Chef's Corner: Raising the Bar on Cocktails and Mocktails
Eleonora has a degree in Food Science and is a Certified Baker from the American Institute of Baking, with management studies in Barcelona, Spain. She has experience working with leading global food companies in research & development, technical sales, consumer engagement and catering.
What new flavors are you seeing being used within cocktails?
Bartenders are using house made syrups made from cane sugar. Fermented ingredients and flavors like rose, turmeric, tarragon and celery root are on the rise. Nowadays there are new twists on traditional drinks like Old Fashioneds made with rum instead of bourbon. Smoke is also a big player – think a smoked Pina Colada made with smoked grilled pineapple and a garnish of dark brown sugar.
With the rise of savory cocktails, what types of dishes do they best pair with?
If the cocktail is spicy, sweet dishes like barbecue or Asian inspired cuisine are a great combination. If the cocktail is sweet, pair it with spicier dishes, like Mexican or Indian cuisine. Tart drinks go best with salty and savory dishes like a Brazilian picanha.
With hot and spicy trend on the rise, how do peppers and ethnic ingredients fit into the cocktail category?
For a while now, peppers have been used as ingredients in various cocktails. But now the trend has even reached the liqueur industry. A good example of this is Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur, available in Original and Verde. It pairs perfectly with tequila and fruit juices like lime, grapefruit, pineapple, and tamarind. Adding a rim of sugar to your spicy cocktail can give a completely different dimension of flavor and sensory appeal.
How important is presentation when it comes to creating a cocktail?
Presentation is key. Consumers are willing to pay a good amount of money for the complete experience. Consider not only the spirit or mixer you are going to use. The glassware that you serve drinks in is of utmost importance as is the amount and type of ice and the styles of garnishes you use.
What sustainability trends are you seeing in the cocktail arena?
Reducing use of plastic straws and stirrers is an obvious trend. Also, we are seeing a lot more edible garnishes and the use of the entire fruit, vegetable or even eggs to reduce waste. Communicating with the kitchen is the key to reducing food waste. As an example, pineapple rinds from the kitchen can be used to produce fermented juices that blend well with some spirits. Finally, sourcing products and spirits locally helps your operation deliver on sustainability and connects your brand to the local community and culture.
Why is it important to offer mocktails on your menu?
Mocktails are a great alternative for non-drinkers who still want to be part of the social scene. These drinks provide the experience of being out with friends and having a good time without the next-day hangover and with less calories per drink. Mocktails can also increase check averages. When presented with a flavorful and inventive mocktail, a consumer who ordinarily orders a standard non-alcoholic beverage like a club soda with lemon may order the higher-priced mocktail instead.
There is a lot of competition out there in the cocktails and mocktails space. Any final tips for operators to give them a competitive edge?
We see a trend in which the consumer, while perhaps buying fewer cocktails, is drawn to more innovative and flavorful options. Invest time in creating that special cocktail that your customer will keep coming back for and tell others about. Do not be afraid to experiment with new ingredients. Consider infusing vodkas with different fruit flavors like cherry or even using more daring ingredients like bacon or horseradish. Make these infusions in-house to control the flavor profile and to market them as exclusive to your brand. Exclusivity creates excitement and repeat customers as well.