Cocktails, Anyone?

There's a world of options beyond the vodka tonic served in a highball. Skilled bartenders can craft a custom cocktail to reflect the tastes of you and your fiancé.

Cocktails have made a huge and extremely welcome comeback and mixologists are receiving well-deserved celebrity status. Time to explore the world of cocktails.

Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

1. Welcome guests by offering them a vodka martini, cosmopolitan, champagne cocktail, Singapore sling or any other offbeat cocktail (skip the paper umbrellas and plastic monkeys).

2. Consider a menu of four or five exquisitely crafted specialty cocktails; coffee- or espresso-based drinks to fuel the dance party and lend an air of sophistication and sexy shooters for tray-passing to guests who are partying the night away. Perhaps name each cocktail after a bridesmaid or groomsmen.

3. If your venue offers limited options for an open bar, you're not condemned to a night of basics. Speak to the venue staff about offering one special cocktail (maybe you've saved a recipe or two in MyCollection?). Even Manhattans and screwdrivers are a welcome offering when passed on trays for guests to help themselves.

4. Investigate whether they'd let you bring in your own glassware or a special garnish. Presentation can make all the difference in the world and change a cocktail from simple and basic to extraordinary.

5. For the wine, discuss your style preferences with your caterer and be sure to taste an array of options. Bear in mind that incredible wines exist at very reasonable prices from around the world, especially from what the wine industry calls the New World - the Americas, South Africa, Chile, Australia and New Zealand (basically, everywhere that's not Europe).

An inexpensive Lebanese Shiraz can prove just as tasty and well paired with a spicy rack of lamb as a much pricier first-growth Bordeaux.

6. For every course, try to taste two or three wines from different regions and price points to ensure you're making the best pairing you can, without spending unnecessary money.

7. Spending necessary money, on the other hand, is another matter. For the cocktail reception, Champagne is synonymous with weddings.

8. To add some drama, serve from the largest-format bottle you can find. Bottle sizes range from the relatively common Magnum (one and a half liters, the equivalent of two regular wine bottles) to the Jeroboam (three liters) all the way up through such outrageous sizes as the Balthazar (12 liters and the equivalent of 16 bottles).

The largest of all is the hypertrophied and incredibly rare Melchizedek, which, at 30 liters, is the equivalent of 40 bottles, very possibly requiring all your groomsmen lending a hand to pour!

9. For even more drama, nothing beats the sword: after the bride and groom are pronounced husband and wife, have the bartender use a ceremonial saber to pop the cork off that first celebratory bottle, kick-starting the party with a bona fide bang.

10. If champagne isn't in your budget (or you're just not into the whole saber thing), serve a sparkling wine. Adding a splash of cranberry juice or pomegranate juice will kick it up a notch.  Add a dash of crème de cassis to your sparkling wine for a Kir Royale, or a sugar cube at the bottom of the glass with a dash of cognac for a Champagne cocktail.

Consider rimming the glass with caramel or sugar for an extra touch that's sure to be noticed. There are many ways to dress up a sparkling wine and make it über chic.

Cheers and let the reception begin!

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