Joe Mikos


Signature Drinks

It was the ancient Roman playwright Plautus who wrote about marriage, “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” With all due respect to Mr. Plautus, his words have become passé. Today’s newly married couples aren’t raising glasses of wine at the start of the reception; they’re toasting with cocktails.

It used to be that wedding guests rushed an open bar at the beginning of the reception. Now servers pass specially prepared cocktails on trays or pour them from pitchers decorated with hand-written labels. More often than not, these drinks are personalized for the bride and groom or themed to harmonize with the larger celebration. The era of simple wine and champagne toasts is over – it’s time to welcome the bride and groom on a note that’s been stirred or shaken.

“It’s become a big trend at weddings to have a signature cocktail,” says veteran caterer V. Jaime Hamlin. “Couples are looking for a way to have a good time and put their personal stamp on something. It’s a fun thing to do.”

Wedding planner Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin agrees. “It’s a nice opportunity for the couple to express their personality, whether it’s fun and wacky or sophisticated,” she says. “It helps set the tone and it’s just one more tasty treat that they can share with family and friends.”

In addition to adding a personal touch, serving one or two signature drinks has another plus: cutting costs. “The bar bill becomes higher the more [variety] you have,” says Jamison Loveday, manager of Your Market in Edgartown.

So forgo the open bar and offer guests one fun drink. Add a splash of hibiscus syrup to turn cocktails pink to match the bridesmaids’ dresses. Or go with something that fits the time of year – Dark and Stormies in the fall (it is hurricane season, after all), or margaritas and mojitos in the warmer months.


Tips from those in the know

✶ Get creative. Jaime Hamlin’s been known to get pretty inventive with recipes, mixing up batches of drinks with names like Father’s Regret (pomegranate vodka, lemon soda, and rosemary simple syrup), Cupid’s Little Helper (a ginger-lemongrass margarita), and Coming Up Roses (champagne, rose water, rum, and a splash of cranberry juice, topped with a floating rose petal). For one couple she devised a Margarita Bar with various takes on the classic drink – all named after the bride’s pet Chihuahuas.

✶ Personalize it. Growing up, Carrie Greer split vacation time between her father’s house on Martha’s Vineyard and her mother’s in Bermuda. When she and her now-husband chose to get married recently on the Vineyard, they served guests Dark and Stormies (dark rum, ginger beer, and a squeeze of lime), a nod to the drink of choice from her mother’s vacation destination. “It was a nice way to incorporate both family traditions,” Carrie says. (It was sheer coincidence that Hurricane Earl blew through the Vineyard the day before their wedding.)

✶ Put a new spin on traditional favorites. If it’s a post-wedding brunch you’re hosting, Scott Caskey, owner of Alchemy in Edgartown, recommends an updated Champagne Cocktail – one part bubbly, one part liqueur made from real fruit. He stocks his bar with Orchid Liqueurs in flavors like pomegranate, mango, and passion fruit. Garnish with a wedge of colorful fresh fruit for festive flair.

✶ Look for ways to save. Buy Prosecco instead of champagne; it’s cheaper and just as tasty. For smaller weddings, skip hiring a bartender and enlist the help of friends and family to prepare and serve.

✶ Make it ahead of time. “Making these specialty drinks can take a lot of time,” warns Jamison Loveday. His solution: Pre-mix the drinks in big batches and have them ready to serve as guests walk in. Hand-written labels on pitcher handles add a nice touch, as do cocktail napkins printed with the signature drink’s recipe.

✶ Consider those who don’t drink alcohol. When recent bride Kyle Nicholls settled on modified Mint Juleps as her wedding cocktail of choice, there was a crowd-pleasing bonus: The juleps were mixed with Lemonade, which could stand alone as a drink for guests who chose not to imbibe or for children. Another idea: an Iced Tea Bar, like the one wedding coordinator Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin organized for a wedding at the Harbor View Hotel. Fresh fruit like white peaches or strawberries kick up the style of a non-alcoholic beverage.

✶ Location, location, location. Pick a regional drink, like the Cape Codder, that reminds guests of how special Martha’s Vineyard is. “People see that as a very local kind of drink because of the cranberries,” says Lynn, who worked with one wedding party that sent guests home with a goodie bag containing a nip-sized bottle of vodka, a packet of lemon juice, and a bottle of cranberry juice. Family and friends could re-create the memories by mixing up a drink at home.

Wild hibiscus champagne
Serves 1

  • Wild hibiscus flower (packed in syrup and available from specialty gourmet stores)
  • ²/³ ounce wild hibiscus syrup from flower jar Champagne or prosecco
  • Fresh mint (optional).

❶ Place wild hibiscus flower in bottom of a champagne glass and stand blossom upright. Add syrup to bottom of glass (more syrup produces a deeper red drink, less syrup produces a lighter pink drink).

❷ Slowly top with champagne or prosecco, keeping blossom in upright position. The edible flower will sit in the bottom of the champagne flute and slowly open over 3 to 4 minutes. Garnish with fresh mint if desired.

Cupid’s little helper
Serves 6

  • ½ cup fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lemongrass, chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 cup silver tequila
  • ¼ cup Cointreau
  • Club soda (optional)
  • Wedges or twists of lime for garnish (optional)

❶ Mix first five ingredients together in a saucepan and bring to boil; reduce
heat to low and simmer until slightly syrupy, about 10 minutes. Strain into a pitcher and chill.

❷ When ready to serve, add tequila and Cointreau. Pour over ice into a highball glass, adding a splash of soda and lime wedge if desired. Or shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and serve straight up with a twist of lime.
Scrumptious (non-alcoholic) strawberry iced tea
Serves about 6

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly brewed unsweetened iced tea
  • Lemon for garnish

❶ Set aside some strawberries for the garnish, and in a blender or food processor, purée the remaining strawberries, sugar, and lemon juice.

❷ Mix 2 ounces of the strawberry purée with 6 ounces of the unsweetened iced tea and shake well. Pour into a glass filled with ice and garnish with a fresh strawberry and a lemon slice.

Recipes courtesy of Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin and V. Jaime Hamlin.