Move Over Beer: Craft Cocktails The Latest Trend
By Greg McGuire
For generations Americans have had a fairly straightforward approach to cocktails – gin and tonic, highball, rum and coke – without ever giving a second thought to the possibilities a true bartender genius is capable of when given the space. Back in the 1800s and early 1900s, specialty cocktails were commonplace, featuring interesting flavor pairings and even more interesting names.
Those days are starting to come back as the craft cocktail movement gains momentum in big cities like New York and Los Angeles. American tastes started evolving 25 years ago when wine was rediscovered in a big way. That was followed by an extensive love affair with craft beer and the rise of the microbrewery across the U.S. Now it’s finally the cocktail’s turn, and bars and restaurants that have tapped into the trend have flourished.
So what makes a craft cocktail a craft cocktail? Some key attributes include:
- Fresh ingredients, preferably locally sourced
- In-house additives with unique flavors like bitters and syrups
- Interesting flavor pairings, like sweet and nutty or lemons and bacon
- Seasonal offerings like cider flavors in winter and mint in summer
Introducing a menu of your own craft cocktails is not only an adventure, it livens up your happy hour and grabs customer attention. Some tips on how to craft your own cocktails:
Think outside the box when you’re developing your drinks. Interesting twists is the name of this game. Intrigue your customers with exotic flavors and weird pairings.
Make it fresh as much as possible. Flavorings made in-house and fresh ingredients help give your cocktails a flavor that can’t be captured in anything you get from the liquor distributor and helps your craft cocktail menu stand out.
Train bar staff well. A proper craft cocktail menu will take some significant creative effort to create and perfect. Nothing will lead those efforts to waste faster than a busy bar staff that doesn’t have the time or the training to get these cocktails just right. This isn’t time for soda gun slinging. Each cocktail should be made carefully and to specific standards to ensure a level of quality that allows you to charge that high price you should be asking.
Get some witty names. The tradition of branding cocktails with clever double entendres, famous songs or people, and off-color puns is as old as the cocktail itself. Engage your customer with some great names for your creations on the menu.
A quality menu of craft cocktails can be a great way to create some buzz around your restaurant or bar and get the word-of-mouth going. It can also be a great outlet for your natural culinary inventiveness. Done right, craft cocktails can be an outlet for your creative juices as well as a booster for your bottom line.
Greg McGuire blogs about the food service industry at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant supplies and food service equipment.