Nothing quite sets the mood at an event like a great drink. Cocktails transport us, giving us a taste of an earlier time or an exotic location.
Timeless Libations for Every Wedding Season
by Emily Marcus
When it comes to concocting creative beverages, more and more couples are opting for the tried-and-true classics to complement their elegant, retro, minimalist, or vintage vibe. In the words of Robbi Jo Oliver, director of wine and spirits for Mastro’s Ocean Club, “Traditional drinks are crowd-pleasers. If you are concerned about your guests and want to make sure they are pleased with the drink options, stick with the basics.” Likewise, bar manager Jenn Harvey of Cambridge’s Temple Bar notes, “Guests are opting for traditional drinks that don’t need much explaining. After all, simplicity is key.”
Think simple equals boring? Think again. As the traditional trend booms, mixologists and bartenders are adapting their creations for modern times. Oliver advises, “To elevate these classics and make them more personal and fun, make a garnish bar with many kinds of olives, spices, peels, and maybe some inedible ones such as flowers and mini umbrellas!” Another option is to adjust the actual recipe: “Infusing a spirit is a simple way to take a classic and make it more you. You can also sub in a different spirit or modifier,” explains Kelly Coggins, beverage director of City Winery Boston. Coggins also suggests a drink-testing party before the big day for those looking to experiment. Or you could get more creative with the vessel the drink comes in, quirky ice cubes, unique food pairings, or a meaningful name. However you choose to modify your concoctions, our experts agree that the most important aspect of any wedding cocktail is that it reflects the couple and their spirit (pun intended). Here they weigh in on their top choices for every season:
“As the snow starts to melt in Boston and the days get warmer, but still not as warm as you want, I think most people start to wishfully drink, moving back to light-colored spirits in hopes of drinking summer into existence. I love making variations on the classic Tom Collins this time of year, using local peas and juicing them to give the drink a bright color and spring flavor.” —Kelly Coggins, beverage director, City Winery Boston
"Spring is tricky here in New England, so I like a drink that represents the tug of war between winter and summer. The Periodista, featuring dark Jamaican rum, lime, triple sec, and apricot liqueur is a wonderful option. The dark rum speaks to winter, while the stone fruit notes of the apricot liqueur hint at the warmer months to come.” —Jared Sadoian, assistant bar director, The Hawthorne
“I think sparkling cocktails play great in any season, but using fresh seasonal produce can always take a perennial classic to new seasonal heights. For example, a little muddled strawberry shaken and strained in our French 75 could be a nice, seasonal twist” —Gina Goyette, bar manager, Explorateur
“Any citrus classic would be great during summer such as a gin/vodka Gimlet or a Margarita.” —Michael Ray, beverage consultant, Chopps American Bar and Grill
“Bamboo, a sherry cocktail with hints of baking spice. It’s a gorgeous amber color so it really looks like the season, too.” —Jared Sadoian, assistant bar director, The Hawthorne
“I tend to move to a more spirituous drink. Something cozy with a fuller flavor that I just want to settle into with a great book. I love an Oaxaca Old-Fashioned. The smoky notes of the mezcal mingle with the mole bitters and reposado tequila to make the whole so much better than the sum of its parts.” —Kelly Coggins, beverage director, City Wintery Boston
“A Boulevardier. The warmth of whiskey is perfect for the colder months!” —Robbi Jo Oliver, director of wine and spirits, Mastro’s Ocean Club
“Stirred drinks are more fitting—particularly cognac and bourbon-based cocktails. Guests should try a Vieux Carre or a Negroni made with mezcal.” —Chris Keith, lead bartender, il Casale Belmont
Ultimately, drinks are one of the many ways a couple can get creative and add those magical (and delicious) details their guests will remember for years to come. Where they take their inspiration from, what flavors reflect their personality, and who they wish to honor can all be reflected in a carefully selected cocktail. While the classic trend is a great place to start, don’t be afraid to taste and tweak until you’ve found drinks that represent the most important part of any wedding: the bride and groom.