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6 Cocktail Tips to Impress Your Guests

In our winter 2016 magazine we spoke with Laura Johnson, the rad female founder + cocktail guru + distiller behind and You & Yours Distilling Co. (coming soon to East Village). If you missed that piece, check it out here.  Today she is sharing with us six of her go to cocktail tips to WOW your wedding guests. We all know we want to do that! And, just in time for ringing in the new year, Laura has a celebratory champagne cocktail recipe that is a cinch to make and even easier to drink. We love that! Cheers.


#1 – Choose a cocktail with significance

I’m a big fan of featuring signature cocktails at your wedding. They provide a little something extra, compared to just beer and wine, and are a great way to placate the liquor-loving crowd without blowing your budget on a full bar. Having said that, the cocktail(s) chosen should mean something to the bride and groom. Don’t just go with the trend of the moment – I can’t tell you how many weddings I’ve been to where the same tired version of a Moscow Mule. If your favorite cocktail truly is a Mule, then by all means serve them (extra points for then offering the – engraved perhaps?! – copper mugs as favors). But what I really find special is when the bride and groom feature something with a story. Perhaps the drink your fiancé made you when you had dinner at his/her place the first time or the cocktail you shared on your first weekend away together.


#2 – Cocktail kits as favors

Another cocktail-inspired idea I absolutely love is putting together or purchasing cocktail kits as wedding favors. My Youtube crush Claire Thomas (of The Kitchy Kitchen) really set the bar with this idea. She and her now husband made their own bitters (!!!) then included little bottles of them in a mini cocktail kit, along with the rest of the ingredients to mix up an Old Fashioned (her favorite drink) for each guest to take home. Talk about a meaningful, intentional and totally useful wedding favor. If that seems like a bit more effort than you’re willing to put in for wedding favor, bid guests adieu with W&P Design’s Carry-On cocktail kits for the plane ride home on Sunday!


#3 – Take Champagne to the next level

One way to easily incorporate cocktails into your wedding is with a champagne toast. Champagne cocktails are easy and affordable to throw together for a crowd (just sparkling wine and your favorite liqueur or juice) while being elegant and celebratory at the same time. Or perhaps consider greeting guests after the ceremony with a simple champagne cocktail (sugar cube + dash of bitters + bubbles) instead of plain brut.

#4 – Feature both light and dark spirits in contrasting applications

If featuring more than one signature cocktail, try to choose one that calls for a clear liquor and one aged liquor to give all drinkers an option. My two favorites – a fresh gin gimlet and a boulevardier – create a nice contrast. The gimlet is light and refreshing while the boulevardier is a bit more direct and warming.  


#5 – Call in the Experts

There are some fabulous cocktail-centric caterers out there these days. Work with companies like Barçon or Snake Oil to create a unique, custom cocktail (or two!) and offer hand lettered recipe cards with your names and the date of your wedding for a special touch. Guests can then think of the happy couple when the recreate the drink at home!

#6 – Add a little touch of home

Craft distilleries are popping up everywhere – did you know that there’s now a craft distillery in every state? If your wedding celebration is far from home, incorporate spirits from a distillery in your hometown or state as a little nod to your provenance. Some of my favorite California distillers are St. George Spirits in Alameda, Spirit Works in Sebastopol, Green Bar Distillery in LA and Malahat Spirit Co. here in San Diego. Each has a wide range of spirits to choose from. Alternatively, offer an airplane-sized, 250 mL or 375 mL bottle of a local spirit as your wedding favor if you’re having a destination wedding where there exists popular local craft distilleries.


Basil 95 cocktail recipe! Serves 6


  • 1 batch basil honey simple syrup (*recipe to follow)
  • 1 bottle Cava or your favorite dry sparkling wine
  • fresh basil leaves to garnish


  1. Make basil honey simple syrup.
  2. Fill each glass with .5 oz simple syrup or more, to taste.
  3. Top carefully with sparkling wine, allowing time for bubbles to subside and topping off again.
  4. Garnish each glass with a basil leaf.

*Basil honey simple syrup: Combine 1 cup raw local honey and 1 cup water in a small sauce pan and stir over medium low heat until honey fully dissolves. Remove from heat and add a handful of fresh basil. Let basil steep as the syrup cools. Once completely cool strain into glass jar or bottle and store in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

All photos by Krisnoff Photography.

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