go to that isn’t part of a massive chain, has what they need at their fingertips. They order what they need based on the menu the owners have agreed to. Reductions, fruit purees, absinthe…these are things that your liquor supplier for the wedding probably won’t have and might not be able to get.
Same idea for garnishes and glassware. There are plenty of garnishes that are easily attainable, though I talk more later about one other thing to consider in this area. If you select a garnish that can be found in a kitchen, you’re probably all good to go. If you’re looking to rim the glass with salt or sugar, that request is hit or miss and even if it is agree to, it still has to be communicated to the bartenders. These are the bartenders that are going to be under pressure to serve your guests alcohol as fast as they are being asked for it. Rimming takes a minute, so if this can be done, consider having the signature drinks displayed on a table and not ordered at the bar.
Wedding Planner Tip: Guests might turn down your signature drink if they don’t like the garnish. If you want to make sure guests are trying the drink, either ditch the garnish, keep it overly simple, or offer the drink with or without the garnish.
Glassware also needs to be kept simple. Yes, every bar you go to has those copper mugs, but wedding venues and caterers? Not so much. You’re likely working with the basics, which include: wine glasses with stems (maybe without), martini glasses, rocks glasses, Collins glasses and champagne flutes. How can you get around this if you really need a specific type of glass? Ask about rental options, either a company that your caterer works with or one that you can contract on your own. For help tracking down the glass you need and the vendor in your area that carries them, contact us.
‘Tis the Season
An easy trick to use if you’re not sure how to keep it simple, is to think about the season. This is helpful for figuring out if what you want is available as well as matching what you’re serving to the season you’re getting married in.
You probably wouldn’t order a margarita in the Winter any more than you would order a hot toddy in the Summer, right? Use that same idea when choosing your signature drink. This doesn’t mean you are forced into some pumpkin spice hell if you have a Fall wedding; just consider the weather before committing to the drink.
Though lemons and limes are good any time of the year, other garnishes like strawberries, peaches, blackberries etc. aren’t always available. You will either have to check with your caterer or the liquor provider, as it varies where the garnish comes from since it’s considered food. Find out if they will have it/be able to get it and if not, discuss substitute possibilities.
Sell Crazy Someplace Else
Along with keeping it simple, dial back the crazy when figuring out your signature drink. What do I mean by “crazy”? Don’t serve anything that is going to make your guests crazy drunk.
There is a “no shot” policy at most weddings…which people get around by ordering their vodka “neat”. But signature drinks aren’t meant to be anything other than an introduction to the party. Mostly served during just the cocktail hour, the goal of the signature drink is not to get everyone too wasted to enjoy the reception.
You aren’t restricted to things that are nothing more than splashes of not so hard alcohol and mostly juice or soda. Just keep in mind that this is the introduction to the party and that people have the rest of the night to order their own versions of crazy.
A wedding is a reflection of the couple and who they are. I think the worst thing a guest can say about a wedding, is that it doesn’t “feel” like the couple’s wedding. Meaning, a guest walks in and from ceremony to after party, they are surprised at everything the couple actually wanted for their wedding. This actually happens a lot because weddings have become these huge monsters (for lack of a better word) filled with details and the occasional competition between friends getting married around the same time.
It’s not always easy to plan a wedding that is not only different from everyone else’s, but unique to the you and your fiance. Wedding magazines and Pinterest can be so overwhelming that either everything starts to look the same, or you’re selecting stuff that you like but that isn’t really you.
The details and everything that goes into your wedding should be all about the two of you. Get that in your mind and you’ll never pick the wrong anything; this includes your signature drink. I ask my couples about what I would find in their closet when I’m designing with them for their wedding day. For a signature drink, let me ask you:
What would you order at a bar?
What was the first drink you had together?
What would I find on your bar rack at home?
You can still get the mixology books and play bartender, or bounce around to different bars in search of the perfect signature drink. But a great starting point is answering those three questions above. If your love story is “opposites attract” then this next secret is for you:
Two People Means Two Drinks
Who says you can only have one signature drink? No one, that’s who. A wedding might be the combination of your two styles, but if you’re a vodka drinker and your fiance prefers whiskey, the answer is not about combining the two.
