The phrase "Eat, drink and be merry" is no more appropriate than at your wedding. If you ensure all your guests do the first two well - eating and drinking - then the third - being merry - will come naturally. However, eating and drinking are not necessarily intrinsically linked.
Far too often, drinks are regarded as an afterthought - a bride will ask her partner ‘Call the caterers and see if they do drinks as well’. The bride and bridegroom wouldn't dream of asking a photographer to help with flowers at their wedding, so why ask those preparing food to provide a stunning bar service? Ask a chef to make you a Cosmopolitan or Elderflower Collins and the result would be the same as if you asked a bartender to cook you a Chicken Chasseur.
At most functions the food is served and eaten, then the kitchen closes. On the drinks side, the bar opens before guests have even arrived, to ensure that when 230 guests arrive at the same time there is a selection of colourful drinks waiting for everyone. Then there may be wine to serve, still and sparkling water, and champagne for the toast. Then the full bar, plus cocktails, with and without alcohol, all manner of spirits and/or soft drinks, until the last guest goes home. For a 3pm-1am reception, that’s 10 hours’ service. So make sure you have a professional outfit on board, especially since your evening guests might sample only the drinks.
The lack of effort that goes into drinks at weddings can be astounding: bottled water served at room temperature, red wine not given time to breathe and poured into a chilled glass; and cold drinks going into warm glasses - make sure your glasses are at the right temperature. And ALWAYS offer guests a fresh glass - they are asking for a fresh drink, after all. Serve drinks in the correct glasses, too: brandy in balloons/snifters, whisky in an old- fashioned and the correct size of wine goblet. All these things make a tremendous difference to getting it right.
The hard work isn’t just done on the day itself, but months before: tasting wine, choosing cocktails, designing menus, looking after children’s and teetotalers’ drinks, ordering ice, getting the right bar unit and the right staff.
And of those points above one is shunned by too many caterers and drinks providers and Hurst is amazed by this - the alcohol-free side of the drinks service. Far too often the ‘choice’ is one of orange juice, lemonade and still and sparkling water. How about a Fruit Fantasy, an Apple Pie Martini or a Strawberry Margarita - all without a drop of alcohol in. Choice is what we want, but for everyone.
Guests have a drink with them most of the time, so wouldn’t it make sense to make sure they are great ones? And lots of people are going to be photographed enjoying a drink with friends, so let the drinks add style and colour to the photographs. And if you opt for ‘flair’ bartenders, then you’ve also added some theatre and entertainment for guests.
And for something really different, have a signature cocktail as the toast drink (with a fantastic non-alcoholic option as well, naturally) or a small selection of light cocktails as reception drinks, just to stray off that all-too-familiar champagne and orange juice track.
If you’re after a Mint Julep or a Basil and Watermelon Smash, then ask for a mobile cocktail bar but if you’re looking for a bite to eat, then ask the caterers!
This article was kindly contributed by David Hurst - www.cocktailmaker.co.uk