By Rob Corliss
Anchored in timeless classics, yet welcoming of modern interpretations, cocktails remain an exciting platform for strategic innovation. Establish a better beverage-menu culture through thoughtful care, familiar flavors, emotional attachment and crafting a sense of place, with the ultimate goal of delivering an experience that is true to your brand and has guests saying: “This one is substantially better.”
Better—one simple word is both motivational and forward-tilted. When applied to cocktails, the word “better” acts as a compass for 2020. Today’s consumers expect more from each and every aspect of their dining experiences. Tomorrow’s consumers will look for an even sharper focus. Operators need a firm understanding of how to evolve and execute a differentiated approach.
What follows is a look through a broader lens, to navigate the modern cocktail-menu landscape and keep bar programs ahead of the curve.
1 FLIGHTS OF FANCY
Don’t underestimate the power of education. Guests love to educate their cocktail palates with interactive experiences. Tasting variations of a spirit or cocktail can lead them to new drink preferences and trigger a deeper connection with your operation.
The Rum Raid: Eight rum-filled elixirs from the Caribbean
—Bahama Breeze, based in Orlando, Fla.
Rye Flight: Angel’s Envy Rye finished in rum barrels, Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye, WhistlePig 13 Year 2nd Edition: The Boss Hog
—Butcher and the Rye, Pittsburgh
- Mule Flight: Moscow (vodka) + Mexican (tequila) + Kentucky (bourbon)
- Margarita Flight: Classic + dragon fruit + blood orange
2 OF THE MOMENT
The diversity of gin and rum continue to shine on center stage. Gin introductions are perpetuated by easy drinking appeal, and rum benefits from the Tiki craze, historical pedigree and appreciation for aged complexity.
Easy Street: Hendrick’s Gin, elderflower, lemon, cucumber, sugar, seltzer
—Half Step, Austin, Texas
Millionaire Cocktail (No. 1): Rum, sloe gin, fresh lime, housemade grenadine, apricot liqueur
—Smuggler’s Cove, San Francisco
- Frozen Negroni: Gin + vermouth + Campari + fresh orange juice + ice + orange-peel garnish
- Hemingway Daiquiri: Rum + Aperol + maraschino liqueur + grapefruit juice + simple syrup + lime
3 DAY-DRINKING SIPPERS
Sessionable drinks have always found a niche of consumers, but that fan base is growing. Refreshing tall drinks have moved well beyond Tom Collins and into truly creative and craveable creations. These must-have offerings are a smart menu allocation.
- Summer Cooler: Citrus vodka + watermelon juice + fresh basil leaf + hydrated basil seeds
- Tipsy Palmer: Fresh lemonade + iced black tea + cream sherry + lemon slice
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