Revolutionise Reception Drinks

reception drinks need a revolution

Across the South West, venues a plenty offer Corkage Free packages… Hurrah!! This is the perfect opportunity to make the most of your post-ceremony reception drinks and get creative.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good classic glass of fizz! Be it Prosecco, Champagne or a Sparkling English Wine. Fizz staked its claim as the worlds celebratory tipple of choice in 1693 when Benedictine monk, Dom Perignon, couldn’t rid his wine of bubbles. He took a sip and yelled “Come quickly! I am drinking the stars!”.

This post, however, is for those of you who fancy getting experimental yourselves. Who knows, maybe 400 years from now, people will speak of the day you “drank the stars” on your Big Day. Did we mention that the Dom Perignon empire has a $68.5B net worth… Disclaimer: I can’t guarantee this post will make you a billionaire, but I can guarantee the ideas below will get the fun times flowing at your wedding.

Top Tips

This is the first drink guests will have on the Big Day as most ceremonies and venues don’t permit alcohol to be served prior to this key moment.

So, it needs to be special! Choose one main drink and accompany it with a soft drink option for non-drinkers. Pleasing everyone with a range of choices may be very tempting, but we think there’s something lovely about setting the tone for the day by all your guests coming together to enjoy the same reception drinks, chosen by their happy couple!

Generally, this is kinder on the budget too as you only need one set of ingredients, one type of glassware, and don’t need to pay to have a full bar service in operation.

If you do choose more than option, keep alternatives simple to keep your costs sensible. E.g. bottled beers and simple fizz. I.e. things that you are likely to purchase to be served to guests later in the day should your corkage free period last into the evening. Simple options like these shouldn’t require a bar service or additional reception drinks staff.

Consider what equipment, measures and methods will be required for your reception drinks and keep these as simple as possible to aid the pace of drinks service. Similarly, think about how to best transport, store and chill your drinks for the Big Day.

5 Steps to choose Reception Drinks you’ll both love


Consider the season of your wedding.

For example: at a Summer wedding, a long, cold drink might be ideal. In Autumn a short cocktail could be perfect to take the edge off the cooler weather. In Winter, a warm, mulled option would be heartily welcomed. Spring see’s awesome British produce start to bloom, so something colourful would bid a fond farewell to our duller months.


Is there a ‘theme’ or ‘vibe’ for your Big Day? Rustic, Luxe, Botantical, Victorian, Tiki, Tropical, Countryside, Beachy, Elegant, Retro… Whatever you’ve chosen, you probably have images in mind of guests mingling, laughing, taking photos etc. What reception drinks or glassware are they holding in your vision?


Do you prefer spirit-based drinks, fizz-based drinks, beers, or ciders?

Spirits The ‘Gin effect’ is revolutionising the spirit world and sparking producers of spirits like Rum and Whiskey to up their game.

This has resulted in an AWESOME influx of spirits from super cool small brands to emerge on the market. It’s time to start a collection, find your favourite and introduce your family and friends to your choice on the Big Day. Check out: Lugger Rum, Barti Ddu, Nikka Whisky

Fizz If fizz is your thing, why not break away from traditional options and research local English vineyards.

English Sparkling Wines have been making HUGE leaps in international markets and competitions, and are a true underdog of the fizz world. They’re helping to put England on the world wine production map.

Check out: Lyme Bay Winery, Sharpham Wine and Cheese, Lily Farm Vineyard

Beers I know, I know, “not everyone will drink beer”. Wrong. It’s your wedding and your friends and family have come to share the celebrations with you.

If you love beer, and this is what you want to drink after your “I Do’s”, then drink it you shall! And as for your guests, they’ll want to start the party atmosphere with you, so they will drink it too!

The craft beer market is a huge and buzzy industry. Choose a producer who makes a beer you adore, and if you’re worried about those who don’t love beer, it’s likely that your chosen producer makes a ‘safe’, light, easy drinking beer that you could get some supplies of to go alongside your favoured option.

Or, create a beer cocktail…

Cider Much like beer, cider is an acquired taste. And, much like beer, the market is a wide and varied place!

The great thing about cider is that it’s also easy to compliment with alternative reception drinks based around good old-fashioned pressed apple juice. You can enjoy the cider you love, and those who aren’t in the West Country way, can enjoy an apple juice-based alternative…


Once you’ve chosen your base, be it Rum, Cider, or English Sparkling, it’s time to think about how to build and serve your reception drinks!

You’ll need a glass

Options are endless here… companies like Keeping it Vintage can supply mixed cut glass tumblers, coloured glasses, vintage champagne coups etc. check out their ever-growing range. Suppliers like South West Event Hire or Total Event Hire carry modern and classic quality ranges to suit all budgets. Or, if you’re going full theme, who knows, maybe you’ll research Sake cups or source hollowed coconuts for your reception drinks!

You’re going to need mixers

Certainly, for spirits anyway! This might start with adding a liqueur, syrup, puree or bitter to build a cocktail. Then, the ‘lengthener’, be it a classic quality tonic or cola, or as experimental as fennel juice.

Where beers and ciders are concerned, it’s not uncommon for these to be used to create cocktails. This might be the answer to providing something accessible to all your guests. So, do some research into beer and cider-based cocktails.

Trial all of these at home to get quantities right and record your measures and method for whomever is mixing your reception drinks to follow.

You’ll want a touch of theatre

Garnishes! Possibly the most fun element of building reception drinks…

There are the classics; lemon, lime, orange, cucumber, berries. Choose one classic you like and add in a second adventurous pairing; pink pepper corns, edible flowers, preserved fruits, micro herbs (tree spinach is naturally glittery!).

