By Ebony L. Morman
Regardless of the season, location or size, all weddings call for a toast, and signature cocktails (or mocktails, if you ditch the alcohol) are meant to be raised. Mixing familiar spirits with unexpected ingredients — along with plenty of bubbles — can take them up a notch for special occasions.
“I like to take the client’s favorite cocktail or spirits they enjoy and incorporate fresh seasonal ingredients to elevate the cocktail,” says Rusty Lewter, owner of Your Charlotte Bartender, a cocktail catering business. We asked cocktail connoisseurs to share some of their most popular drinks, along with recipes so you can try them at home.
ROOTS Catering recently launched Bar ’54, a beverage service offering vintage vehicle rentals equipped with everything you need for hot and cold drinks on tap. Each truck brings a unique beverage experience that includes beer, bubbly, cocktails and more.
Till Death Do Us Port
Till Death Do Us Port highlights the complexities of port wine, says Savannah Witt, Bar ’54’s bar and beverage director. Using equal parts port and rum allows the fortified wine to shine through. Adding key lime juice gives the cocktail a bite, and a bit of agave rounds the finish. A garnish of grated nutmeg adds a slightly nutty, sweet surprise with each sip.
1 oz. dark rum
1 oz. port
1/4 oz. Cointreau
1/2 oz. Key lime juice
1/4 oz. agave
How it’s made: Fill a stirring glass with ice. Add key lime juice, agave, Cointreau, port and dark rum. Stir for 10-20 seconds and strain the mixture into a rocks glass with a large ice cube. Dust with grated nutmeg and garnish with a lime peel.
BLACK MOTH BARS
By fostering relationships with local farmers and businesses, Black Moth Bars, a mobile camper bartending service, uses fresh, local ingredients to create handcrafted, customizable cocktails.
The Cosmonaut Punch is good for a crowd: With a low ABV, or alcohol by volume, guests can have several servings throughout the night, says owner Rachel Hopkins. To make it shine, serve this drink in vintage glassware. This cocktail is a great “make ahead” batch recipe — just combine the ingredients and leave in a pitcher until ready to serve. Black Moth Bars recommends preparing two cocktails per guest.
3/4 ounce fresh blood orange juice
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth (Lo-Fi)
1/2 ounce PAMA pomegranate liqueur
1/2 ounce lemon simple syrup
Sparkling rose (optional)
How it’s made
Combine the first four ingredients in a shaker, shake and strain over fresh ice. Top with sparkling rose for a bubbly finish, and garnish with the citrus wheel and pomegranate seeds.
BUBBLES & BREWS
Classic Italian style meets bartending services: Bubbles & Brews serves specialty cocktails from its mobile bar, a vintage Piaggio Ape imported from Italy. Along with batch cocktails, Bubbles & Brews serves craft beers, wine and prosecco on tap.
What makes it special
Vodka is a popular choice for cocktails, and this one is light enough to appeal to a large crowd, says owner Coleen Bridges. The light pink drink is best served in clear, smooth glassware and garnished with a fresh strawberry.
3 ounces Simply raspberry lemonade
1 1/2 ounces club soda
1/2 oun:ce homemade strawberry simple syrup*
1 1/2 ounces Tito’s vodka
Strawberry for garnish
How it’s made: Combine the first four ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously. Then, serve over cocktail ice and pour into pretty glassware. To make it complete, garnish with a ripe strawberry.
- To take this drink to the next level, Bubbles & Brews makes its own strawberry simple syrup: Add equal parts water and sugar, and bring to a boil. Add fresh strawberries, cover and let the mixture simmer until strawberries are soft. Strain the liquid into a bottle and refrigerate.
THE GOODYEAR HOUSE
The Goodyear House has a contemporary-yet-historic aesthetic, and the ambiance is as vibrant as its eclectic NoDa neighborhood. For smaller dinner parties and events, The Goodyear House has several on-site, private dining areas that can accommodate 30-70 people.
Highland Park Mill & Caldwell Spritz
Highland Park Mill and Caldwell Spritz will suit a wedding of any season. These two signature drinks are the perfect “bride and groom” cocktail duo, says bar manager Melissa Fay. The drinks are heavily requested by guests and often receive rave reviews.
Highland Park Mill
2 ounces Maker’s Mark bourbon
1/2 ounce demerara syrup
4 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes orange bitters
orange peel and Luxardo cherry for garnish.
How it’s made: Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing glass, fill with regular ice and stir for 10 seconds. Strain over big-cubed ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with an orange peel — make sure to express the orange peel over the drink and rub the peel around the rim before dropping it in the glass — and a Luxardo cherry.
1 1/2 ounces Tanqueray gin
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur
1 oz. lemon juice
1/2 ounce demerara syrup
1/4 ounce strawberry puree
3 dashes rhubarb bitters
2-3 mint leaves
How it’s made: Combine the first six ingredients in a shaker tin with regular ice, and shake for five seconds. Pour into a wine glass, top with Sprite and add a mint leaf garnish.
LEGION BREWING SOUTHPARK
Legion Brewing SouthPark offers three private event spaces. The semi-private mezzanine overlooking the main restaurant is ideal for cocktail-style gatherings.
The Gold Rush
The Gold Rush has been a rehearsal-dinner favorite in Legion Brewing SouthPark’s taproom, content coordinator Courtney Glasser says.
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce limoncello
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce peach mint syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
Lemon twist for garnish
How it’s made
Combine the first five ingredients in a shaker tin with ice. Shake well and strain over fresh ice into a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
MERCHANT & TRADE
Merchant & Trade offers guests a lively experience with an ambiance that’s modern and sleek. Guests can sip cocktails at the Uptown rooftop lounge with the Charlotte skyline as a backdrop.
