Josh Rosenthal is an owner of the Grand Bevy Corporation, a mixology and creative beverage company in Los Angeles that he started 10 years ago. Run by Mr. Rosenthal and his wife Priscilla Sommer, who works as a managing partner and C.F.O., the company now employs 130 mixologists across the country at around 150 weddings a year, among other events.
“Over the past five years, there has been a shift from food being the main attraction at a wedding to the social elixirs: drinks,” said Mr. Rosenthal, 46, whose favorite libations are Champagne and single malt Scotch. Pricing for his services varies, but generally, he charges by the station, which start at $3,800.
For Mr. Rosenthal, visuals play a tremendous role in making cocktails. “I get a big buzz from forward thinking cocktails that exude color and movement, are presented uniformly, including the garnish, and presented on a tray,” he said, adding that it takes “months of planning, creation and teamwork” to pull off a single event.
Thanks to technology, ingredients and skill from the mixologist, he said, the cocktail has gone from something to drink to a viral Instagram moment. “We rarely do just a bar because anyone can make a nice cocktail,” Mr. Rosenthal said. “We create a liquid adventure that we are taking you on. That’s what the cocktail has become.”
What questions should couples be asking a mixologist?
What is the guest to bar ratio, and how many support staffers will there be? Usually it’s two staffers and one bartender to 50 guests, or two staffers and one bartender for every six feet of bar. Do they do tray passing, and will that be set up in the back of house station? Because where they set up ensures you will not have lines at the bar. Will the signature cocktail be passed upon guests entering the reception? That speaks to how quickly a drink gets into someone’s hand before they get to the bar.
Why serve different drinks at different times?
You want the guest to go on a drinkable journey. That’s why cocktails change as the wedding progresses. At 6 p.m. when you arrive, your drink is light and celebratory because you’re at the start of an uplifting, joyful event.
The cocktail served in the middle is about creating a palate cleanser because you’re pairing it with food. The cocktail served at 2 a.m. — those are heavier and more boozy, and should evoke an entirely different emotion. We might add CBD oils or caffeine because you want to stay awake. You’re in party mode. There’s dancing and jubilation.
We have protocols and procedures in place to cut people off. We also don’t overpour or serve shots. People tend to self-monitor and not overdue it when the quality of the product is higher. You’re not slamming drinks. You’re experiencing them.
What makes for a successful cocktail?
A drink should be a surprising, unique experience with ingredients that don’t overpower each other. Alcohol is only one of many components. It should appeal to all the senses. It has to be visually stimulating, appealing and have an interesting look, offered in handsome or classic glassware.
Smell or aroma, which usually comes from the garnish, like lavender or ginger, is next because you’re going to lift the drink. Taste is a balanced and complex combination of sweetness and savory; of acid and alkaline. Then it’s about feel. Creating an experience should be part of the cocktail’s job as well.
How do you create a distinctive drink for each couple?
Couples fill out a detailed questionnaire that address their palate preferences, their romantic story, and cocktails they drank while dating. Then we design a drink to include those elements. For a couple who met in Thailand, we added regional tastes and visuals like lemongrass bitters; coconut foam; and the sweet smelling, tropical flower frangipani as garnish to recreate their memories and tastes.
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You’re known for serving “molecular cocktail spheres.” What are they?
A molecular cocktail is the art of merging beverage and food together. It’s made with a process called reverse spherification, where the liquid part of a drink is suspended inside the calcified skin of the cocktail. This can take 36 hours because it’s a multi-step process that requires parts of the solution to be distilled for a number of hours.
Unlike a Jell-O shot, when you place the sphere in your mouth, the drink bursts and explodes. We serve them on silver spoons, which creates an element of surprise and sophistication. Our signature offering is a tequila-based cocktail that’s turned black from a charcoal activation, with a 24-karat gold flake on top.
What’s another one of your most popular offerings?
Printable photos on cocktails. It’s like a drinkable photo booth. We use a program that instantly prints images, like a photo of the couple at the ceremony or of a guest at the wedding, onto drinkable foam. The image and foam remain intact, even when you drink the cocktail. We can do these live so guests can see them happening in real time.
What do you suggest for nondrinkers?
We have a mocktail program and dry bars: an heirloom tomato Bloody Mary station, a D.I.Y. spritzer bar that uses different flavored sodas and fruits, and a garden bar, complete with 40 to 50 different vegetables that we cold press into juices.
What advice can you offer couples who are doing something on their own?
Don’t spend your budget on booze. Serve Champagne and three drinks — one for her, one for him, and one for the guest — because you can cover anyone’s palate with three different cocktails.
Don’t use plastic anything. You don’t need to pour the best of the best if a glass or crystal looks and feels expensive like a coupe, a double old fashion or a long-stemmed Collins. These visually enhance the experience and add touches of elegance, even if you’re pouring water into them.
Ice is one of the most important items people don’t think about. Opt for large, cubed ice cut from a single ice block, because that cools the drinks without changing the structure by watering it down. And it’s more beautiful than the ice from the venue’s machine in the back. If you need to hire an ice cutter, it’s worth it.
What is your favorite moment?
Nothing beats the Champagne tower. Regardless of how you present it — we build and display it in different shapes and sizes. It’s a classic, real, pure, luxurious moment where guests are standing around cheering and celebrating, usually in a circle, which is an inclusive shape. The couple takes an intimate moment to appreciate and acknowledge their guests. Then they take a drink from the top glass, together. This is about the connection between the couple and their guests, and the interaction everyone is having with the drink.