To turn things up another notch, consider adding even more theatre with flames, or dry ice… did we go too far for a second there? Maybe… but how cool would that be!


Time to talk reception drinks quantities.

You’ll need at least enough for one per guest as a first drink. After this first drink, guests could continue to purchase their own drinks from a bar service if you have one running at this time. Or, you can provide enough for a second, third or fourth drink.

Subsequent drinks could be more of the first drink, or you could swap to a simpler alternative following the first round. If providing more than one drink per guest, consider limiting consumption to sensible level. One drink per person, per half an hour is plenty for your post-ceremony reception. This period is likely to be the early part of your day, with plenty of festivities still ahead!

As for doing the maths, that’s fairly easy. Multiply the measure of each ingredient you’ve calculated in your trials, by your guest numbers, and then times this figure by the number of reception drinks per person you want to supply. Then, divide these numbers by the volumes of the bottles you’re purchasing to work out how many bottles of each ingredient you require. Then double and triple check to make sure you have enough!

Inspirational Ideas

For extra reception drinks inspiration, here are a handful of ideas to show how you can build awesome reception drinks using the steps above. These are all based on classic cocktails but with extra special ingredients and as many South West suppliers as we can muster!

Whiskey Lovers

Seasonal Old Fashioned

50ml Bad Fagin’s Apple Pie Moonshine
3 drops of Rhubarb or Plum bitters (season depending)
1tsp sugar syrup

Garnished with a thin slice of macerated rhubarb, apple or plum (season depending), served over ice with a twist of lemon peel in an Old Fashioned Glass

 Scotch and ‘Soda’

55ml of Nikka from the Barrel
160ml Sekforde Botanical Whisky Mixer

Served over ice with an orange twist and red amaranth in a vintage whisky tumbler

Rum Gods

Tiki Time
50ml Lugger Spiced Rum
30ml Grapefruit juice
15ml Rhubarb syrup
15ml Rhubarb bitters

Shaken over ice, bitters floated on top, garnished with a yellow edible flower and served in a short coloured tumbler

Dizzy Hedgerow
50ml Barti Ddu Seaweed Rum
25ml Lemon juice
25ml Blackberry Liqueur
20ml Blackberry syrup
100ml sparkling water

Gently shaken over ice, served in a tall slim tumbler with fresh blackberries and micro lemon verbena

Gin Seekers

Gin and tonic
50ml of your favourite gin (mine is Brecon Gin 😉)
125ml of a quality tonic, flavoured or otherwise, check out Fentimans range

Served in a tall tumbler or gin coppa with garnishes such as: orange peel, juniper berries, fragrant herbs, seasonal berries, cucumber. Check out what brands recommend to compliment their gins.

Festive Negroni
15ml Campari
25ml Conker Port Barrel Gin
15ml Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
15ml Belvoir Mulled Winter Cordial
Squeeze of fresh orange

Served over ice, finishing below the ice line, garnished with orange peel and grated dark chocolate, in a short heavy tumbler 

Vodka Hearts

Lady Moomarlade
50ml Black Cow Vodka
1 tsp of homemade marmalade
1 tsp of caster sugar
25ml fresh orange juice
100ml soda water

All but the soda shaken and poured over ice in a tall champagne flute, topped up with the soda, edible flower garnish

Are you feeling all-root?
50ml Black Cow Vodka
30ml pressed beetroot and blackberry juice
15ml ginger syrup
1 drop rhubarb bitters
125ml Fentimans Ginger Beer

Stir well and garnish with dehydrated beetroot discs, served in a tall slim glass 

Beer Fans

Bottle Mania
Craft brands take presentation seriously! You can find awesome bottles that look beautiful exactly as they are, no frills added. Check out: Wild Beer Co.’s ever evolving range of bottled awesomeness. Or, Cloud Water Brew’s artistic cans. Or, investigate personalised labelling for a personal touch to your reception drinks. One of our 2019 couples have coined the phrase ‘Brewly Weds’ and done exactly this for their reception drinks!

Devon Black Velvet
50ml Hanlons Port Stout
70ml Lyme Bay Classic Cuvee, Blanc de Noir
10ml Blackberry liqueur

Served chilled in a tall champagne flute 

Cider Drinkers

The West Country Way
Yes, we’re biased. Serve cider exactly as its founders intended, from the barrel, into a leaven… or a pint glass. Shake things up with a controversial choice of glass like an amber toned goblet and garnish with thin green apple slices to turn simple into stunning.

Or, go bottled! Like beer, cider makers are awake to the world of beautiful bottle design. Yes, even all the way down ‘ere! Check out  Lyme Bay’s Jack Ratt range and Luscombe Cider smart offerings if you don’t believe me.

The Very Thirsty Caterpillar
50ml Black Cow Vodka
50ml Four Elms Apple Juice (infuse with vanilla)
100ml Sandford Orchards Scrumpy Cider

Mix and mull the cider and apple juice until warm then measure vodka into a heavy tumbler with a toffee apple sugared rim and add the mulled mixture with a gentle stir.

Fizz Devotees

Brexit Shmexit
Why import when Lyme Bay are producing dreamy English Sparkling Wines like their Classic Cuvée and Sparkling Rosé.

Chill it and serve it in a flute, no negotiations required!

Season for love
Choose a seasonal fruit liqueur; rhubarb, raspberry, blackberry, plum etc.
25ml of your chosen liqueur
Topped right up with your choice of fizz!

Serve chilled in a champagne flute or coup

Have fun experimenting with your reception drinks! We look forward to raising a glass to you on the Big Day.

By Rose Harvey