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Clever, Crafty, Creative Cocktails

There's something very special about sipping on a cocktail as the summer winds down: it's the perfect weather to relax and refresh.

But you know as well as I do that after two months of summer, your aperitif inspiration may be running dry. We're here to help—or more accurately, two of the most innovative caterers in the ICA are here to help.

We spoke to Mark Baldwin, chef and owner of Blue Ridge Catering in Roanoke, and Jeremy Miner, director of operations at Empyrean Events and Catering in Fort Wayne, to see how they're getting crafty with their signature cocktails.

Alternate alcohol

One of the simplest ways to refresh an old favorite—or an old-fashioned one—is to update the alcohols in it. Baldwin shared that they've been experimenting with infused vodka, flavoring the spirit with pink peppercorn, pineapple, and ginger.

The secret to a new drink may lie in the spirits you're using. Switch one out to spice it up!

Surprise with science

If you're feeling particularly adventurous, try your hand at molecular mixology. Miner said that one of his favorite cocktails is a clear cosmo that uses citric acid; another example he gave featured a cocktail with a suspended sphere of syrup.

A fizzing, foaming or bubbling cocktail may energize and refresh your guests.

Try a transformation

Similarly, you could try to liven up the drink's presentation by setting up a transformation. It could change colors, flavors or textures, Miner suggested.

Though simple, edible flowers may elevate your drink's presentation.

Glamorous garnishes

Think outside the glass—or on it! If you think your drink itself needs no changing, then maybe play with its accompaniments. Baldwin noted that they've used dried citrus and herbs as well as flowers in their various cocktails.

Bourbon cocktails can be both familiar and exciting if paired with new flavors. Photo courtesy Catersource

Change up a classic

Lastly, if you don't even know where to start, go back to the basics. Both caterers shared that they draw inspiration from classic cocktails such as negronis, old-fashioneds, or gimlets and experiment until they've put their own stamp on a new and delicious drink.

An elderflower martini gets a new and tasty twist with the addition of peach purée and a splash of prosecco

Blue Ridge Catering and Empyrean Events and Catering are proud members of the ICA. For more information, visit Photos provided by Blue Ridge Catering except where noted.

Want some recipes?

Recipes for Mark Baldwin-crafted cocktails can be referenced here, from our 2017 Catersource Cocktail Competition. Stay tuned for recipes from Jeremy Miner, when we cover his concoctions (with recipes!) from the 2018 competition next month.

Want to participate in the Catersource Swizzle competition 2019? Stay tuned for the latest information coming through the interwebs here!

International Caterers Association

For motivated caterers, International Caterers Association is a resource that provides Education, encourages peer to peer Relationships and Inspires creativity while embracing all segments of the catering industry. For more information, visit