Signature cocktails have a long history – in fact they date back to at least the 18th Century. Fun cocktails are one of our favorite ways for a couple to inject a little extra personality into the wedding. There are a lot of places to take inspiration for your signature drink from – your first vacation together, your hometown(s), your favorite colors, your favorite flavors, or even where you’re headed on your honeymoon! The options are limitless, but ultimately, if it’s tasty, who cares how/if you’re connected to it! You can choose to serve the signature drink as a welcome drink when your guests arrive, during cocktail hour only, throughout the entire night or during dessert only (we’ve got 2 great dessert drink options for you below!). Some couples choose to serve a few signature drinks along with beer and wine for the duration of the wedding, instead of having a full open bar, which is a great way to give your guests an option outside of beer/wine without breaking your bank buying 900 types of alcohol.
Anyway, on to the fun stuff! In the name of research, one afternoon I headed over to a great local bar called HopsScotch in Jersey City, NJ – a bar with 40 craft beers on tap and an amazingly curated craft liquor collection (focusing on the over 100 varieties of Scotch & Whiskey). Can we just pause for a minute to give Luke, the owner, some props for the awesome play on words in the name? Hop (beer) Scotch (scotch, duh).
When I arrived at HopsScotch, I claimed my corner of the bar & started chatting with Dana, my mixologist for the day. Dana has been creating magic in a shaker for seven years, and she’s pretty damn amazing. I had mentioned that I wanted to focus on some unique ingredients, and she definitely delivered. When I asked her for tips on creating fun craft cocktails, she said to keep it simple and base the ingredients around what you like. Don’t put a Manhattan on the menu if you can’t stand bitters and brown alcohol! She also pointed out that no matter what, this drink will always be yours. So even if the venue that you get married at changes hands or the baker who made your cake closes shop, the drink will be something that you can replicate many anniversaries down the line.
For our first cocktail, we started on the lighter/sweeter side. I knew I was going to be happy when I saw the martini glass rimmed with fudge! Yup, fudge – it’s not just for ice cream sundaes anymore! The beauty of a fudge rim is that it has some serious staying power. You get the chocolatey goodness flavor throughout the whole drink, instead of just the first few sips.
So, my darlings, meet the Rübæ-tini. It takes its name from Founders Rübæus, a super tasty raspberry beer. The beer itself is incredibly refreshing – slightly sweet and a little bit tart. To that, Dana added Godiva Mocha liqueur (you had me at mocha), and creme de cacao. In addition to the awesome fudge rim, this drink was garnished with some ground espresso beans.
I personally thought this drink was fantastic. I really enjoyed the coffee notes combined with the raspberry and the slight fizz provided by the beer. It was definitely sweet, but not at all cloying.
A good choice for someone who’s not a fan of very strong tasting drinks. It would also be great served alongside cake – you know, because cake by itself just isn’t enough sometimes!
From there, Dana switched gears and went in an entirely different direction. Enter “The Broker” – an incredibly refreshing and refined gin-based cocktail.
I have to admit, I was a little nervous about trying this one – I was suppressing flashbacks of a semester in college where I drank more than my fair share of T&Ts… Gin and I had a brief fling, and we did not remain friends. But ever dedicated to my research, I soldiered on… and I am SO glad that I did. This was actually my favorite cocktail of the day! It was the perfect blend of ingredients.
Pink spruce gin, honey, simple syrup, muddled parsley, a squeeze of each orange & lemon, and Jever Pilsner, finished off with a smoked sea salt rim. Yup, as if salt couldn’t get tasty enough, the folks at HopsScotch went and smoked it to give it an even more intense, wonderful flavor.
Jever Pilsner is a German beer – it’s a bit yeasty and but it’s clean and refreshing tasting. The finish to it is nice and hoppy. The hops in the beer pair really well with the gin and the parsley, and the honey and simple syrup provide a great counterbalance. And did I mention the salt rim? YUM.
I’m a big fan of using beer in cocktails – it really adds a nice dimension to the flavor as well as the texture. Plus, even if you’re not a big beer drinker, I think it’s a great way to experience some of the amazing craft beer options out there. The next beer based cocktail that Dana whipped up for me is called The Oppenheimer.
This slightly sweet, yet herby drink really hit the mark with me. It starts off with muddled Italian cherries – like maraschinos for grown-ups. To that, Dana added beer barrel aged bourbon, sweet vermouth and of course, the beer – this time it was Ayinger Bräu Weisse (and yes, I had to have her spell that one for me). This is a Hefeweizen style beer – with notes of vanilla & lemon, wheat and yeast. Combined with the other ingredients, the drink was very aromatic. And delicious. It was my 2nd favorite of the day. I felt like it was sweet enough to not taste overly-alchol-y, but at the same time it was strong enough (thanks to the bourbon) to be a drink that avoids being categorized as, for lack of a better word, girlie.
Our next drink was the only cocktail of the day that didn’t have beer in it… The Aprimonster.
Don’t let the fudge rim fool you on this one. This drink is not for the timid. It was STRONG. A smoked scotch, Crème de Cacao, and Apricot Schnapps garnished with a burnt orange. If you love scotch with a super earthy aroma, this is your drink. If you don’t – scroll down to the next drink – this one is too serious for you!
I actually think that if you were to fly to Glasgow, hop into a car to the countryside, get out and lick the peat, you’d be coming close to the flavor of this drink. And I totally mean that in a good way. I’ve never had a drink that really replicates earthiness as well as this one does. Yum.
Our final drink goes back to the beer cocktail formula. The Espresso Stoutini. This is another drink that might fool you into thinking it’s a sweet one bordering on dessert. It’s not. This combination of vodka, Kahlua, and Twisted Pine Espresso Stout isn’t sweet at all. It’s dark, and rich. My favorite part is that Dana actually included ground espresso beans in the drink – not just as a garnish.
This Stoutini would be another excellent option to serve at dessert time – as an option for people who want coffee with their cake, but don’t want to stop partying. The espresso provides enough of a jolt to head back out onto that dancefloor!
So, as you can imagine, by this point, I was tipsy, but very pleased! I have to give a big thank you to Dana for mixing up all of this goodness for us, and to Luke for letting us spend the afternoon at HopsScotch. I can’t recommend the place highly enough. They’ve got a great food menu, cool ambiance and obviously delicious cocktails! They do private parties too – it would be a great spot for a laid back reception or a rehearsal dinner. So, please, go check it out & don’t forget to take care of your bartender!