The contemporary beverage scene has evolved. Dollar well shots and standard combinations like rum and Coke have been pushed aside in favor of eclectic and creative well-crafted cocktails. Restaurant diners and bar goers now seek elaborate concoctions made from fancy infusions, fresh-squeezed juices, exotic ingredients, and unique garnishes – and customers think nothing of paying upwards of $12 a pop.
Although the tradition of creating specialty concoctions is nothing new— (In the early 1600s, mariners from the East India Trading Company created the first punch by combining their strong brandy with sugar, spices, and citrus to combat the effects of scurvy.)— the current cocktail craze is at an all-time high and restaurant and bar owners are poised to capitalize on the excitement.
Savvy restaurant and bar owners looking to differentiate themselves from the competition should keep these three tips in mind to effectively capture a piece of this popular cocktail culture:
1. Invest in Bartender Training
Many bar and restaurant owners hire mixologist mavens to carefully craft their cocktail menus. However, when it comes to executing these lavish libations on a daily basis, many establishments fall flat because their bartenders do not have the necessary skills or experience. Because craft cocktails often require scientific precision, make sure you properly train your bartenders and give them a few weeks to memorize and master each recipe.
2. Enhance Your Ambiance
One of the best parts of going out for cocktails is settling into a comfortable seat in a pleasant environment. People are often willing to splurge on drinks if it means indulging in new tastes and sensations in an inspiring, exciting or alluring setting. Just as purchasing Dior perfume is an entry point into the brand for those who cannot afford the clothes and handbags, buying a cocktail for $12 is an attainable luxury for those who many not want to commit to an expensive dinner. Elevate your customers’ experience by enhancing your venue’s ambiance with proper seating, lighting, and music. Add to the craft-cocktail culture by displaying your fresh fruits and herbs in glass bowls and hand-labeled apothecary jars on the bar.
3. Regularly Update Your Cocktail Menu
The craft cocktail craze is all about fresh ingredients and boundless innovation. Although your bar or restaurant may create a few signature beverages to offer year round, it’s important to update your offerings frequently to make the most of what’s available at the local farmers market and take advantage of new spirits and mixers. The November 2013 issue of Food & Wine provides their selection of the best new releases to hit the market, including:
Charbay Brandy No. 89 ($92)
This Napa Valley creation is a genuine work of art, aged for 24 years in French oak—with outstanding results.
Captive Spirits Bourbon Barreled Big Gin ($40)
A surprising mix of flavors, this gin aged in bourbon barrels combines the fresh juniper taste of gin with the rich essence of whiskey.
Martini Gran Lusso ($30)
Created to celebrate Martini’s 150th anniversary, the Gran Lusso is something truly special, combining Trebbiano, Moscato, and Barbera grapes into a complex, luscious vermouth.
Absolut Elyx Vodka ($49)
Vodka giant Absolut’s foray into the craft liquor craze, the Elyx is distilled in a 92-year-old copper still, using wheat raised on a single Swedish estate.
To see the complete list, visit FoodandWine.com or pick up the November issue from newsstands. For a few extra bucks, the print version includes a full article, including information on the following hot new artisanal mixers:
- Altar Restore Herbal Martini ($20); altarco.com
- Quince & Apple Honey Lemon Syrup ($13); quinceandapple.com
- White Whale The Filthy Liar ($10); clydeoak.com
- Balsam Spirit of Vermouth ($31); americanstilllife.com
- P&H Hibiscus Syrup ($10); pandhsodaco.com
- Owl’s Brew Coco-Lada ($16); theowlsbrew.com
Is your mouth watering yet? Just think of how your guests will feel when they see your new cocktail menu.