11/12/2013 06:43 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Simply Spectacular Signature Drinks

When I first got into catering back in the late '80s, if a bride and groom wanted to stamp their signature on an event, they'd do it with monogrammed napkins or (lord help me) monogrammed matches! YECH!

But for many years now, couples have said "I'm special!" with a signature drink.

Let's just call them "sigs" cause life is too short.

It took me awhile to realize that food like fashion follows trends and goes it great loops. One year it rushes to be uber-modern with things like chemistry food and then comes home to mama with comfort food, or farm-to-table.

It took me longer to realize that booze is the same. After turning drinks all sorts of neon colors and sitting LED ice cubes in them, we went back to old school retro with prohibition era-drinks, Rat Pack drinks, Mad Men drinks, etc.

Folks have gotten so serious about their cocktails that they ask for mixologists, not bartenders.

Seems to me, dears, a mixologist is really just a bartender who actually knows how to make a drink. You know a real cocktail, like a stirred martini, a negroni. Nobody calls the barman at The Rainbow Room a mixologist and lordy can you get a perfect Side Car there or what?! (Lemon, Brandy, Cointreau dears look it up).

A decade ago sigs were very often about bubbles. Champagne with a dash of crème de cassis to make a "Kir Royale" or something floating in the glass like berries. Bubbles are still around dears, only now it's more likely Prosecco and the dash might be St. Germaine.

Punches were all the rage for sigs too. I always pushed for white sangria, easy to make a ton of in advance and then crank out with speed at an event. My fave summer punch drink for years was white peach sangria.

I also love to go with the season. In the fall I created something I call "Apple Blossom" which is sparkling apple cider with a shot of vodka and a drizzle of Grand Marnier. Also pomegranate is killer for the fall. Keep the fruity, berry drinks for spring and summer.

These days, possibly due to Brooklyn hipster influence, it's all about the whiskey. Vodka only gets to be a sig if it's retro like in an awesome "Moscow Mule" (vodka and ginger beer with lime) or a martini, but I'm not a big fan of the martini for sigs because they take too long to make. Mama wants her drink now! Gin has definitely made a come back, but whiskey is ruling the sig drink roost at least with the folks who call on me. My peeps tend to be a tad on the edgy side.

A lot of my lovebirds are opting for a great "old fashioned." The sugar, bitters and fruit can be muddled in the glasses ahead of time, so the bar doesn't get slowed down, and then just add ice and rye, scotch or bourbon. Bourbon "old fashioned" is my fave.

Of course, the ultimate goal is a newly invented sig drink, which is pretty darn hard to do.

I usually suggest just taking a great drink you love and giving it twist that's all your own. They say there's nothing new under the sun, but you can at least hope to come up with something your guests probably haven't had before... I said probably.

A groom with a passion for bacon can have an "Old Fashioned" with bacon garnish for a "Pig in Fashion"! I'd like to think I invented that one but I'm sure it's been done somewhere before.

Over the last couple of years kale and bacon have found their way into just about everything, although I have yet be asked for a kale-tini. I said yet!

When brides and grooms sit down with me and go on and on about what's popular, hip, cool bla de bla, bla. I always stop them and ask, "What do you like to drink?"

If the answer is "I love margaritas" then my answer is, natch, "Let's do a fun margarita!"

I only suggest whiskey if they actually love whiskey. A sig is just that... a signature.

What would my sig be?

Hmmm well I like Tito vodka, I like citrus and I love Fresca. So I'd have to say a Tito and Fresca with an orange and a lime slice.
Let's call it a "Tesca" or a "Tacky Tinkle." I'm kinda partial to the latter of course.

"T and T" please. I like the sound of that.

One last little bit of Jewish mama caterer advice, don't go for sigs that are desserty sweet things, like Kahlua or Bailey's Irish Cream unless you want them passed with desserts. Sigs are usually served in the cocktail hour and you gotta think of the pairing. Irish Cream and shrimp cocktail? BLECH! Irish Cream and chocolate chip cookies, yes-in-dee-dee-dooo!