Photography by Dan Austin
Styled by Emily Waters

Local inspiration to pull off a fabulous wedding cocktail hour


You made it through the formalities of the wedding ceremony, and now you and your guests are ready to let down your guard. That’s where the long-awaited cocktail hour comes in to shake things up. It’s arguably the best part of a wedding celebration (and potentially the most fun to plan!) as it serves as entertainment for your guests while you prepare to dance the night away.

With so many options to choose from for the tasty bites your guests can enjoy while sipping on a complimentary drink, it’s easy to wonder which one will be the biggest hit. 

We asked Cem Demirhan, the executive chef of downtown Lakeland’s Nineteen61 for the perfect pairings of wine and hors d’oeuvres for a wedding cocktail hour. The restaurant has catered local weddings since the fall of 2015. While it specializes in Latin American and Southern cuisine, these cocktails and hors d’oeuvres are guaranteed crowd-pleasers for any wedding-guest list.

A Southern Romance 

La Chulita (The Cutie) & Blackberry Cryo Popcorn

The French raspberry liqueur in this cocktail paired with the Blackberry Cryo Popcorn sampler makes it a great option for romantic-themed weddings. Whether your wedding décor is florals galore or all things pretty in pink, this pairing is a visual and tasty accent to make your wedding day complete.

La Chulita:
2 raspberries
1.5 oz Sevilla
.5 oz French raspberry liqueur
1/3 oz orgeat
.5 oz lime
1/4 oz fee foam
2 dashes plum bitters
.5 oz simple syrup (optional)


Demirhan says, “The La Chulita was paired with the Blackberry Cryo Popcorn for its fresh infusion of berries. In the recipe, we use Chambord liqueur as one of our base ingredients to elevate those berries. While the La Chulita is a light and refreshing cocktail, it pairs well with the Blackberry Cryo Popcorn because of its creamy and smooth texture that doesn’t overpower the cocktail. The combination of berries complements each other not only in taste but texture as well.” 


[separator type=”space”]

[separator type=”thin”]

Out to Brunch

61 Pisco Sour & Aerated Apple Sorbet

Brunch wedding themes are gaining more popularity with each wedding season, and anything sorbet is practically synonymous with them. The tart and sweet combination of the cocktail will certainly get your guests’ attention in a complimentary way. This is also an option for a bridal shower brunch or a post-wedding event.

61 Pisco Sour: 
2 oz acholado pisco 
1 egg white 
1 oz lime 
1 oz simple 
4 dashes angostura bitters


“I would suggest pairing the 61 Pisco Sour with the Aerated Apple Sorbet,” Demirhan says. “The sour taste in the cocktail makes it perfect for the tart and sweetness of the sorbet. The initial bite into the sorbet hits your palate with the intensity of the green apple. As it begins to dissolve in your mouth you discover the natural tartness from the green apple, followed by a sweet flavor from the natural sugars in the actual apple. The Pisco also worked very well as a palate cleanser after the consumption of the sorbet that blended both flavors together for a smooth finish.” 

[separator type=”space”]

[separator type=”thin”]

Stunning Rustic

El Jefe (The Boss) and Salmon Tartare

If you’re taking advantage of Lakeland’s rustic and rural features for your wedding, the
El Jefe cocktail with the Salmon Tartare is a wow factor for your taste buds. The citrus and lemony combination for the hors d’oeuvre, paired with the banana liqueur and dashes of blood orange bitters, can pay homage to Florida in a subtle way.

El Jefe:
2 oz maestro humito
1/3 oz banana liqueur 
1/3 oz agave
2 dashes blood orange bitters 
2 dashes angostura bitters


“The El Jefe and Salmon Tartare are a great combination,” says Demirhan. “The smoky notes from the Maestro tequila pairs well with the natural smoky notes from the Aji Panca Marinade used for the raw salmon. The orange bitters also used in the cocktail pair well with the citrus notes from the lemon mustard aioli, and the slight taste of bitterness from the Dijon mustard makes for a smooth finish. The avocado mousse then hits your palate with fresh notes of citrus and creamy finish that also work well as a palate cleanser and provides an opportunity for your palate to discover new distinguished tastes in each bite.”