Austin loves a good drink. With its southern charm and rock n’ roll vibe, the party never stops. It stands to reason their bartenders are up on the latest and greatest when it comes to wedding and event drinks. Matthew Gadson of Cocktails With a Twizt and Nicholas Hickox of The Minibar: Questioning the Bar! talk craft beer, booze trends, and finding the perfect bartender.
What are the hot drink trends in Austin this year?
Whiskey is getting hugely popular, says Matthew. He’s seeing a lot of unique brands coming out of Japan and people are loving them. Local craft beer has also been blowing up. Bigger budget affairs are featuring four to six types of specialty beer in a mix of bottles and cans. But no matter how much beer is on offer, there’s always booze, too, he says.
Specialty margaritas are always hot in Austin according to Nicholas. Anything with a little color is a big hit. He gets a lot of requests for watermelon margaritas, as well as champagne margaritas—which feature a float of bubbly on top.
Do different types of events generally request different drink menus?
Corporate events tend toward craft cocktails. A client might select a list of five to six craft cocktails, shares Matthew—each featuring a different kind of hard alcohol. For Austin weddings, both bartenders agree what’s on the drink menu comes down to budget.
Many of his clients are paying out of their own pocket, says Nicholas, so being generous while being economical is the goal of many wedding hosts. A standard wedding might have one craft beer, two popular lite beers, then a selection of simple mixed drinks.
Do you have a signature drink?
Nicole Koehn, the head mixologist at Cocktails With a Twizt, works with customers to create something special for their occasion. Starting with the type of liquor: whiskey, gin, etc., they build a unique drink for the occasion.
At Mini Bar: Questioning the Bar, Nicholas likes to offer His and/or Hers custom cocktails for the wedding couple. He creates an original libation based on their preferences including tart, spicy, sweet, etc. A recent wedding couple requested drinks to match their color palette (and flavor palate). The bride had a blue margarita while the groom had a manhattan. While some people love it that intricate, other people just want a daiquiri machine, he says. Anything is possible.
Any garnishes or herbs that are in demand?
People are keeping it classic in Austin. Weddings tend to be simple, says Matthew. Cherries, cut fruit, maybe some mint. The main request, according to Matthew, is everything be fresh.
If people do veer outside the norm, it’s for fun and super personal touches. Nicholas had clients who requested a batch of specialty shots made from hollowed out marshmallows filled with a kahlua butterscotch mix. Whatever you can dream up, your bartender can help you with.
Insider tips for hiring a great bartender?
Make sure you click with the bartender prior to the event. The bartender’s personality plays a bigger role in your party then you might guess, shares Matthew. Everyone is interacting with the bar staff all night—so if the bartender isn’t very personable, it will put a damper on things. On a logistical note, he recommends confirming the company is insured and carries the proper state certifications, not to mention they’re trained as a bartender and this isn’t a one-off hobby. Most importantly, he says, is if it is a high-volume event, make sure they have experience serving the masses.
Ask questions, says Nicholas. Have a general idea of what you want going into the relationship, and then the bartending service can help you crystallize your vision. Another helpful tip is inquiring what expectations the venue has of the bartender so they can bring all the appropriate equipment and know how best to prepare.
Any trends around glassware?
When it comes to weddings, it mostly comes back to budget. Austin wedding hosts are more interested in throwing an awesome party then spending extra dough on glassware. A question both companies get is, “what’s the least expensive option I have?”
What type of events do you work?
Both companies cover everything from weddings and birthday parties to corporate events and fundraisers. From top to bottom they help a client create a beverage plan for the event, anticipate amount of alcohol needed, set up the bar on-site, keep the guests happy, then break it all down at the end.
Your bartenders are ready to go above and beyond, so be sure to let them know what you need. Nothing’s too crazy with enough planning. Matthew had a request for real glassware for 300 guests at a rustic event in the middle of nowhere with no on-site facilities. His company brought in over 600 glasses and a mobile sink to be prepared for the party.
Be sure the bartenders have experience working events, not just serving drinks at a bar or restaurant. Event catering is a different animal, says Matthew. You want pros who are prepared to roll with the punches because things rarely go exactly as planned.
On that note, Nicholas shares that how many guests you have dictates what kind of drinks will work best. If you have hundreds of folks, keep the menu simple. Craft cocktails with perfectly placed garnishes work best in smaller affairs where the bartenders aren’t as rushed and can have each drink look gorgeous. The number one priority is keeping drinks in people’s hands, so there may not be time to spell out the couple’s name in mint when there are 200 people in line.
Now that you know what’s on tap in ATX, are you ready to plan your big event?