Expert Advice from Bartender Mayur Subbarao

Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2011

A great bartender, Mayur Subbarao,  shows you how to design a day that's totally you.

Known for
Using homemade ingredients and garnishes to mix cocktails with a twist

Where to Find Him
Cienfuegos bar (he's the beverage director; cienfuegosny.com) and Evoe events (he's a cofounder; evoenyc.com), both in New York City

Q: How can couples find a skilled bartender?
A:
If you want well-crafted drinks beyond the basic vodka soda, stop by your all-time favorite cocktail spot and hire someone there. You need one person per 75 guests, plus a couple of bar backs.

Q: What will a good bartender handle in addition to pouring drinks on the day-of?
A:
A pro will work closely with you and the caterer to concoct a custom drink list. We want to play up flavors you like and serve cocktails that complement the food, such as Bellinis with caviar. We can also consult on the wine pairings for dinner.

Q: What's the going rate?
A:
For a bartender to design a menu, do all the prep, and work a four-hour wedding, you're looking at around $1,000. A second person will cost about $300, and bar backs go for $100 each.

Q: What's the cheapest way to have an open bar?
A:
The secret is to avoid premium spirits (save the Johnny Walker Blue for the honeymoon), and pare down your selection. If you stick to the basics and offer just one or two midrange bottles of each type of liquor, you'll come in around $20 a head. Stock a red and a white wine and a couple of beers, plus Scotch, bourbon, gin, rum, and vodka. Then gather an array of mixers like sodas and tonic; bottled orange, grapefruit, and cranberry juices; and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices.

Q: And what about specialty drinks?
A:
I love them. To save time and money, make batches in advance. If the recipe calls for one or two liquors (like the Maiden Voyage), leave them out until serving time. Then return unopened bottles.

Q: Any quick updates on classic cocktails?
A:
Gin and tonic is always a good summer drink. To add some extra flavor, soak fruit or herbs overnight in simple syrup, strain, and pour a dash right in. Another unexpected touch is to drop pomegranate seeds in your toasting Champagne.

Summertime Sippers

Say cheers with one of Subbarao's inventive signature cocktails.

"Bitters are a key component of many old-timey libations, which are really popular right now. You can think of them as a seasoning for your cocktails. To get in on the trend, have Peychaud's ($7, buffalotrace.com) at the ready. It's the gold standard."

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