A “Passion-ate” Affair
In this cocktail, vodka is the main spirit, as it tends to be universally liked. Passionfruit represents the passion that unifies a couple. Hibiscus, or “Flor de Jamaica,” is an exotic ingredient and is often seen in tropical wedding bouquets. The pink rose petals represent the flowers scattered along a wedding aisle, and the bubbles are an ode to the celebration itself!
1 ounce vodka (Ketel One)
1/2 ounce elderflower liqueur (St. Germain)
2 1/2 ounces sparkling wine
1/2 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
1/4 ounce hibiscus syrup* (see recipe below)
1 ounce passionfruit cordial* (see recipe below)
Edible dehydrated mini rose petals
D:ehydrated lime wheel
How it’s made: Fill a shaker tin with about 18 ounces of ice. Add the vodka, elderflower liqueur, lime juice, hibiscus syrup and passionfruit cordial. Seal and shake the ingredients for approximately 10 seconds, then double strain into a coated champagne flute garnished with mini rose petals. Top off the drink with sparkling wine, and finish with the dehydrated lime wheel.
Cutline: To prepare the champagne flutes before serving, swipe the pulp side of a lime against the glass. Rotate the flute while sprinkling mini dehydrated rose petals, or roll the flute on a shallow plate filled with petals.
Pulp of one ripe passion fruit
3.2 ounces sugar
3.2 ounces water
With a small spoon, scoop out the passion fruit pulp. Add the pulp into a blender and blend for 30 seconds at low speed. Strain the juice. Make simple syrup in a separate container: Add equal amounts of water and sugar to a pot at medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves. Combine the simple syrup and passion fruit juice into one container or bottle. Stir or shake. Let rest until the mixture reaches room temperature. Chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
1 cup of sugar
1 cup of water
1/2 cup dehydrated hibiscus flowers
1 cinnamon stick
1 drop of vanilla extract
Add equal amounts of water and sugar to a pot at medium heat and whisk constantly until the sugar dissolves. Break the cinnamon stick with a muddler and add it to a small pot with the rest of the ingredients. Cook on high heat for four minutes, then simmer at medium heat for five minutes. Pass it through a small strainer and store in a sealed container.
OLD FASHIONED MOBILE BAR
Old Fashioned Mobile Bar offers a three-tap system on wheels that serves beverages from kegs. Whether it’s beer, wine, craft cocktails or mocktails, the 1964 Shasta camper brings the party.
Spanish Elderflower G+T
The Spanish G+T is a fun take on a classic, says owner Erin Kelly. Empress Gin, made with butterfly pea flower, gives an unexpected pop of color. The cocktail is light and refreshing — great for guests to enjoy throughout the event.
2 ounces Empress gin
4 ounces Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic water, chilled
Star anise, juniper berries and lemon wheel for garnish
How it’s made: Chill a wine glass. Fill the glass three quarters full of ice cubes. Add Elderflower tonic, and top with gin. Garnish with star anise, juniper berries and a lemon wheel.
The Blackberry Bramble is a light and refreshing drink that can be enjoyed year-round. The brightness from the fruit and the botanical flavors from the gin makes this a crowd-pleaser.
2 ounces gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. simple syrup
1/2 ounce blackberry liqueur
1 lemon wheel
How it’s made
Add gin, five blackberries, lemon juice and simple syrup to a cocktail shaker. Muddle until berries are well-integrated. Add crushed ice and shake until chilled. Double strain into a Collins glass. Pour the blackberry liqueur over the top, and garnish with a blackberry and lemon wheel.
SWEET SIPS BARTENDING
Sweet Sips Bartending offers mobile bartending services and provides a customizable experience for clients and their guests — including signature and classic cocktails.
Love Potion gives off a smoky, boho wedding vibe and is a perfect drink for someone who wants a classic taste with something a little extra, like hints of berries. Love Potion reflects everything that Sweet Sips Bartending is all about and that’s creating a tailored experience for each client, catering to their personal tastes and desired style no matter the occasion, says owner Ashley Harris.
2 ounces Tito’s vodka
1.5 ounces strawberry puree
3 ounces Chambord black raspberry liqueur
Edible glitter dust
Black raspberry for garnish
How its made: Fill a shaker with ice. Add vodka and Chambord. Add the strawberry puree, and top it off with pomegranate juice. Give it a quick shake and pour into a balloon glass. Garnish with edible glitter dust, and stir with a small straw. Add a black raspberry garnish and, for a smoky effect, add dry ice.
YOUR CHARLOTTE BARTENDER
Rusty Lewter is the owner of Your Charlotte Bartender, a cocktail catering service for private parties and virtual tastings.
Strawberry French 75
Strawberry French 75 is one of Lewter’s most requested cocktails. It’s a twist on the classic French 75 cocktail made with gin and champagne, and the bubbles make it celebratory.
1 1/2 ounce Sutler’s gin
3/4 ounce fresh pressed lemon juice
3/4 ounce strawberry syrup* (made in-house)
Strawberry slice for garnish
How it’s made: Shake ingredients vigorously with ice, strain into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a strawberry slice. Cheers!
2 quarts fresh strawberries, stemmed and sliced
2 cups raw granulated sugar
1 tablespoon real vanilla extract
10 whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
Bring half a gallon of water up to a boil. Add sugar, and stir until dissolved. Add cloves, vanilla, cinnamon sticks and strawberries. Return to a boil for five minutes. Lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool mixture and strain.
Find more wedding inspiration at Weddings by SouthPark.