Top cocktail companies begin getting to know their clients with questions that might remind you of The Newlywed Game: What's your favorite dessert? Where did you meet? What's the father of the bride's favorite Scotch? That's how they build the foundation of creating a hyperspecific-to-you drink experience for your wedding reception. Engaged in Italy? Expect Tuscan wines. Milkshake-obsessed? Look for a creamy cocktail. "A real expert isn't someone who forces his opinion on you," says Talmadge Lowe of L.A.'s Pharmacie. "It's your wedding and your vision—we're here to guide, not enforce."
Mixologists track trends so they can continue pushing the envelope, offering your guests something new and unexpected. Adam McVay of London-based Holy Water works with a forager to suss out local flavors—from mugwort to nettles—for a highly customized experience, in both taste and aesthetics.
Many mixology teams craft the event's "arc," as Josh Rosenthal of national high-end cocktail company The Grand Bevy puts it. While you can rely on a standard bar to have a consistent supply of drinks, Rosenthal and his team come up with a plan for the beginning, the middle, and an end for each wedding—for instance, a special twist on the Champagne toast; a roving bar cart serving a custom cocktail that complements guests' meals; then a special drink to kick off the dancing portion.
Cocktail companies will keep things looking as good as they taste, overseeing all aspects of beverage service, from specialty glassware to the staff's attire. Lowe's team regularly dresses in classic bartender attire (think thin black ties and crisp white shirts), while McVay outfits his in whatever themed garb best suits the wedding.
And if this doesn't excite you enough, these pros shared what drinking trends will be big this year so your wedding can be ahead of the times. Some of our experts name-checked mezcal, with its smoky complexity, as one to watch in 2017. In addition, Lowe has his eye on Cognac and brandy, thanks in part to the latter's popping up in the budget-friendly—i.e., $20-something—price range. Rosenthal recommends Japanese rice whiskey for an easily balanced cocktail spirit, while McVay is a fan of gin infused with an herb or botanical that's native to your wedding locale. (Elderflower is a biggie in many of the weddings he works with in London.)