eric and jamie photography

Eric & Jamie Photography

Unless you have been living under a rock lately then the odds are pretty good that you have been trying to bear this Alabama heat. At The Sonnet House, we have the perfect prescription: Cocktail Hour. Whether it is twenty minutes or a full hour, a cocktail hour is a great way to entertain guests during a venue transfer from ceremony to reception, while post-ceremony photos are being taken, or even if your venue is having to do a “flip” from ceremony set up to reception. 

One question we get asked often is, “We want to serve alcohol but have no clue what do serve. What should we do?” First, you need to decide what you want to offer: beer and wine only, beer wine and a signature drink, or a full bar. We would say 75% of our receptions (that serve alcohol) offer beer and wine (with or without champagne/prosecco,) 15% offer beer wine and a signature drink, and 10% offer a full bar. 

cocktail hour ideas

Rebecca Long Photos

If offering beer and wine at your reception, we typically recommend 3-4 types of beer and 2-3 types of wine and/or champagne/prosecco. Consider choosing 1-2 standard beers such as Miller Lite, Bud Light, Coors Light, Michelob Ultra, Blue Moon, Yuengling, etc., and 1-2 local or craft beers. If you are having out of town guests they will love getting to try out brews that are new to them. A few of our favorites include Birmingham breweries Cahaba Blonde (Cahaba Brewing Company,) Spring Street Saison (Avondale Brewing,) Paradise Now (TrimTab Brewing,) Kettle Sour (Ghost Train Brewing Company,) Good People IPA (Good People Brewing,) and Dr. Robot (Monday Night Brewing, Atlanta, Georgia).

avondale brewery

Laura Wilkerson Photography

When choosing wine it’s important to consider the time of year. In cooler temperatures guests are more likely to request a red wine over a white wine just as they are more likely to prefer white wine in warmer temperatures, so stock your bar accordingly. There are six main varieties of wine to decide from which include Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Champagne/Prosecco, Pinot Noir, Cabernet, and Merlot. Seven if you also consider Sauvignon Blanc. If you are providing the alcohol for the reception yourself, then we recommend serving your favorites. For example, if you drink Pinot Grigio and Cabernet at home, serve that at the reception in case you have leftovers at least it will be something you enjoy. 

bar options at wedding reception

Linda Threadgill Photography

Western Supermarket Mountain Brook

Love Behind the Lens Photography

Deciding on a favorite specialty cocktail (or two!) may end up being your favorite part of the wedding planning process. After all, you’re going to need a taste testing, right? There are several ways to go about deciding but regardless, keep in mind that you do not want to choose a complicated cocktail. A drink such as a mojito requires muddling and being made fresh from scratch. This can slow down bar service terribly and you want to avoid that at all costs. Hiring an extra bartender or two can solve this issue but can be costly when you think about how many great and simple options there are out there. It also is not uncommon for couples to want a “his” or “hers” option which is fine, but don’t put yourself in a box when it comes to assigning drinks to genders. Bourbon drinks are usually considered a gentleman’s cocktail but you know who else enjoys an Old Fashioned? TONS OF PEOPLE! To make it super easy we have listed some of our favorite cocktails along with the recipe for each so you can try them our yourselves at home. 

peach bellini

Piper Vine Photography

Peach Bellini

4 Medium Peaches // 2 tbsp. Lemon Juice // 2 Pinches of Sugar // 2 Bottles of Prosecco

Blend peaches (peeled), lemon juice, and sugar until smooth. 

Pour into glass of your choice and top it off with Prosecco. Serves 12

French 76 Recipe

Spindle Photography

French 76

4oz. Vodka (or Gin) // 2 tsp. Simple Syrup // 1oz. Lemon or Lime Juice // 2 Bottles of Prosecco or Champagne

Combine Vodka, Simple Syrup and Lemon or Lime Juice and mix well. 

Pour cocktail to fill a Champagne flute 1/2 full and top with Prosecco/Champagne. Serves 12

the sonnet house

Leslie Hollingsworth Photography


4oz. Chambord Liqueur // 4 tsp. Simple Syrup // 1oz. Creme de Violet Liqueur // 2 Bottles of Champagne

Stir Chambord, Simple Syrup and Violet Liqueur together.

Fill champagne flute 1/2 full and top with Champagne. Serves 12

fairy floss martini

Jennifer Oetting Photography

Fairy Floss Martini

1 Chunk of Cotton Candy // 1.5oz. Vodka // Sprite or Champagne

Pour 1.5 oz Vodka into Martini Glass (or personalized cup), top off with Sprite or Champagne.

Add straw and Cotton Candy. Serves 1


cotton candy cocktail

Matt Mathews Photography

Cotton Candy Cocktail

1 Liter Simply Blueberry Lemonade // 2.25 Cups Vodka // Cotton Candy

Combine Blueberry Lemonade and Vodka together over ice. Garnish with Cotton Candy.

Serves 12


Kayla Beckworth Photography


2 Cups Vodka // 2 Cups White Rum // 12 oz. Amaretto 

5 Cups Orange Juice // 5 Cups Pineapple Juice // Ice

Mix liquor and juices together and stir well. Serve over ice, sometimes with a slice of orange.

monogrammed cup

Love Behind the Lens Photography

Old Fashioned

8 tbsp Simple Syrup // 4 tbsp Water // Bitters // 3 Cups Bourbon Whiskey

Orange Slices // Maraschino Cherries // Ice

Mix Simple Syrup, Water, and Bourbon Whiskey together and stir. Add 2 Dashes of Bitters PER glass. Pour mixture into glass 2/3 full, fill with ice and top with Bourbon Whiskey. 

Garnish with an orange slice and/or a Maraschino cherry. 

bar menu sign

Eric & Jamie Photography

When a full bar is being served you don’t have quite as many decision to make, but if you’re never planned a large event before here are a few suggestions. The most popular cocktail requests will include vodka, bourbon/scotch, gin, and rum. It is totally up to you whether you offer simply a white rum or if you would also like to provide a spiced rum option. In terms of popularity we would recommend the following ratios for your bar:   Vodka 4:1 // Bourbon 4:1 // Scotch 3:1 // Gin 2:1 // White Rum 2:1 // Spiced Rum 1:1 // As with anything during the planning stages remember that you know your guests better than we do (we don’t know them at all!) so if you feel you may have more gin drinkers, then pad that as you feel necessary. 

Last but certainly not least, you cannot forget your garnishes. For a full bar we would typically see the following: limes, cherries, lemons, soda water, tonic water, Diet Coke, Coke, Sprite, ginger ale, orange juice, cranberry juice, and pineapple juice. Also keep in mind that if you are serving beers such as Blue Moon or Corona then orange slices and limes would be customary. The same applies for any signature cocktail that would also need a garnish. 

We hope that you’ve enjoyed reading all about how to properly plan for the bar for your reception and we look forward to serving you soon!

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