For some, a wedding reception is all about the bar and signature cocktails. Colleen Shea and Christopher Smith, who live in Orlando, Florida, said that a highlight of their celebration on Aug. 17, 2019, was the menu of drinks. But the couple, who met in 2015 at a 12-step program in Washington, D.C., didn’t offer your typical assortment of cocktails.
“We had a coffee bar with coffee, cappuccinos, lattes, and syrups to satisfy everyone’s caffeine fix,” said Shea, 33, a communications manager in the transportation industry.
Smith, 32, and Shea’s wedding at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., was alcohol-free and kicked off at 10 a.m. “Because we don’t drink and a lot of our guests don’t drink, it didn’t make sense to serve alcohol,” she said.
Couples who want to keep the booze flowing during their reception can expect to spend around $2,300 for an open bar, according to a 2020 report from The Knot. But dry weddings, where no alcohol is served, often cost much less.
Eight percent of couples who married in 2018 and 2019 did not serve alcohol at their reception, according to The Knot. And Americans’ alcohol consumption is down overall: a 2021 Gallup poll found that 40% of U.S. adults report they don’t drink alcoholic beverages such as liquor, wine or beer, up from 35% in 2019.
If you’re planning to have a dry bar at your wedding, experts say there are a few things you can do to make it even more appealing to your guests.
Start by informing them in advance that alcohol won’t be served. “Mention it on your invitation or wedding website so that there won’t be any surprises,” said Lauren Megerdichian, the weddings editor at Style Me Pretty, a wedding blog.
Having a daytime reception, such as a brunch, can create a natural setting for a booze-free affair, said Katy Beverly, a wedding and event planner in Greenville, South Carolina. In addition, a photo booth, games, and other activities at a reception can help guests mix and mingle without alcohol, Beverly said.
And signature mocktails, of course, can excite guests in the way that their alcoholic cousins do, said Megerdichian. “Having a dry wedding does not have to cramp your style,” she said.
Anastasia Stevenson, a destination-wedding planner in Savannah, Georgia, knows what makes for a great nonalcoholic bar. Stevenson planned a dry wedding in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, on May 18, 2019, where mocktails garnished with fresh herbs like rosemary, mint and thyme were served on trolleys that she had set up throughout the venue’s garden.
“Style is important when serving a mocktail,” said Stevenson. “Make it all about the experience and you can’t go wrong.”
With the help of a few inventive mixologists, we’ve put together the following list of six creative mocktails. Whether you’re planning a dry wedding or just looking to add a few nonalcoholic options to the menu for an upcoming celebration, consider serving one (or several) of these zero-proof beverages.
This mocktail from John deBary, a mixologist in New York City and the author of “Drink What You Want,” “is all about the interplay of jalapeño, banana and raspberry, which is an unexpected but excellent combination,” deBary said.
Time: 12 minutes
- 1 lime wedge
- 1 thin slice of jalapeño, seeded
- 1 slice of ripe banana, 1-inch-thick
- 1 1/2 ounces chilled verjus (such as Wölffer Estate)
- 1/2 ounce raspberry preserves
- 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 1/2 ounces sparkling water
- Kosher salt
1. Use the lime wedge to moisten the rim of a chilled coupe, and dip one side of the rim into salt to coat it.
2. Place the glass in a freezer to chill for 10 minutes.
3. Combine the jalapeño and banana in a cocktail shaker and muddle together until the jalapeño is crushed.
4. Add the verjus, raspberry preserves and lime juice.
5. Add ice and shake for 15 seconds.
6. Fine strain into the prepared glass and top with the sparkling water.
This mixed berry mocktail recipe, garnished with a mint sprig and powdered sugar, comes from Lauren Paylor, a bartender in Washington, D.C.
Time: 4 minutes
- 2 strawberries
- 2 raspberries
- 1 blackberry
- 3 mint leaves
- 3/4 ounce simple syrup
- 1 ounce Seedlip Grove
- 1 ounce Seedlip Garden
- 1 ounce hibiscus tea
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- 1 1/2 ounces ginger beer
- 1 mint sprig
- Powdered sugar
1. Muddle fruit and mint with simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add remaining ingredients except for the ginger beer.
3. Shake and strain into a highball glass
4. Top off with ginger beer.
5. Garnish with a mint sprig and powdered sugar.
Love a good margarita? This nonalcoholic variation features Aplós, a hemp-infused, nonalcoholic spirit that “calms and uplifts, without the negative effects of alcohol,” said Lynnette Marrero, a mixologist in New York City and MasterClass teacher who engineered the recipe.
Time: 3 minutes
- 1 lime wedge
- 2 ounces Aplós
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar syrup
- 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
- 2 dashes of orange flower water
- 1 orange twist
- 1 lime wheel
1. Run a lime wedge around the outside of the rim of a tumbler glass, then roll the rim in salt.
2. Add Aplós, nectar syrup, lime juice and orange flower water to a cocktail shaker.
3. Shake and strain over fresh cubes of ice into the tumbler glass.
4. With a peeler, cut an orange twist and express the oils into the cocktail.
5. Garnish with a lime wheel.
Cinnamon lovers will enjoy this riff on a paloma from Lynnette Marrero.
Time: 3 minutes
- 2 ounces chilled hibiscus tea, steeped
- 1 ounce pink grapefruit juice
- 3/4 ounce chili-cinnamon honey syrup (to make the syrup, mix half a cup of water with one cup of honey and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper; stir together until evenly distributed)
- Grapefruit soda water
- 1 grapefruit slice
1. Use the grapefruit slice to moisten the rim of a rocks glass, then roll the rim into a mix of cinnamon and salt.
2. Place the pink grapefruit juice, tea and chili-honey syrup in a cocktail shaker with two ice cubes.
3. Shake and strain into the rocks glass filled with fresh ice.
4. Top with grapefruit soda water and mix with a spoon to ensure the soda is evenly distributed.
5. Garnish with a grapefruit slice.
Tender Heart Bear
This nonalcoholic version of the Jungle Bird, a classic tiki cocktail, comes from Sam Treadway, the owner of Backbar, a cocktail lounge in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Time: 1 minute
- 1 1/2 ounces fresh pineapple juice
- 1 ounce fresh lime juice
- 1 ounce Giffard aperitif syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon demerara syrup
- Angostura bitters
- Fee Brothers molasses bitters
- 1 dehydrated lime wheel
- Pineapple fronds
- 1 mint leaf
1. Mix Giffard aperitif syrup with fresh squeezed lime juice in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add fresh pineapple juice.
3. Add a dash of the molasses bitters and a dash of the Angostura bitters.
4. Add demerara syrup.
5. Shake all with ice and strain over crushed ice in a tiki mug.
6. Top with a dash of each bitters.
7. Garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel, pineapple fronds and mint.
For ginger fans, this mocktail has a balance of smoke, spice, sweet and sour. Its recipe comes from Nick Lappen, a bartender at Backbar.
Time: 1 minute
- 2 ounces black tea
- 1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 ounce honey syrup (To make honey syrup, mix one cup of honey and one cup of hot water until dissolved. Then set aside to cool.)
- 1/4 ounce spicy ginger syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon gentian root tea
- 1/2 ounce Lapsang Souchong tea
- 1 slice of candied ginger
1. Mix black tea, lemon juice, honey syrup, spicy ginger syrup and gentian root tea in a cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Strain into an ice-filled rocks glass.
3. Top with Lapsang souchong tea.
4. Garnish with a slice of candied ginger.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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