The Ultimate Food and Drink Pairing Cocktail Hour

For a post-ceremony indulgence that will knock the socks off of your wedding guests, a food-and-drink-paired cocktail hour is a one-two punch for the senses.

By Kate Lynn Nemett

Ding ding ding! It’s five o’clock (somewhere?), and it’s time to talk about cocktails. And weddings. Because that’s what we do around here. So settle in, because today we are taking a two-handed approach, with a glass in one hand and an hors d’oeuvre in the other. For a post-ceremony indulgence that will knock the socks off of your wedding guests, a food-and-drink-paired cocktail hour is a one-two punch for the senses. The name pretty much sums it up, but this type of cocktail hour service pairs a tasty, small bite of food with its perfect alcoholic complement.

A food-and-drink-paired cocktail hour is a rising trend, especially for foodie couples. Guests love when the food and drink menu at a wedding feels very considered and personal, and this type of cocktail hour presentation is fun, whimsical, and almost like a little game of “this with that.”


Now, before you start throwing together scaled-down versions of your favorite bar grub, remember that flavor profile-matching is a delicate thing. But when you follow that rich, fatty bite of pâte with the elegantly acidic, palate-cleansing taste of a Greyhound? Now that’s magic.

We’ve come up with a few classic food-and-drink pairings that you can scale down to miniature size and serve together at your cocktail hour, so read on to discover some enchanting, edible twosomes to jazz up your wedding menu.


Photo Credit || Michael M. Waite

Sliders and Beer

An American favorite. Who doesn’t want to follow a juicy bite of beef, cheese, and bread with an ice cold swig of craft brew? And with bites this mini, it’s time to get creative. Try pairing a brown ale with a bacon burger slider topped with caramelized onions and blue cheese, or for a seaside soirée, miniature salmon sliders with dill crème fraîche and a summer ale. Yum and yummer.


Photo Credit || Richard Bell Photography


Caviar and Vodka

When sophistication and low-grade alcoholism collide. A bite of caviar (from an edible cracker spoon, of course) will instantly transport your wedding guests to fancytown, and it’s widely known in the world of gastronomy that nothing pairs better with caviar than ice-cold vodka. This Russian tradition is a no-brainer for black tie weddings, but don’t be afraid to pull out this luxe combo at more casual affairs, too.



Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup

Another classic pairing, make guests happy with this double dose of nostalgic comfort food, san alcohol. This is an inclusive option for guests who choose not to (or legally can’t) imbibe. Melted sharp cheese with the just the right amount of toasted crunch is best when dipped or followed by the acidic richness of tomato soup with just a touch of basil.


Photo Credit || Jen Fariello Photography

Tacos and Margaritas

Hopefully you have found that lost shaker of salt. Like sliders, tacos are license to get creative with your cocktail hour pairing menu. Think mahi mahi tacos with mango coleslaw paired with a peach margarita, or black bean and corn tacos with an avocado aioli and a classic Gold Coast mini-marg. It’s a fiesta for your mouth.


Photo Credit || Drake and CO Photo+Films


French Toast and Hard Cider

Breakfast of champions. Make it savory and top it with seared foie gras and baked apples, then pair it with spiked apple cider for hearty warmth mingled with cool spice. Whether it’s a daytime reception or evening affair, with this cocktail hour pairing it’s love at first bite.



Wine and Cheese

I know, you’re thinking ho-hum: everyone knows about pairing wine with cheese for a wedding cocktail hour. But this is not your average coupling: imagine pear-wedge “spoons” topped with Camembert and thyme, paired with a small pour of crisp, unoaked Chardonnay. A classic match made in heaven—with an epicurean upgrade.


Photo Credit || JMK Photos


Photo Credit || Joanna Tano Photography

As you sit down with your caterer and plan your food-and-drink-pairing cocktail hour menu, keep in mind these two guidelines: complement, or contrast. This applies to taste, texture, and color. Other than that, you’ll have the cocktail hour of the ages if you consider skipping the signature drink and letting the food call the shots instead.

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