Crafting the perfect cocktail is an art form on its own, but creating a signature drink that combines two peoples' vastly divergent tastes is more like a feat. And with so many spirits, flavor combos, and styles of drinks out there, narrowing down the perfect wedding-day sip can feel overwhelming. Unless, of course, you have a master mixologist and sommelier on your team—one who's prepared a signature cocktail for every newly-married couple to grace his bar.
Meet Jesse Rodriguez, the decorated Wine Director at Montage Palmetto Bluff, a luxury resort in South Carolina. Sommelier and mixologist to many a wedding, Rodriguez serves up personalized craft cocktails alongside his impressive wine list, bringing a hint of customization to his client's big days. Here, he's shared his six tips and tricks that will help you craft a signature drink that you, your spouse-to-be, and your guests will all love.
First, consider the season.
When brainstorming spirit and flavor combinations, you have to make sure your cocktail "makes sense" and works with the time of year, said Rodriguez. "It's a lot like talking to guests about food," he explained. "With some cocktails, it's like serving a hearty stew in the middle of summer—it just doesn't make sense."
Experiment with spirits you don't usually like.
There are flavor variations even within the same spirit family, which is why Rodriguez recommends trying several. The reason? You might not like the whiskey your fiancé drinks, but you may like a different brand's batch. "Pick your favorite alcohol and try that style from four to six different producers," he said, before ruling it out.
Try to find common ground—and let your mixologist do the rest.
"Find a crossover spirit that you can both somewhat agree upon," said Rodriguez. Even if you can't completely harmonize your tastes, a good mixologist will be able to make that common ground work with a few tricks. "[I'd] make something not too complicated, with a bit of sweetness or float with sparkling soda. This creates a refreshing profile that a majority of people can agree on," he explained.
Don't be afraid of unexpected flavor combos.
Some of Rodriguez's best creations have come from unexpected flavor pairings. A few of his favorites? Bourbon and peanuts; tequila, jalapeno, and grilled pineapple; and gin and peach.
When all else fails, go with vodka.
Vodka serves as a neutral base, perfect for couples who just can't decide on that "crossover spirit." "It's a neutral grain spirit that allows all the components of a cocktail to shine," said Rodriguez.
Follow your own rules.
Rodriguez learned this salient tip from personal experience: "My wife and I created our own cocktail that we enjoy, called the Pink Velvet. It has gin and sparkling wine, our two favorite beverages. From there we add Campari, peach purée, and blood orange. It has all the things we enjoy. It's like cooking—make what you enjoy and follow your own rules."