The Art of the Signature Drink

The difference between a host and the host with the most? A signature cocktail. It shows off your hosting skills, your personality, and your favorite sips and serves. Whether you’re hosting an impromptu happy hour, a special dinner party or a laid back night in, serving a signature drink elevates the evening into something memorable (and delicious).

Developing a signature cocktail for at-home hosting might sound daunting, but we’re here to show you just how to do it — from selecting spirits to mixing in flavors to how to serve. See the below for your recipe to success.

Consider the Occasion

Before you develop a signature cocktail, think about what type of event you’re hosting. Is it casual or upscale? Celebratory or romantic? Does your event have a theme that might inspire a drink’s color, flavor profile, or name? Is the event tied to a specific season or holiday that might influence what spirit you choose? Size matters, too: If you’re hosting a large group, you might want to choose a crowd-pleasing batched punch over a labor-intensive drink. A signature cocktail should be fun for everyone, including you.

Put a Twist on a Classic

Why reinvent the wheel when you can perfect it? A classic drink is always well received, particularly if you add your own unique spin. This can be as simple as renaming it or adding a special garnish that complements your theme, the season, or, if applicable, an event’s honoree. Love a Martini and all things spicy? Bring the heat by garnishing a classic Martini with a pickled hot cherry pepper. Margaritas, the ultimate crowd-pleaser, can be customized with unique rims like shredded coconut or ground herbs. Want a new twist on an Old Fashioned? Add a dash of vanilla extract or peach bitters to sweeten things up. When it comes to refining a classic for your event, the possibilities are truly endless. 

Use this barware to shake up your classic cocktails:

Make Your Own (And Make It Your Own)

It’s easier than you think to create a signature cocktail from scratch.

  1. Pick your spirit. It’s nice to consider your guests’ preferences or crowd-pleasers; however, remember that not everyone has to love it. It should represent you (the host) or the guest of honor!
  2. Incorporate some of your favorite flavors and seasonal ingredients. Highlighting seasonal ingredients is an easy way to enhance your signature cocktail. Floral-forward flavors like homemade violet or elderflower syrup pair well with herbaceous gin, while unexpected citrus — blood orange, yuzu, satsuma — complements the agave notes in tequila or mezcal. Whiskey’s depth can handle flavor that packs a punch, from a cinnamon-apple shrub to chocolate bitters to muddled jalapeño.
  3. After selecting a base spirit and seasonal ingredients, you can experiment with adding liqueurs, bitters, or simple mixers like club sodas. A good rule of thumb is to think about bitters like the salt and pepper for a cocktail — a pinch of seasoning to help even things out and accentuate flavor. If your cocktail is too sweet, add a squeeze of citrus to cut through the sugar. As far as mixers go, don’t limit yourself to just soda or sparkling water; teas, lemonade, or even coffee can work with certain spirits. 
  4. Bring it all together with garnishes (more on this below). From classic salt rims to luxe gold leaf appliques, garnishes can help elevate both the flavor and the aesthetic of your signature serve. 
  5. Christen your concoction. When it comes to deciding on a name, the occasion or theme of your event might bring inspiration. But don’t stress too much — the added detail of naming your creation is a fun way to show all the effort you put in.

Stock up on these well-rounded spirits to get cocktail-crafty:

Serve in Style

Now, put the cherry on top — perhaps even literally. Choose a garnish that fits the flavor profile of your drink (you can even garnish your creation with an ingredient used to make your cocktail) and creates a sense of visual flair or connects back to the theme of your event. Garden parties call for edible flowers like lavender, chamomile, or honeysuckle. Aside from salt and sugar, consider cocktail rims that add texture and unexpected flavors like chili pepper, lime and salt seasoning, sesame seeds, popping candy, and toasted coconut — the possibilities are endless. Cocktail charms and custom stir sticks add a fun, festive flourish that guests will be sure to appreciate.

Let your creativity shine with these accessories:

The Final Flourish 

Presenting your signature drink with a signature style makes it even more palatable. Give your drink — and your entire event — personality by incorporating custom signage speaking to a drink’s name and ingredients, whimsical (and practical) cocktail napkins, and, of course, pretty glassware. All that’s left to do? Toast to a beautiful evening.

These cocktail accessories will get you started:

This article is sponsored by The Bar.