BY SABRINA ROCCO
Times Staff Writer
Buying a bunch of booze and paying someone to mix and pour it puts a healthy dent into an already tight wedding budget. But an emerging trend in weddings can help couples cut spending and personalize libations.
The signature drink.
Team up with your bartender, ditch a full-liquor bar and create one or two customized cocktails that represent your taste as a couple. Along with the drinks, you can offer a small array of wine and/or beer — or nothing else at all.
Regardless of the size of the event, couples can expect to save 20 to 25 percent, says Brenton Milardo, a bartender with No Last Call Bartending in Tampa.
Bride-to-be Arielle Smith, 25, is planning the drink menu with her fiance, Todd Funk. They plan to serve two cocktails, a non-alcoholic concoction for the kiddos (maybe blueberry lemonade) and beer and wine at their Nov. 23 nuptials at Tampa Bay Watch at Tierra Verde in Pinellas County.
One specialty drink they have in mind is the Honeymoon, which is cachaca (a sugarcane rum), lemon or lime juice and a spoonful of honey.
"We're getting married in November, so we want a fall flavor," Smith said. "The Honeymoon feels like Florida fall."
Another possibility is the Funky Monkey, a title the couple came up with as a nod to his last name. This drink — salted caramel vodka, spiced rum and creme de banana — would go nicely with some salty hors d'oeuvres.
Sara Horn, 24, and Michael Smith, 25, of St. Petersburg had sangria, beer and soda pop bottles at their October wedding. The couple told their bartender, Lori McCarthy of Spunky Spirits of Tampa, that they wanted a homemade-tasting sangria.
"We didn't want to serve bottled wine that you can get anywhere," Horn said. "We wanted something unique. My husband and I don't know much about wine, but we love sangria."
They went with a red sangria containing apricot brandy and cinnamon sticks and a peach sangria containing peach schnapps and mango.
When Milardo, the 26-year-old bartender, gets married himself on Oct. 12 at the Marriott on Sand Key Beach, he and his fiancee, Lauren Paranzino, 26, will have two signature drinks they concocted themselves: the Lavender Lady and the Don Milardo.
"Our color scheme (purple and silver) dictated our decision," Milardo said. "We also knew we wanted to have one drink for the ladies and one for the guys."
The couple researched recipes for purple drinks online. They tried a few at home and tweaked the best ones to their liking.
The Lavender Lady is a violet medley of Absolut Kurant vodka and blueberry syrup mixed with club soda. The Don Milardo contains Patrón Silver tequila and a sugarcane stick or lime for garnish and is served with a hand-rolled cigar.
"You go into the wedding knowing that you're not going to use every bottle because you don't know what will be the popular drink of the night," Milardo said. "So it's much cheaper to narrow down what guests can choose."
Besides, guests will never remember that gin and tonic they ordered at your reception. But something like a Funky Monkey? That'll leave 'em reeling.
Sabrina Rocco can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8862.