If you know, from the beginning of wedding planning, that there is no way you are going to agree on a signature drink; and you know that neither one of you is going to give up what they want, then pick two. This is not something you both have to agree on unlike just about everything else wedding related. In fact, offering two signature drinks is beneficial to your guests.
You and your fiance have different tastes, just like everyone else at your wedding. Signature drinks are passed up by guests for plenty of reasons, but the biggest reason is simple: the guest just doesn’t like what’s in the drink. Your odds of everyone trying your signature drink are much better if you offer two drinks that are polar opposites.
Night and Day
Let’s really go crazy and ignore any of the so-called rules associated with signature drinks, shall we? Maybe, your two signature drinks are such opposites that they really should have their own time. What if one is the obvious choice for an after dinner drink, but wouldn’t be ordered with appetizers?
Consider offering one signature drink with your cocktail hour and then the other during either the dessert portion of the reception or at the after party. If your drink can be considered a dessert, because it’s cream based or the rim is surrounded by chocolate, have it offered at the bar once cake is served. If you’re hosting an after-party, that’s the perfect time for anything with whiskey or bourbon.
Wedding Planner Tip: A signature drink doesn’t necessarily mean a mix of anything. If you have a favorite wine, port, or anything that stands alone in their bottle, you can always offer that as well. This works particularly well for dessert and after parties.
We Go Together
There is a reason certain drinks are ordered before dinner, during dinner and after dinner. They just go with the food and timing. Much like certain colors and types of wine are paired with particular food dishes, the same is true for all types of alcohol.
If you’re serving a signature drink during your cocktail hour, consider what the overall menu looks like. Perhaps you’re having a station dedicated to Mexican tapas and your signature drink includes Tequila. Talk to the wedding venue or caterer about setting up a display of signature drinks alongside that station. Since cocktail hour often includes a massive array of foods, you might choose to keep the drink simple to go with everything instead.
For signature drinks during cake and dessert, some choices are better than others. Like cocktail hour, it all depends on what you are serving. A dessert hour filled with more chocolate than anything else versus one filled with fresh fruit and French pastry options will have different “best choices”. Maybe you’re having a cigar roller at the after party, or a food truck with late night snacks. A signature drink can be paired at any time of the wedding, so chat with your caterer about finding the best match.
What’s in a Name?
You and your fiance have your own identities, as well as the identity you share as a couple. If you’ve decided on two separate signature drinks, then you’ll each get to name your own. Just one signature drink means you’ll have to agree on what it will be called. It’s not quite as serious as coming up with a name for your pet or child, but you should put some thought into it. Here are a few tips:
Simple, Simple, Simple
Simplicity has been a big theme in this blog, hasn’t it? Not for nothing, weddings are complicated enough with you assisting them. If you can keep the components simple, it won’t feel so overwhelming. For your signature drink name, keeping it simple is beneficial for a few reasons: Easy to say, easy to print, easy to remember and easy to order. You won’t have a hard time communicating what it’s called, it will be easy to read on any signs you’re using, your guests will remember it and thus, they’ll be able to order it easily.
Make it Meaningful
Don’t just swipe a name you found in one of the mixology books you picked up on Amazon. Put a twist on what the drink is already called. For instance, if the basic idea is a “martini”, use “-tini” as part of the name you come up with. Keeping it close to the base of what the drink is actually called will let guests know what to expect. You can also consider naming the drink after a pet, favorite movie, the city you met in, or anything else personal to the two of you.
Adult Beverage, Kid Names
Yes, these drinks are just for adults, but that doesn’t give you permission to use inappropriate names. Whether this is for your wedding or any other celebration, keep the name PC and something that won’t offend your the Aunt Sally of your group. Keep in mind that the name will have to be said by your guests, the bartender and will probably be printed on a sign. Behave.
Coming up with the perfect signature drink for your wedding or any other party is supposed to be a good time. The minute you find yourself stressed out about this detail, you’re doing it wrong. What are you tips and tricks for creating a signature drink? Did you use any of these secrets for your wedding day or another celebration? Comment below with your thoughts and anything I left out to help your fellow mixologists.