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DIY Cocktails For Your Wedding Reception

If you’re plan­ning to serve cock­tails at your wed­ding recep­tion, hav­ing tal­ent behind the bar can spice up your par­ty. But there’s a trade­off when five peo­ple are wait­ing for drinks and the per­son at the back of the line just wants to grab a beer and return to the dance floor.

That’s why we’re big fans of the DIY Cock­tail Bar. Hav­ing pre­mixed cock­tails avail­able for peo­ple to pour is not only con­ve­nient since peo­ple can pour them­selves a drink rather than wait in line, but if you get the right con­tain­ers the set­up looks great.

Let’s con­sid­er what a DIY cock­tail option could look like.Three cock­tails is a good num­ber to have; you can cov­er enough liquor styles to sat­is­fy most people’s tastes. You’ll need a whiskey-based cock­tail, a vod­ka-based cock­tail and the third spir­it should reflect the style of the wed­ding. Think gin, rum or tequi­la.

Stores that stock kitchen sup­plies nor­mal­ly sell bev­er­age con­tain­ers; the most com­mon sizes being between one and two and a half gal­lons. There are 128 ounces in a gal­lon and since an aver­age-sized cock­tail is four ounces, there are rough­ly 32 drinks per a gal­lon. If you have three, one-gal­lon con­tain­ers of cock­tails, you’ve got rough­ly 90 to 100 drinks on tap. A good start for an epic par­ty.

It’s best to get a con­tain­er that has a met­al tap, a wide base to pre­vent it from tip­ping over and a remov­able chiller col­umn. Fill the chiller col­umn with ice ear­ly on to keep the drinks from get­ting watered down but lat­er in the evening, you may want to put ice direct­ly in the con­tain­er to help peo­ple keep hydrated.These clas­sic cock­tails are deli­cious, ele­gant and sim­ple to mix by the gal­lon.

bar menu and flowers for wedding


Man­hat­tan: This 19th-cen­tu­ry cock­tail is always in style. Two parts rye whiskey or bour­bon to one part sweet ver­mouth. For a gal­lon, add 4 to 5 tea­spoons Angos­tu­ra bit­ters. Gar­nish: Maraschi­no cher­riesFar­nel: Think of this as a lighter dri­er ver­sion of a Lynch­burg Lemon­ade. Make this one with one part Ten­nessee Whiskey, three parts lemon­ade. Gar­nish: Lime wedge and mint sprig.Rusty Nail: Invent­ed in the 1930s, this clas­sic was the drink of choice for the Rat Pack: Two parts Scotch Whisky to one part Dram­buie.


Mar­ti­ni: From 1900 to 1950, the mar­ti­ni was two parts gin to one part ver­mouth; peo­ple who want­ed it “dry” ordered it with dry ver­mouth. This recipe is a vod­ka spin on the clas­sic cock­tail: two parts vod­ka to one part dry ver­mouth. If you make a gal­lon, stir in one tea­spoon Angos­tu­ra bit­ters. Gar­nish: OlivesCos­mo: Still the best vod­ka sour drink ever: Three parts lemon vod­ka, two parts Coin­treau, one part lime juice, just enough cran­ber­ry juice to col­or Gar­nish: Lemon twist.Sex on the Beach: If you are hav­ing a beach wed­ding, this cock­tail may be manda­to­ry: Two parts vod­ka, one part peach schnapps, two parts orange juice, two parts cran­ber­ry juice. Gar­nish: Orange slice.


Negroni: Equal parts gin, Cam­pari, sweet ver­mouth. Gar­nish: Orange peel.

Grey­hound: The orig­i­nal ver­sion from the 1930s used gin as the spir­it but vod­ka is more com­mon today. One part gin to four parts grape­fruit juice.

Mar­gari­ta: Some­times noth­ing else will do: three parts tequi­la, two parts Coin­treau, one part fresh-squeezed lime juice. Gar­nish: Lime wedge.

Pegu Club: 3 parts gin, 2 parts Coin­treau or orange curaçao, 1 part lime juice, two dash­es Angos­tu­ra bit­ters per drink.

bar at wedding reception


Buy a sam­ple bev­er­age con­tain­er at least a month before the recep­tion and fill it with water or ice tea to see if it works as adver­tised.

Buy chalk­board stick­ers or oth­er­wise make labels for each bev­er­age con­tain­er and gar­nish bowl.

Instead of three cock­tails, you might want one or more con­tain­ers of san­gria. If so, buy con­tain­ers that have a remov­able fla­vor col­umn to hold the fruit. Loose fruit float­ing in the con­tain­er itself plugs up the spigot.Have a cou­ple of des­ig­nat­ed mon­i­tors for the bev­er­age and ice sup­ply. Recruit a grooms­man and a brides­maid for this.

To keep the par­ty going, store extra bot­tles to refill the con­tain­ers in an iced cool­er near the bar and pack­age them togeth­er. For exam­ple, if you’re serv­ing negro­nis, have one bot­tle each of gin, Cam­pari and sweet ver­mouth in a bag, labeled.

When a cock­tail runs out toward the end of the recep­tion, fill the con­tain­er with water and ice. Many times peo­ple intend on drink­ing water toward the end of a par­ty, but don’t find any handy.

You’ll also need beer, wine, and cock­tails, juice, soda and water for a recep­tion. A good rule of thumb for deter­min­ing how much to have on hand is two drinks per per­son at din­ner, two drinks per per­son for the first hour of the recep­tion and one drink per hour per per­son for the rest of the time you have the recep­tion space.

Hav­ing wine served with din­ner can be straight­for­ward, fig­ure one bot­tle for every two or three adults and two bot­tles of red for each bot­tle of white. For beer buy cans, bot­tles, or growlers rather than a keg. Most areas of the coun­try have a craft beer scene so be sure to have a sol­id rep­re­sen­ta­tion of local brews. Peo­ple from out of town espe­cial­ly enjoy try­ing some­thing new.

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