Easy Ways to Update Your Cocktail Menu
Creating a well-balanced, exciting cocktail menu takes time and the occasional adjustment. Keeping things fresh and exciting for your regulars can keep them coming back, and it’s a great way to attract new customers to your bar. Staying aware of changing trends in bars can help you keep your offerings feeling modern while staying true to your brand. If you’re looking for a few easy updates, try incorporating the suggestions below into your drink menu.
Create Savory Culinary Cocktails
Taking the savory route allows mixologists to balance flavors similar to how a chef creates a plate of food. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept (think of a spicy bloody mary and salt-rimmed margarita), bartenders are finding new and creative ways to play with savory flavors. Cocktails featuring vegetable juices, like carrot or beet, not only look great, but they can add unique flavor elements to your menu. You’ll even see cocktails that incorporate ingredients like roasted red peppers or spicy jalapenos.
What Is Fat-Washing?
Fat-washing is the process of using a fat such as butter, duck fat, or oil to infuse savory flavors into a cocktail. To fat-wash, mix a liquid fat (such as melted butter) into your spirit of choice. Allow the mixture to sit out at room temperature for several hours before chilling in the refrigerator. Once the fat solidifies, skim it off the top of the drink. The spirit is now infused with the fat flavoring.
Here are a few savory cocktails to get you started:
- Bullshot: vodka, beef bouillon or broth, Worcestshire sauce
- Rosemary Salty Dog: gin, grapefruit juice, rosemary syrup
- Thyme Lemonade: gin, fresh thyme, lemon juice, sugar
Cocktail and Food Pairings
Similar to the idea of wine pairings, cocktail pairings provide limitless options because of their diverse nature. Here are a few food pairing ideas for classic cocktails:
- Margarita: ceviche, jerk chicken, samosas, or pulled pork
- Gin and Tonic: smoked salmon, charcuterie board, curry, or fish and chips
- Martini: shrimp cocktail, hummus and chips, grilled fish, or stuffed mushrooms
- Mimosa: scrambled eggs, risotto, lobster, or bagel and lox
- Old Fashioned: bacon-wrapped dates, pork chops, spiced and roasted pecans, or duck confit
Grow Your Own Ingredients
Creating a hyperlocal source for your ingredients is an on-trend way to appeal to your environmentally or health-conscious consumers. Growing your own fruits, herbs, and vegetables is cost-effective and allows you to gain total control over the handling of your produce.
If it’s feasible for your bar or restaurant, consider maintaining a small garden plot either on your property or somewhere local. You can even try breeding your plants to yield unique flavor qualities or preserve heirloom integrity. And while it may not be viable to grow enough produce to cover the needs of your entire food menu, the small quantities required for cocktails makes the endeavor a lot more manageable.
Incorporate Tea into Cocktails
From earl gray to chamomile, teas are trickling into our cocktails with their warm, aromatic flavors. Hot or cold, tea pairs well with a variety of different liquors, and the subtle flavors won’t overpower the nuances of top shelf selections. As with many cocktail trends, tea is not a new ingredient for mixologists. In fact, most old school party punch recipes include tea as a major component. But while the old classics can serve as a nod to the past, you may also see more modern interpretations popping up on menus around you.
Here are a few tea-infused cocktails to get you started:
- Black Tea Rum Punch: white rum, loose black tea, pineapple juice, apricot liqueur, simple syrup, lime and lemon juice, bitters
- Green Tea Mojito: white rum, lime juice, sugar, brewed and chilled green tea, mint
- Chamomile Tequila Sour: tequila, chamomile simple syrup, lime
Medicinal and Herbal Cocktails
Using apothecary-inspired ingredients isn’t a new concept, but rather a modern interpretation of an old belief. That’s because many believe that cocktails first got their start as mixtures intended to treat ailments.
Tonic water and bitters are two extremely common cocktail ingredients, and they both found their beginnings in medicine. The juniper flavor of gin likely wound up there because juniper was traditionally used to treat a wide array of health problems. It's the same story with Fernet and Sambuca, which both originated as digestifs and are still believed to play some role in aiding digestion after meals
While the herbal remedies that find their way into today’s cocktails are more for flavor than anything else, the folkloric quality of the ingredients contributes to the mood of the drink and tone of the overall experience. There’s any number of reasons for the resurgence of interest in medicinal cocktails including the uprising of health drinks like kombucha or the desire to incorporate unconventional ingredients into culinary cocktails.
Here are a few common medicinal cocktails:
- Hot Toddy: bourbon, honey, lemon juice, hot water
- Bees Knees: gin, lemon juice, honey
- Hot Buttered Rum: spiced rum, brown sugar, butter, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, hot water
While drinking alcohol isn’t necessarily healthy, indulging in the occasional artisanal cocktail can be good for the soul. A focus on high-quality ingredients, new flavor combinations, and a touch of herbal remedy can help boost profits from your drink menu. Offering unique cocktails that can’t be found anywhere else can be a big draw for your establishment. So, while you may want to keep some of the old classics, embracing some new approaches to the way you develop your cocktails can provide guests with an exciting experience.