Over the past couple months, I have been asked to handle the cocktails for the weddings of two of my friends: Kelly & Ed from San Diego and Leianna & Morgan from Seattle. Outside of throwing a couple cocktail parties, I don’t have a lot of experience in putting together a set of cocktails to cover the diverse tastes that come with the wide range of ages and backgrounds found in a wedding audience.
For both, I conducted a tasting with the couples beforehand to explore the range of cocktails that would be possible. The hardest step I found was to come up with a tasting list that covers a wide range of styles and base spirits while limiting the complexity of preparation of each drink.
Check out the details after the jump.
Kelly & Ed
This was a couple months ago, and I didn’t keep detailed notes of what we tasted. I know we tried the following:
- Hemingway Daiquiri
- Cognac & Rum Punch
The Cognac & Rum punch was my favorite of the group, though sadly I think I watered down the version that we tasted a little too much. It was a concoction of my own, based on several ideas from David Wondrich’s great book, Punch.
Cognac & Rum Punch
6.5 oz Appleton VX Jamaican Rum
6 oz Hennessy VS Cognac
5.5 oz St. James Rhum Agricole
3 oz Lemon juice
Oleo Saccharum made from the peel of 2 lemons and 4 oz Demerara Sugar
Dilute with water to taste.
For the wedding, we decided to go simple. We ended up making:
- Añejo Margarita
- Bottled Carbonated Negroni
- Bottled Dark & Stormy
The margaritas were made using Patron Añejo, Triple Sec, Orange Curaçao, and Lime Juice. Orange Curaçao is not a standard ingredient in the margarita, but I added it because the limes seemed especially sour and I needed more sweetness to offset that. I also dramatically reduced the proportions of the ingredients relative to the tequila, because I found that the agave flavor of the Patron Añejo was not asserting itself very well. (As an aside, I would not have used the Patron if I didn’t have 2 1.5 liters bottles of left over from my own wedding that I was no longer drinking). Needless to say, these turned out great. My only regret is not having a giant ice ball to put in the punch bowl that we served these out of, as they diluted fairly quickly.
The Dark & Stormy’s were made with 2 oz Gosling’s Rum and about 4 oz Fever Tree Ginger Beer. To make these, we basically poured 2 oz of ginger beer out of each mini Fever Tree bottle, added the rum, and recapped the bottles. We shook them a little after recapping to ensure that everything was nicely mixed. These, incidentally, were the biggest hit of the wedding.
The Negroni we made was fairly standard: equal parts Martin Miller’s gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. We made two variations using different sweet vermouths. The first variation used only Carpano Antica formula vermouth. Some people recommend not using Carpano in the Negroni because the strong vanilla flavor in the vermouth will tend to dominate the drink. I think this makes the Negroni a little more accessible for the non-Campari drinker. The second variation was a combination of two vermouths, the Carpano Antica and Vya sweet vermouth. Vya is my second favorite brand of vermouth behind the Carpano, and the combination of these two muted the vanilla somewhat.
For both variations of the Negroni, we carbonated the cocktail using an iSi Twist & Sparkle, which I just learned has been recalled over worries the bottles will explode in some cases. The carbonation added a nice additional element to the drink, which I quite liked. We carefully poured the carbonated drink into bottles that were previously filled with Fever Tree Ginger beer.
At the wedding, the Dark & Stormy was by far the hit. The Margaritas were also well liked, though early considered to be a little too strong. We had very few takers for the Negroni, which is a little less accessible than the other two drinks that we brought. All in all though, I thought this was a good experience to get my feet wet.
Leianna & Morgan
This wedding has not happened yet, but we did have a fun tasting just a couple weeks ago. Because they are located in Seattle, I mixed a bunch of cocktails at home, put them into same Fever Tree bottles that we used in the previous wedding, and brought them all to Seattle in a checked bag. The biggest difficulty was keeping them cold the whole way. The picture below shows all of the bottles arranged on my counter at home before transport.
Here is what I brought for the tasting:
- Gin-Gin Mule
- Bee’s Knees
- Corpse Reviver #2
- The Last Word
- Hemingway Daiquiri
- Blue Lavender (a creation of my own, see below)
- Classic Mai Tai
- Satan’s Whiskers
- Rye Manhattan
- Bourbon Manhattan
- Mother-in-Law Cocktail
- Dark & Stormy
Most of these you can find online. The only one that is unique to me is the Blue Lavender, which I created in an attempt to make a summery cocktail that included blueberries (they are getting married at a blueberry farm).
8 Blueberries Muddled
1 1/2 oz Beefeater Gin
1/2 oz Lavender Syrup
1/2 oz Maraschino Liqueur
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
Shake and fine strain. Garnish with a Blueberry.
I used Beefeater here instead of Plymouth or something else because I was attempting to using cheaper quality ingredients, but we may go with Plymouth for the actual wedding.
You’ll notice that there is no punch in this list. I would normally bring a punch of some form to a tasting, but I didn’t have time to make the oleo saccharum in advance of my trip.
The only cocktail that didn’t survive bottling and transport was the Satan’s Whiskers, which I think is a great cocktail but came out with a displeasing wine-like taste. One possible culprit is the vermouth I used, which may have been in my fridge a little too long and gone bad.
After extensive tasting, we settled on:
- Gin-Gin Mule
- Blue Lavender
- Mai Tai
- TBD Whiskey Punch
- Dark & Stormy (not on the menu, but we’ll have Gosling’s rum to go with the ginger beer for the gin-gin mule)
The whiskey punch will either use an Irish Whiskey or local Seattle-area Whiskey, but I haven’t determined this yet. We also discussed using green tea in this punch in some way. Stay tuned for details on what I actually end up making.