“Drinkers are more sophisticated now. They’re not making weird requests, and they have a higher tolerance for alcohol. They want their cocktails stirred and strong.”
Christy Pope, co-founder of Cuffs & Buttons
How did you get into wedding bartending?
Chad Solomon, Sasha Petraske, and I all bartended at Milk & Honey, and people used to come in and say, “I’m having a wedding and I’d like to have these types of cocktails.” We saw the demand and started Cuffs & Buttons. Our first wedding was in 2006 for a bar regular.
What questions should couples ask a prospective bartender?
First, have you ever bartended a wedding before? A lot of preparation goes into bartending well—99 percent of the work is done in advance. I would also ask if they have event insurance that includes host liquor liability. This is crucial: It protects both the bartenders and clients from any lawsuits—for example, if a guest slips and hurts herself at the bar.
What’s typically on your drinks menu?
We do four specialty cocktails, made just for the couple, plus old-fashioneds, martinis, and Manhattans—kind of a classic trio. Then I recommend having at least one light and one dark beer, a red and a white wine, and spirits: vodka, gin, tequila, rum, bourbon, rye, and Scotch. A couple could opt to pare down on the rum and tequila, which can be seasonal, or offer a bourbon and not a rye.
So skip the full bar?
Right. It’s better to have a smaller, well-curated list than to try to be everything to everyone.
How do you develop the specialty cocktails?
We work with the couple to select drinks they love and steer them in the direction of cocktails that hit the mark with guests. You want a range within your menu: something light and refreshing, like a Southside; something with a ginger syrup, so it’s spicy; and one that suits more of a brown-spirit drinker, like a Gold Rush. Your fourth drink is a wild card. So if the couple loves tequila, we’ll do something with that.
Is the Mason-jar-as-cocktail-glass trend over?
I don’t think so. If something’s done well, pretty much anything goes. The one glassware I would rail against is the V-shaped martini glass. Coupes are much more elegant.
Any tips for cutting costs on alcohol?
With spirits, choosing value brands of high quality is probably the best way to save money. There are a lot of great, well-made spirits that you maybe haven’t heard of before. Instead of Grey Goose, go for Sobieski, a Polish rye vodka.
Are tip jars gauche?
I think so. Tipping should come from the client, not guests.
How do you deal with inebriated guests?
In our contract, we say we have the right to refuse serving someone. But that hasn’t happened yet. If someone is drinking too much too fast, you immediately pour him a glass of water when he comes to the bar.
You must have a good hangover cure.
It’s old-school, but the best is a glass of water and two aspirin before bed.
From the Winter 2014 New York Wedding Guide