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ATW Bar Talk: Let’s celebrate

Toasting at the wedding.
Alex Mabrey

Champagne is a drink synonymous with celebrations. Whether it’s popping a bottle at a New Year’s Eve party or toasting to new beginnings at a wedding, Champagne seems to be the drink to celebrate with.

But what happens when it’s a major celebratory milestone and there is no Champagne to be found?

I can answer that. The party still goes on, no one asks questions and, in my opinion, it’s just as full of festive opulence sans bubbly.



By the time you’re reading this Bar Talk, my wedding weekend will have been just two weeks ago. We had a three-day celebration above Ruedi Reservoir in Meredith, Colorado, at the extraordinary Beyul Retreat. It was an amazing weekend of enjoying the outdoors, gathering our wonderful community of family and friends together and sealing our relationship with the ultimate kiss at the altar.

With multiple shared meals, late nights spent congregating around the fire, never-ending smiles and laughter and people from different parts of our life forging new friendships while we all stayed at the retreat, it felt like a dreamy grown-up sleepaway camp.




For each meal, we had a variety of beer and wine, and then for the wedding itself there was the addition of two batched cocktails: one gin – Leopold Bros. Summer Gin with cucumber, mint and tonic – and one bourbon – a classic old fashioned made with Bulleit Bourbon.

The gin cocktail was light yet spirit forward, and the Leopold Bros. Summer Gin provided a background of more citrus notes, light on the juniper, which paired well with the aromatics of the mint. The old fashioned was as it should be: rich, slightly sweet and spicy.

But absent in all the celebrations was Champagne.

Champagne has become a drink for celebrations, thanks in large parts to the power of marketing. In the 18th Century, Champagne companies, looking to expand their market and capitalize off the growing appetite of British aristocrats’ taste for bubbles, heavily promoted the drink as being the companion to moments worth celebrating. The companies, ones we to this day easily equate with lavish parties or special moments, such as Moet et Chandon and Veuve Clicqout, wooed the royal courts around Europe, and advertising campaigns highlighted the opulent gatherings where glasses of Champagne were the standard in every guest’s hand.

In the centuries that followed, Champagne’s allure has only grown brighter with holidays and special occasions, continually cashing in on its status as the drink to celebrate with; Champagne towers have even come back around as a wedding trend in recent years.

So why did my partner and I forgo this toasting tradition at our wedding?

First off, we don’t love Champagne, and as the helpful smattering of people we found ourselves surrounded by in the planning process — from our exceptional wedding planner to the extremely talented chef at Beyul Retreat — said, if you don’t like it, why would you have it at your wedding? With this in mind, we chose rosé over Champagne as a fun, summer celebration drink since that’s what we prefer.

Second, in my previous experiences as a wedding guest, Champagne is relegated to toasting at weddings, and after that, it’s not often consumed in excess, which is probably for the best because Champagne hangovers are rough, and hangovers from weddings can be challenging enough without adding extra sugar to the mix.

When all was said and done, the wedding weekend was bursting with celebratory moments, and the festivities were overflowing with joy. For my partner and me, it was unquestionably perfect, and not once was I sad to not have a glass of bubbly to say “cheers” to it all with.

So, what’s the point of this column? Perhaps it was to give a little background of Champagne and celebrations. Maybe it was to satisfy my editor’s request to write about the wedding. Or maybe it was to encourage you to celebrate life’s moments in a way that feels authentic to you and yours.

But whatever the motive, whatever the meaning, “cheers” to all of life’s moments, large or small, bubbly or not.

The dinner table at Rose and her husband, Eric’s, wedding.
Alex Mabrey

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