One gracious way to set the tone for a party or a wedding is to serve guests a signature cocktail as they arrive. As a host, having a pre-made cocktail does make bartending duties easier. I love to have a large tray of drinks waiting for guests at the door so they can help themselves and immediately mingle.

For weddings, you can use a signature cocktail to bring some of your heritage or personal style to the party and it does help reduce costs if you serve it in place of a full bar.

The Southern Gentleman cocktail is bourbon, mint, and blackberries with a float of Prosecco on top. This cocktail was crafted for Kathleen & Keith's New Year's Eve wedding in Palm Beach as tribute to the couple's Southern heritage-Kathleen is from New Orleans, her husband Keith is from Jacksonville. Everyone raved about it that night! (Kudos to Aaron's Catering/International Polo Club Palm Beach for crafting it perfectly!) This goes down really easy. Even the non-bourbon drinkers like it!

Martie Duncan Wedding Bar Signage

Because everyone asked for the recipe, Keith asked me to show him how to make it. We recreated it last week at their home. This recipe is for one cocktail but it is easy to make for a big crowd. Instead of muddling the blackberries, I use a stick blender to puree them and then strain. If you don't have a stick blender, you can use a wooden spoon and a mesh sieve to achieve the same results. It just takes longer.

Bourbon mint and blackberry cocktail



1 ounce simple syrup, chilled
4-5 fresh blackberries
4-5 fresh mint leaves, torn
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
Splash of chilled Prosecco

Make a simple syrup using equal parts sugar and water. (Put water and sugar in a sauce pot- stir to combine.  Bring to boil, once it boils remove from heat. Stir to dissolve sugar and let cool completely.

For 1:
Muddle 4-5 fresh or frozen blackberries and 4-5 torn mint leaves in a shaker with an ounce of simple syrup, crushing the berries and bruising the mint.  (I allow to sit for a while to absorb- but you don't have to)

Add 1 1/2 ounces bourbon- we used Buffalo Trace for this recipe.

Shake well. Taste. You may want a bit more simple syrup depending on how sweet the berries are.

Pour over crushed ice and top with a float of chilled Prosecco.

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Whether you are headed to the Derby or just watching the best two minutes in sports on your television, be sure to have my Mint Julep recipe on the menu!

I am a horse fanatic, I have been since I was a kid. So much so, I'd fall asleep with my entire plastic horse collection in my bed. I get excited about the Derby even though I don't follow horse racing. I've only been once but it was quite the experience... no other sporting event can compare. The hats, the pretty women, the dashing guys, the Southern charm, the majesty of the horses, and of course, the Kentucky bourbon and the Mint Juleps! I always crack up because the Mint Julep is THE drink associated with the South more than any other. When I meet people from other countries and they find out I'm from Alabama, they tell me their impression is that we all sit around on the porch, sipping Mint Juleps..... So in tribute to the horses and most magnificent race in sports, here's a classic Mint Julep recipe my way, just in time for Derby Day. 


A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

A silver or pewter Mint Julep cup does make this cocktail more authentic and yes, even more delicious.

To begin, make a simple syrup infused with mint. This will really bring a wonderful mint flavor to the cocktail and you can also use it to sweeten tea. For the simple syrup, combine equal parts sugar and water. For 6 drinks, I am using 1 cup each sugar and water. Bring it to a boil, and turn off the heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add 15-20 fresh mint leaves. Stir. Allow the syrup to cool completely. Strain and pour into a canning jar, secure the lid, and chill. This will keep in the refrigerator for a week.

For one cocktail:

3 fresh mint leaves (plus more for garnish)

3 tablespoons mint syrup (depending on how sweet you like it, I like 3)

1  1/2 ounces Kentucky bourbon (I like Four Roses bourbon)

Crushed ice

Powdered sugar for garnish, if desired

Chill your glasses prior to serving. A traditional silver mint julep cup makes this cocktail so frosty and delicious. Add the syrup and mint leaves to a pitcher or shaker. Use a wooden spoon to muddle (not tear) the mint into the syrup to release the oil. Add the bourbon. Fill the cup with crushed ice and strain the bourbon over the ice, almost like a snow cone. Add a straw, a mint sprig, and a dusting of powdered sugar over the top, if you like. Serve immediately.

For a lighter, less potent version, add 1/2 cup of unsweetened tea to fill the cup after you add the bourbon.


I love "national" days and January 11th is National Hot Toddy day. I guess any hot cocktail qualifies as a hot toddy. If you've never warmed up with a hot adult beverage, here's one of my favorite recipes... honey, bourbon, lemon, and orange... comforting and delicious. If you make a large quantity recipe in a saucepan or pot, remember to always remove it from the heat before adding alcohol as it will flame.

Warm up with a bourbon hot toddy for National Hot Toddy Day!

Warm up with a bourbon hot toddy for National Hot Toddy Day!



1 1/2 ounces bourbon (I like Knob Creek or Gentleman Jack for this recipe)

1/2 ounce Grand Marnier (or any orange liqueur)

1/2 teaspoons local honey

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice

1 cinnamon stick

Lemon or orange twist (which is a strip of the lemon peel)

1 1/2 cups boiling water (more or less depending on the size of the mug)


Put the cinnamon stick, twist, and lemon juice into a heavy mug. Add bourbon and Grand Marnier and top off with the boiling water. Let stand for 2-3 minutes to allow the flavors to blend and to cool slightly. Remove the cinnamon stick and enjoy!

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