”I don't think our guests would apprecciate cocktails”, ”Our staff doesn't have the skills, so we can't have cocktails on the menu”, ”They cost too much and take too much time to make”. With these words and many others I have heard people explain, why good quality mixed drinks could not be served in places, where they are not already on the menu. The staff can also get stressed about the idea of mixing cocktails, if it is not the main thing of the venue. If, however renewing and upgrading the menu or boosting sales through mixed drinks is of your interest, what kind of things should you concider?
First of all, we naturally need to start with finding out, what kind of clientele we are making the menu for. You get a good indicator of your guests taste in cocktails when you take a look at what you have been selling untill now. Even if you have not sold mixed drinks before, you can reflect them on other products. If you have sold alot of sweet ciders for instance, you would probably also have good luck with sweet cocktails. If on the other hand, you have sold alot of good whiskies, stronger and more classical cocktails could perhaps be to their liking. Provided that you don't work in a place where the average guest is a cocktail geek, it would probably be a good idea to introduce them to the world of cocktails little by little. Don't rush straight to the deep end of the pool, take your time and start with more familiar drinks. Mojito, Margarita and Tom Collins are never a bad idea. The most important thing with these cocktails is the same as in most, use proper measures with quality liqors and fresh ingredients. Classics such as these also bend easily to the style of your bar. A mojito spiced with ginger in an asian restaurant, a margarita with a touch of chili in a mexican place or a collins topped with beer instead of soda in a bar dedicated to beer, why not? To avoid misunderstandings however it is best to change the name completely if the recipe is changed too much.
When we know what our guests want, it is time to concentrate on the other important thing, which ofcourse is the staff. The truth is, that if the staff doesn't stand by the menu, it won't sell. Even if your staff doesn't have any experience in creating mixed drinks, it is beneficial to have them participate in the process and to have their say in the menu. Atleast in tasting and picking out the right drinks, but why not also in designing them. The best ideas can sometimes come from surprising sources. It is conciderably more pleasant to make and sell cocktails when you have been part of choosing and creating them. I have worked in alot of different places myself and noticed the vast difference between the places that have succeeded in dedicating their staff to their concept and their menu, and the places that failed in it. Among them a cocktail bar where the bartender would rather push gin and tonics than make the cocktails.
Now that we have covered the two most important fields, we have time to concentrate on the smaller nuances. If cocktails are sold rarely, you are worried about the waste or the speed is important, you might want to think about having a short menu and ingredients that don't go bad very fast or ones that are at use anyway for other purposes. You can use dried fruit as garnish just as well as fresh ones and if you are selling mexican beer with a wedge of lime anyway, perhaps you can also use lime in your cocktails. How should you process your ingredients so they would not go bad as fast and would also be fast to use? Where should you place them in the bar so they don't go bad because of a wrong temperature or moisture and so that they are still within reach? Which ones of your ingredients are used in the same drink? Could it be beneficial to pre mix some of the ingredients to increase the shelf life and speed or would it be better just to place them close to each other? Even if you have a short menu it would also probably be a good idea to make it as versatile as possible. Do you have atleast one short, sour, sweet, powerful or a tall drink on your menu or are they all the same? What about the base spirit, are they all using the same one or do you have variety?
In the cocktail oriented places the menu and some of the glassware often change with the harvest season or atleast with the time of the year. This is not necessary in all places, but you should already think about how long your menu is going to be up when you are making it. If the plan is to have the same menu up untill long in the future, you should pick ingredients that will for sure be available and drinks that will be likely to be a success even after the newest trends have changed again. When you are choosing the glassware, it also doesn't have to be the newest and most expencive. Simple and classic or themed glasses that fit with the concept of the place are always a good choice.
Good doesn't always mean expencive, but now that we are talking about money, it might also be a good idea to invest in some professional help. If you are upgrading the menu, it often means also new challenges for the staff. A proper training around the subject will relief some of the pressure and at the same time, you can get help with re-organising the bar and improving the efficciency among other things. If you can't find anyone from your own employees to do the training, you could hire an outside consult. With a small investment, you might in the long run save alot of money when your effiency and quality improves. Weather you are upgrading the menu just with your own staff or with the help of a consult, when you put your guests and employees first and keep the quality and freshness in mind, it will already take you far.