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Innovative Cocktails Create a Buzz

Global flavors, so important in foodservice, have come to mixology. Learn how exotic notes like smoke and spice define today’s beverages.

Not to worry, standard cocktails like the martini, gin and tonic, and margarita continue to hold steady with patrons. But move over classics, and make room for some buzzed-up innovation.

Guided by global flavors, changing tastes, changing demographics, and the never-ending urge to push the creative bar forward, mixologists are shaking things up in nontraditional ways.

With an eye toward full inclusivity at the bar, low- and no-alcohol options are a big part of the trend, too, the less-alcohol thing less apparent when set against bold backdrops.

Much as with on-trend preparations that make menus exciting, these cocktails for a new era look far and wide for flavor possibilities, also borrowing from kitchens and pantries. There’s much to play with, a world of unexpected ingredients that introduce elements of bitter, sweet, acidic, nutty, smoky, floral, woodsy, herbal, spicy, and umami.

Want proof? Read on for examples of how bar masters notch up interest.


Hot Johnnie: Scotch infused with chile de arbol, lime, vanilla, and pink peppercorns

Heating things up: Infuse spirits with fresh or dried chilis; make simple syrup with chilis, sugar, agave, maple syrup or honey as sweetener; rim glasses with hot/sweet/spicy sugar or salt

Tongue Thai’d: Barrel-aged arrack, Thai chili honey, makrut lime

Lush Life: Cachaça, lime, cardamom, black pepper, and vanilla

Mexican Sweater: Jalapeño tequila, apricot liqueur, lime and grapefruit juices, Korean chili flakes

Garden Fire: Poblano-infused dark rum, mezcal, ancho verde liqueur, cacao liqueur, orange bitters


Smoke signals: Cocktails brought to the guest under a glass dome, a small piece of wood, cluster of botanicals, spices, nuts, tea leaves, or even dry ice for a suggestion of smoke

Bowl of Fire: Whiskey barrel-aged reposado tequila, Benedictine, cherry bark bitters

Smoked Papaya: Rye, grappa, papaya, honey bitters, hickory smoke

Violet Touch: Rye, smoky rhubarb, amaro, sherry, tobacco bitters

Angel Eyes: Brown-butter washed Bourbon, apple demerara, smoked cinnamon


A shot and a brew: Popular espresso martinis are the gateway drink, waking patrons up to a wider array of coffee-based cocktails

Carajillo: Espresso coffee and Licor 43

The Utah Dream(sicle): A spiked dirty soda with French Vanilla coffee creamer, soda, fresh-squeezed orange, vodka

Hermoso: Tequila, coffee, essence of cigar tobacco, fresh orange, chocolate

Something Old, Something New: Gin, coffee liqueur, honey, matcha syrup, and oat milk

Spices and Herbs

An exotic route: A sprinkle of spice as a finish or part of a flavored rim, a tuft of herbs set aflame for smoke, or housemade botanical brews only hint at this world of flavors

Mustache Delight: Bourbon, genepy, root beer bitters, lemon, vanilla, and grains of paradise

Frondly Gayle: Pandan leaf-infused gin, fino sherry, sweet vermouth, kummel (caraway)

I Yam What I Yam: Tequila, sweet potato, orange, smoked paprika ice

Emoticon: Yuzu miso (white miso paste, orange juice, agave syrup), Mexican lager over ice with togarashi salt-rimmed glass


The information provided is based on a general industry overview and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique, and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.

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