How to refresh your restaurant's drink menu

How to refresh your restaurant’s drink menu

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Drink trends come and go, but it's the overall experience that keep customers wanting more. As a mixologist or bar manager, it's your job to not only keep up with the fads, but also seek new and creative ways to stand out from the crowd. No matter your experience level, all it takes is a little research and some borrowed inspiration to come up with original recipes.

Hottest drinks in 2015
The "What's Hot in 2015" survey, administered by The National Restaurant Association, is a great starting point. It's a questionnaire that chefs are asked to fill out to help predict up and coming restaurant trends. A good portion of it is dedicated solely to the beverage segment of the industry. Here's their prognosis for 2015.

Drinks that are:

  • Microdistilled
  • Locally sourced
  • Barrel-aged
  • Regional, for example New York's is the Manhattan
  • Made from both bar and kitchen ingredients
  • Unaged or clear whiskey
  • Edible – specifically cocktails
  • Brewed in-house
  • Gluten free.

Use this forecast as your foundation for a beer and cocktail menu but not as your only resource because these trends will soon catch fire and pop up everywhere. Patrons will tire of ubiquitous options. The key here is to give the people what they want without boring them.

"Look to drink books and blogs to keep your cocktail knowledge fresh."

Look to drink books and blogs to keep your cocktail knowledge fresh. Don't be afraid to think outside the box, as it's proved to work for many successful bartenders.

How to keep it original
Herb Westphalen, professional mixologist and owner of the website Signature Cocktail Creations, told Esquire magazine that he has several methods to his madness when it comes to conjuring up unique and personal drinks for the folks who sit at his bar.

First, he asks himself questions. Does the lady like sweet or bitter drinks? Is it a business meeting or date? Pinpointing the guest's taste preferences and reason of visit can help you narrow down your options. That way, you won't mistakenly serve a cosmo-lover a drink that's predominantly barrel-aged bourbon.

While you're shaking and stirring, chat up the people sitting at your bar to narrow down drink choices for them.While you're shaking and stirring, chat up the people sitting at your bar to narrow down drink choices for them.

Once you've gotten to know your guest on a more intimate level, you can be innovative with drink preparation in a number of ways. Based on Westphalen's advice, here are some suggestions.

  • Come up with new cocktails based on recent events. Westphalen made a drink to celebrate a famous celebrity couple's divorce.
  • Fine-tune your storytelling skills. People often say that it's the simmer, not the steak, that sells.
  • Incorporate pop culture into your inventions.
  • Don't be afraid to try funky, elaborate garnishes. Throw an entire hunk of watermelon in a fruity martini.
  • Use fresh fruits or unique ingredients when you can. Do your research to learn what fruits and veggies can impart similar flavors to bottled liquors.

Why you need a specialty
In addition to staying on track with trends and designing popular yet unique derisions of a drink, you – the bartender – have one last duty when it comes to culminating a drink menu. It's to offer an in-house cocktail. Trendy drinks – frilly or simple – are a great way to keep up with the times. However, a one-of-a-kind drink is how you get noticed among the sea of other dining establishments. Bon Appetite claimed that the in-house cocktail is the most important one on the menu.

Get together with your fellow bar comrades and come up with something that's true to your restaurant's brand. It's a special part of the experience that your guests will remember, comparable to the artwork that adorns the walls and that sauce recipe that the chef keeps a secret. It'll give them something to look forward to upon return. 

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