Have a hand in making signature drinks for your wedding

Tampa Bay Times

Buying a bunch of booze and paying someone to mix and pour it puts a healthy dent into a wedding budget. But an emerging trend in weddings can help couples cut spending and personalize libations.

The signature drink.

Team up with your bartender, ditch a full-liquor bar and create one or two customized cocktails that represent your taste as a couple. Along with the drinks, you can offer a small array of wine and/or beer or nothing else at all.

Regardless of the size of the event, couples can expect to save 20 to 25 percent, says Brenton Milardo, a bartender with No Last Call Bartending in Tampa, Fla.

Arielle Smith, 25, is planning the drink menu with her fiancé, Todd Funk. They plan to serve two cocktails, a nonalcoholic concoction for the kiddos and beer and wine at their Nov. 23 nuptials.

One specialty drink they have in mind is the Honeymoon, which is cachaca (a sugar-cane rum), lemon or lime juice and a spoonful of honey.

"We're getting married in November, so we want a fall flavor," Smith said. "The Honeymoon feels like Florida fall."

Another possibility is the Funky Monkey, a title the couple came up with as a nod to his last name. This drink -- salted caramel vodka, spiced rum and creme de banana -- would go nicely with some salty hors d'oeuvres.

Sara Horn, 24, and Michael Smith, 25, of St. Petersburg, Fla., had sangria, beer and soda-pop bottles at their October wedding last year. The couple told their bartender, Lori McCarthy of Spunky Spirits of Tampa, that they wanted a homemade-tasting sangria.

"We didn't want to serve bottled wine that you can get anywhere," Horn said. "We wanted something unique. My husband and I don't know much about wine, but we love sangria."

They went with a red sangria containing apricot brandy and cinnamon sticks and a peach sangria containing peach schnapps and mango.

When Milardo, the 26-year-old bartender, gets married himself in October, he and his fiancée, Lauren Paranzino, 26, will have two signature drinks they concocted themselves: the Lavender Lady and the Don Milardo.

"Our color scheme (purple and silver) dictated our decision," Milardo said. "We also knew we wanted to have one drink for the ladies and one for the guys."

The couple researched recipes for purple drinks online. They tried a few at home and tweaked the best ones to their liking.

The Lavender Lady is a violet medley of Absolut Kurant vodka and blueberry syrup mixed with club soda. The Don Milardo contains Patron Silver tequila and a sugar-cane stick or lime for garnish and is served with a hand-rolled cigar.

"You go into the wedding knowing that you're not going to use every bottle because you don't know what will be the popular drink of the night," Milardo said. "So it's much cheaper to narrow down what guests can choose."

Besides, guests will never remember that gin and tonic they ordered at your reception. But something like a Funky Monkey? That'll leave 'em reeling.


  • 2 ounces cachaca
  • 1 ounce lime juice
  • 1 ounce honey
  • Lemon twist garnish

Fill an old-fashioned glass with ice and add the cachaca, lime juice and honey. Stir gently and garnish with lemon twist. Makes 1.

-- Arielle Smith and Todd Funk



  • 2.5 ounces Patron Silver tequila
  • Sugar-cane stick or lime wedge garnish

Pour chilled tequila into a rocks glass filled with ice and garnish with sugar-cane stick or lime wedge. Serve with a hand-rolled cigar. Makes 1.

-- Brenton Milardo



  • 1.5 ounces Stoli Salted Karamel vodka
  • 3/4 ounce spiced rum
  • 1/2 ounce creme de banana liqueur
  • Splash of milk

In a shaker filled with ice, add vodka, spiced rum and creme de banana liqueur. Shake for a few minutes, then strain into a martini glass. Add a splash of milk. Makes 1.

-- Arielle Smith and Todd Funk




  • 1 bottle white wine
  • 1/2 cup peach schnapps
  • 2 cans peach nectar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 bag frozen peaches
  • 1 sliced orange
  • 1/2 mango
  • 1/2 liter ginger ale


  • 4 bottles red wine
  • 1/2 cup triple sec
  • 1 cup apricot brandy
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 oranges sliced
  • 2 lemons sliced
  • 2 apples peeled and sliced
  • 1 bag frozen peaches
  • 1 liter club soda

For the peach sangria, pour wine, schnapps, peach nectar and sugar in a large pitcher. Float fruit on top of mixture. Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. Just before serving, add ginger ale. This will make enough for about 6 servings.

For the red sangria, use a large punch bowl. Mix wine, triple sec, brandy, sugar and orange juice together. Add the cinnamon sticks, then mix in fruit (you can leave peaches frozen). Refrigerate overnight for best flavor. Add club soda right before serving. This will make enough for about 25 servings.

-- Lori McCarthy of Spunky Spirits



  •  2.5 ounces Absolut Kurant vodka
  • 3/4 ounce blueberry syrup
  • Club soda
  • Two maraschino cherries for garnish

Fill a mixing glass with ice. Pour in the vodka and the blueberry syrup. Stir well and attach strainer. Pour over ice in a highball glass. Fill with club soda. Garnish with cherries. Makes 1.

-- Brenton Milardo


(Reach Sabrina Rocco at srocco@tampabay.com. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service, shns.com.) 

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