Add Pizzazz to Your Cocktail Program

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Cocktails continue to be a profitable category. Discover the trends and innovations that can keep your cocktail program’s momentum going. We have ideas and recipes, here.

Bartender pouring cocktails
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Culinary Connection

Mixologists are thinking like chefs and raiding the kitchen pantry when it comes to drink creation. This is fueled by a trend toward more savory/umami notes and incorporating vegetables, fresh herbs, spices, and other back-of-the-house staples:

  • Vegetable juices such as kale, carrot, and beet as a drink base
  • Herbs enhance bouquet as well as flavor; muddle and use to garnish: mint, cilantro, thyme, lemon balm, basil, sage, and more
  • Instead of simple syrup, use honey, maple syrup, agave, or molasses
  • Use espresso, hot coffee, or cold brew as a base for martinis, spritzers, or Irish coffee
  • Try hot or iced tea, using flavored teas for variety

Bloody Bounty

A perennial brunch favorite, the Bloody Mary has spun off a number of variations. Operators can easily change up this hugely popular cocktail formula with these substitutions, additions, and garnishes:

  • Bloody Maria – swap tequila or mezcal for the vodka (garnish with whole chile)
  • Bloody Caesar – use tomato-clam juice (pickled asparagus)
  • Bloody Bull – add beef bouillon to the mix (beef jerky)
  • Peruvian Bloody Maria – use Pisco as the base instead of vodka (perch shrimp on rim)
  • Michelada – spike tomato mix with lime juice and hot sauce, top with Mexican lager; (rim the glass in chili-salt)

DIY Bars

Millennials love to customize, which is why DIY bars are gaining popularity in restaurants:

  • The Bloody Mary family is ideal here. Arrange in the order of build: carafes of tomato juice, then Worcestershire, hot sauces, horseradish, clam juice, garlic; a choice of vodkas or other spirits; and garnishes (try next-level mini-burgers, ribs, pickled veg, shrimp, pizza slices, lox and bagel wedges)
  • Try a Mimosa bar: Offer a variety of fruit juices (or even iced tea) as the base, sparkling wine or soda water to add bubbles, and fresh fruit garnishes
  • Give Old Fashioneds new fashion. Guests can choose their base: bourbon, rye, brandy or mezcal, then add a splash of fruit juice, simple syrup/sugar cubes, and various bitters, plus garnish (fresh and candied oranges, lemon, cherries)

Smoky & Spicy

This cocktail category is hot. Operators don’t need a blowtorch to add a touch of smoke to drinks. Here’s how:

  • Use mezcal or Scotch as a base or split-base; each adds a smoky nuance to any drink, from margaritas to Manhattans
  • Lapsang souchong tea, brewed or infused in syrup, imparts subtle smoke to a drink
  • A drop or two of liquid smoke will also do the trick
  • Rauchbier, “smoked beer,” perks up a Michelada; don’t forget the smoked salt-chili rim

Millennials love spicy foods, and adding heat to drinks is easy.

  • Muddle slices of jalapeño in the mix cup to spike a mojito or margarita
  • Add harissa, peri-peri, wasabi, masala, or jerk spice for international flair

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.