There’s no question that food and drink are the typical stars of the show at any catered event. But all too often, bar service can be a little lackluster — with the usual offerings, vodka, bourbon, standard mixers, a specialty drink, beer, and wine. When you think about it, bar service should be center stage since it’s typically the first experience guests encounter when entering the event. Wowing them at the bar makes an excellent first impression and sets the mood for the event to follow. Specialty bars can vary from inventive signature drinks, mix-your-own displays, and flair bartending, where the drink preparation is a performance in and of itself. Here are a few options to consider.
Let’s say you’re hosting a catered event around Cinco de Mayo. Sure, you could serve margaritas, but what about a tequila tasting instead? Many of your guests might not realize that there are several different types of tequila, each with its unique flavor profile. For instance, extra añejo tequila is aged longer than three years in oak barrels, giving it a smoky profile. On the other hand, Blanco tequilas are unaged and may have a slight green tinge in the bottle and a bold profile. Bourbon tastings are another popular type of spirit tasting. From Henry Mckenna Single Barrel to Widow Jane 10 Year to Heaven’s Door, bourbons can be taste-tested neat (without ice or mixer), then combined into a wide variety of specialty drinks and presentations.
Instead of just bellying up to the bar to order your usual martini or Cosmo, imagine a mixologist who can juggle bottles, toss glasses and shakers around, and even use fire to make the perfect custom cocktail. They are called Flair Bartenders, sometimes referred to as “extreme bartending” or “flairtending,” and they are highly trained to entertain and delight guests with their showmanship. Think back to the 1988 film Cocktail with Tom Cruise or the iconic 2000 movie Coyote Ugly. Flair Bartenders can manipulate bar tools and liquor bottles in visually dazzling ways and add a unique flair to any private or corporate event.
Whether a Mr. & Mrs. at a wedding reception or your company logo, you can now brand your cocktails using edible-ink printing on foam and cattle-branded garnishes. At recent events, Audi’s signature rings were stamped into ice cubes, and Hewlett Packard floated edible ink logos on top of signature cocktails. Not only is it a significant “wow” factor for guests, but it also begs for your brand to be spread all over social media. Branded cocktails could also include your name or logo cattle-branded onto an orange peel or burned onto a coconut cocktail container.
Themed events scream the need for specialty or themed bars. Maybe it’s a Don Draper-style event where retro cocktails rein like Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, and Martinis. Perhaps the theme is Havana Nights, with bartenders dressed up as classic Cantineros mixing Cuban classics like Cuba Libres, daquiris, and El Presidentes.
Craft Cocktail-Making Stations
Cocktail-making stations can now go way beyond the Bloody Mary bar. Take, for instance, a Mojito-making station with a wide variety of tropical fruits, herbs, fresh purees, and juices, where your guests can craft their own type of mojito. Another popular cocktail-making station is the Martini Bar, where your guests can make cosmos, appletini, dirty, pomegranate, or chocolate Martinis. The options are endless.
A popular trend at weddings, signature cocktails are appearing more and more on catering menus for corporate events. Signature cocktails are a great way to control your bar budget. When served alongside beer and wine, they can simplify the workflow and allow you to serve many guests quickly, unlike an open, full liquor bar. Signature cocktails can be crafted from the hosts favorite ingredients or maybe a brand’s color. Your signature cocktail can be your own, so have fun naming it as well!
Local Craft Cocktails
New Orleans has been a cocktail mecca since the 1800s and hasn’t fallen behind as new cocktail trends emerge. The Sazerac was America’s first cocktail and was declared the official cocktail of New Orleans in 2008. Stop by the infamous Sazerac House where Messina’s Catering and Events is a preferred caterer to try the official cocktail of New Orleans. Located in the French Quarter, Pat O’Brien’s bar is a popular spot to try another well-known craft cocktail in the Big Easy. The Hurricane is a sweet libation made with rum and fruit juices and served in a signature hurricane glass. Flavored with crème de menthe, the grasshopper is a delicious choice for an after-dinner or dessert cocktail.
Other Creative Cocktail Bar Ideas
The options really are endless. Go high-tech and unexpected, with liquid nitrogen cocktails that put on a smoky show, creative drink vessels like edible gummy shot glasses or skull beer steins, or boozy snow cones where bartenders pour signature craft cocktails over shaved ice. Let your New Orleans caterer be your guide, as well as ideas you come across yourself!
Messina’s Will Help You Think Beyond the Typical Cocktail
At Messina’s Catering & Events, we’ve been helping our clients craft catering menus with the perfect balance of food and drink since 1961–when cocktail parties were at their peak. Raise your glass and add an unexpected twist to your event by incorporating simply delicious craft cocktails into your New Orleans catering menu. To learn more, visit www.messinascatering.com