The Tavern
211 Santa Clara Ave.

I’m an equal opportunity drinker. Beer, wine and cocktails, I’ll give it a shot. Weddings, however, I’m more prone to hide in a hole than attend. As I’ve come to learn, you can’t hide from your own wedding.

After a lovely ceremony on a Sunday afternoon in February, our reception began at The Tavern in downtown Ventura. Coordinator Jacki Dickson made the venue look as though it had fallen out of a designer’s catalog. By request, our signature cocktail was to be a gin bramble — a mix of Bombay Sapphire gin, Chambord liqueur, lemon juice, blackberry and a muddled sugar cube that we’d call “A Study in Gin” to stick with our semi Sherlock Holmes-esque theme. In any other hands, the cocktail may have been pedestrian, but in the skilled hands of The Tavern’s mixologists led by Ryan Underlin, it was an absolute hit.

The groomsmen ordered somewhere between 10 and infinity of the custom cocktail while reception guests were seen sometimes double fisting “A Study in Gin” in one hand and an old fashioned or Manhattan in the other.

Upon each table we’d placed several bottles of beer and wine for the toast, and for ourselves the Trappist Westvleteren XII, considered one of the best and rarest beers in the world. Behind the bar we’d brought a year’s worth of various bottles to pass along, but in the end The Tavern’s cocktails were the clear winner, as decided upon by our increasingly rowdy guests.

After the dancing, the meals and the diving face plant taken by my own mother during the bouquet toss, I’d come to the decision that the best beverage for a wedding is the one that you have in your hand, just as long as it never runs dry. For any occasion, stop by The Tavern and order a gin bramble, “A Study in Gin,” or whatever you’d like to call it from Mr. Underlin — it’s a crowd pleaser.

Chris O’Neal is a newly married professional drinker. Follow him @agentoneal.