FI making a cocktail

Whether you own a bar, pub, or trendy restaurant that serves cocktails, overhauling or upgrading your drink menu is a great way to draw customers in and keep existing customers coming back. That’s because when guests discover that their favorite hot spots are featuring unusual or beautiful looking drinks, they’re willing to spread the news on social media to post pictures of their unique find. Of course, this means added promotion for you, and adds to your reputation of being a unique venue with noteworthy drinks.

Want to raise eyebrows and bar tabs with your cocktail offerings? Here’s a look at some of the popular trends and concoctions that are creating buzz at watering holes coast to coast. 

Mix in Trendy Ingredients

Use these ingredients as inspiration when creating your own superfood sippers.

Avocado

Aside from adding a creamy consistency to cocktails, nutrient-packed avocado contributes fiber, B vitamins, and heart-healthy fats for a guilty pleasure you can feel great about. Consider substituting avocado in recipes that use heavy cream, milk, or other dairy products. This would be an especially great addition if you serve sushi bar cocktails.

Kale

Cooling kale juice makes a perfect alternative to traditional sugar-laden sodas and syrups that commonly serve as mixers. Apotheke Cocktail Bar in NYC’s Chinatown presents a triple threat with this killer concoction of kale juice, quinoa vodka, and ginger root (cleverly dubbed the “Kale in Comparison”). Does this count as our daily serving of veggies? We certainly hope so!

Goji berries

Heralded by some as a “fountain of youth,” goji berries are packed with beta-carotene, a pigment found in plants and fruits that helps promote healthy skin. Any bar cocktail that does double-duty in the beauty department is just fine by us! Mayfair Cocktail Bar  created their “Goji Kiss,” a ritzy-looking blend of goji juice, Beefeater Gin, St. Germain, fresh lemon, cranberry juice, and egg whites.

bartender tricks for mixing cocktails

Spirulina

When it comes to nutritional powerhouses, spirulina is queen. The blue-green beauty is often recognized as one of the world’s most nutritionally complete foods, offering health benefits to practically every organ and bodily system. The algae’s funky, earthy flavor is best balanced by sweet juices such as orange or pineapple. Sayan House in Bali does a great job of incorporating spirulina into its “Amazona Cocktail,” which boasts a tangy blend of gin, OJ, pineapple juice, spirulina juice, and green Tabasco.

Coconut water

Typically, alcohol dehydrates the drinker—but not so much when you add electrolyte-rich coconut water to the equation. Freeze the water to make ice cubes, or add it straight to the mix like Galley London does in their “Smoking Cold.” This intriguing beverage pairs Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum with Courvoisier VS Cognac, pineapple shrub, and—you guessed it—coconut H2O.

Ice spheres

It’s not so much a different ingredient, but the ice style you use can really impact the drink. To help preserve the taste of those potent potables, some bartenders are spending more time preparing bigger spheres of ice so the libation won’t suffer from ice melt. Word on the street is that you can get ice spheres in your drinks at The Hawthorne in Boston.

Local flair

Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts mixes sparkling wine, with spiced apples grown locally in central Massachusetts and Grade B maple syrup from nearby Vermont. The Back Deck in Boston is mixing the trends of artisanal alcohol and local ingredients together when their bartenders offer Berkshire Bourbon in whiskey drinks. And let’s not forget about The Cape Cod Fizz 9, which features both local cranberries from Cape Cod, and vodka from the Triple Eight Distillery in Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Want to learn more about getting your customers toasting their cocktails on social media? Check out our restaurant guide for Instagram marketing strategies.

Kick Up the Classics

If you’re new to cocktail experimentation, one of the easiest ways to start is by taking three classic drinks and adding some personalization and local ingredients.

Sangria

There are so many ways to personalize sangria to fit your restaurant and part of the world, so play around with different wine, fruit or mixers. For instance, add a cinnamon apple spice sangria or a fizzy peach sangria to elevate the generic red or white on your existing menu.

Margarita

Think about what local ingredients the chef is using and see what type of margarita would complement those dishes. From mango and rhubarb to blackberry or spicy jalapeno ginger, the possibilities are endless.

Mojito

Another cocktail that lends itself to being personalized by your bartender and your location is the mojito. For example, in Hawaii, they’re often on menus made with lilikoi (passionfruit). 

Cocktails at Vicia in St. Louis
Cocktails at Vicia in St. Louis

Think Seasonally

Depending on the time of year, you should be changing up your cocktails to reflect in-season ingredients and moods. Just be sure to keep your most popular drinks in the rotation, too.

In winter, it’s all about cranberries, apples, spices, and drinks that warm you up. In warmer months, your summer cocktail menu needs to reflect the freshness of the season with beverages that are light and frosty, or feature fresh herbs.

Experimentation is key, as is getting feedback from your customers.

Deploy Some Cocktail Marketing

Take a cue from some of the chain restaurants that have all come up with completely unique strategies for entirely re-vamped drinks.

For example, the new cocktail menu at Ruth’s Chris includes drinks like the Broad Street Hurricane and the Derby Peach Tea. They’re meant to be classic and vintage, bringing customers back to their beginnings on Broad Street in New Orleans.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has found so much success with wine pairing that they’ve restructured their cocktail menu to offer the same palate-pleasing recommendations. Instead of a single cocktail menu, they’ve turned it into three menus, Retro Chic, Modern Martinis, and Couture Cocktails. All are meant to match with specific types of dishes.

Along the same lines, Buffalo Wings & Rings pairs different beers with their menu items. To call the pairing concept “new” would be a stretch, but if you’ve never paired cocktails with your menu items, it could be a fun experiment.

Finally, Red Robin also updated their cocktail menu, most notably focusing on offering more “light” drinks. Their wildly popular Freckled Lemonade now gets a light (and alcoholic) version for just 120 calories called the Skinny Absolutely Absolut Freckled Lemonade. They also introduced the Skinny Stoli® Raspberry Lemonade for 80 calories and Sweet & Skinny Spiked Tea for 68 calories.

Should you choose to try any of these cocktail and drink menu overhauls, you want to get the word out to your followers on social media, and with signage in your window. Let potential patrons know about what’s new and encourage them to share photos – you can even offer small tasting samples.

As diners and drinkers who want to branch out beyond beer and wine get more adventurous, so should your cocktail menu. Come up with a few interesting new flavors based on local or seasonal ingredients, and get the word out. Before you know it, you’ll be adding another round of customers to your establishment.

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Written by   |  
Dawn Papandrea is freelance writer based in New York. Her work has appeared in numerous publications including Family Circle, WomansDay.com, and more. She loves trying new restaurants with her family and friends in her spare time.