Trending: Raising the Bar – Mpls.St.Paul Magazine

Simeon Priest knows his clients—and he knows they don’t want to serve their event guests a rail gin and tonic sloshed into a Solo cup. Rather, when people book Priest’s company, Equal Parts, they know they’re booking the cocktail bar experience—they’re just choosing the patrons.

Before Priest started Equal Parts in 2018, he “saw this major disconnect between how far the craft cocktail renaissance had come and what beverages were commonly available at private parties like weddings,” he says. “We developed to elevate the beverage experience and focus on the beauty of the bar.”

Eschewing typical mixed drinks altogether, Priest and his team work with clients to select craft cocktails for their event—plus beer and wine, typically. And the drinks mimic something you’d find at a higher-end cocktail lounge: Equal Parts makes all the fresh-pressed syrups and juices they’ll need, brings elegant (yet compostable) cocktail-appropriate glasses (or rented glassware), and carefully chooses and preps garnishes for each option.

“Exhaustive cocktail menus that you might see at a bar, with 10 or 12 choices, don’t play into the event world very nicely, because you’re giving your guests too many options,” Priest says.

In the Twin Cities event bar scene, other pros are seeing a similar trend: Thoughtfully curating options to match a theme, weather, or simply the hosts’ tastes and styles is far more memorable than an open mixed-drink bar.

“I’ve done drinks that match the color scheme or theme of a wedding,” says Jason Suss, owner of event bartending company A Proper Pour. “Or we tie the drinks to where someone’s from or what their favorite things are and give them fun names.”

Suss also gets creative with garnishes, going beyond a lemon twist to create something completely personalized. “There’s a way to put a stencil over the top of a drink and get a duster spray—like a colored sugar—and get pretty detailed images, so you could get a logo or image or word or something,” he says. (Wedding hashtag, anyone?)

Mobile bar experiences like Fab Tap are unique options for venues that boast ample outdoor space but lack va-va-voomph on the bar front. Owner Lindsey Pattee’s trailers of different sizes can keep an entire wedding hydrated or just add a little flair to an at-home birthday bash.“We can serve anything from beer to seltzer, cider, cocktails, mocktails, prosecco on tap,” Pattee says. “That’s the beauty of it—the client can choose.”

Pattee notes that she’s seen an uptick in mobile bars trending locally and that guests and clients alike love the idea of a memorable and personal bar. “We deliver an unforgettable experience along with convenience and joy,” she says (and, really, who could be upset with prosecco on tap and a gigantic bubble machine churning out entertainment all night?).

There will always be a time and a place for that rail G&T—but many Twin Citians, who already spend their evenings connecting with loved ones over the local brewery, distillery, and cocktail lounge scene, want to share a slice of their lives with their event guests—and the better bar is a swap that can make it happen.

Make It Your Own

Bar experts share their top tips for choosing signature sips.

Let guests pace themselves. Lindsey Pattee of Fab Tap’s favorite signature cocktail to serve is a prosecco spritzer: “It’s a glass of prosecco with lemonade and frozen berries,” she says. “It’s really summery”—and, with a lower ABV than most cocktails, an easy choice for guests to sip throughout longer events.

Balance your options. Simeon Priest of Equal Parts says guests often choose two cocktails that are completely different flavor profiles. “We might do one that’s very citrusy and refreshing, like a blackberry clove daiquiri, and something that’s a little more spirit-forward, like a seasonal old-fashioned,” he says.

Consider a mocktail. Look, not everybody is on board with a day of drinking—and even guests who do indulge might appreciate an NA option. “People want something besides club soda with a lime or Diet Coke,” Jason Suss of A Proper Pour says. “And it’s getting more interesting. There’s all kinds of teas and extracts and herbs and kombuchas you can use.”

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