HOW TO CREATE AN APPEALING AND INSPIRING COCKTAIL MENU
When it comes to building a cracking cocktail menu, there are plenty of things to consider. So, whether you’re starting from scratch or updating your offering, here are a few must-read tips from Diageo Bar Academy trainer, Kris Jadach, on creating the perfect cocktail menu.
When creating a new drinks menu, there are four key things to think about:
- 1.Do your research – What are your competitors doing? If it’s working for them, how can you improve on it, and if it’s not, how can you avoid the same mistakes? Is there demand for innovative, experimental cocktails in your area or would classic cocktails prove more popular? Take inspiration from others and establish what customers are looking for but ensure your menu is unique and don’t be afraid to take a few risks.
- 2.Nail your recipes – What type of cocktails are going to feature on your menu? Are they each going to be standalone or part of an overall theme? Do they fit in with the tone and style of your venue? If you’ve done your research and you know there’s a demand for original and exciting cocktails, this is an area you can have a lot of fun with!
- 3.Involve your team – Can every member of your team make the cocktails on your menu consistently, correctly and quickly, or will they need any additional training? Ask your staff for their input during the process – they’re more likely to give a menu their seal of approval if they’ve been involved.
- 4.Keep it profitable – After you factor in the cost of ingredients, labour and any other overheads, are your drinks actually generating a profit? Source ingredients locally where possible to keep costs down (and reduce your carbon footprint) and monitor wastage carefully. Check out our handy profitability calculator to find out which cocktails are driving the biggest profit in your venue.
Great menus make customers want to pick them up, touch and read them, so it’s usually worth getting them professionally designed. Even if guests don’t intend to order a cocktail when they walk in, a good menu can change their mind.
In the last venue I worked in, we updated the menu every six months, leaving our most popular drinks and playing around with signature or seasonal cocktails. When it comes to creating a visually appealing menu that’s going to sell drinks, here are a few things to consider:
Guests might not know exactly what to expect from a cocktail, but they definitely know what they like. Accurate and expressive descriptions will boost your sales and improve customer satisfaction. Compare these two descriptions of a Negroni:
“Negroni: Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Italian liqueur”
“Negroni: An aromatic Italian aperitif stirred with Tanqueray London Dry gin and bittersweet Italian liqueur, balanced with sweet vermouth and garnished with a slice of Sicilian orange.”
The first description is bland, whereas the second ignites the senses and conjures up an image in the reader’s mind. Try using any combination of these four types of description:
Iconic/Geographic – Sicilian oranges
Nostalgic – Grandmother’s secret recipe
Sensory – Zesty, fruity, fiery
Brand Names – Tanqueray London Dry Gin rather than simply gin
Naming your cocktails is undoubtedly one of the best parts of building a new menu! A good name gives a drink character and adds to its appeal, making it stand out on your menu.
I have a few different approaches when it comes to creating the perfect cocktail name:
Keep it literal – If you’re stuck for inspiration, stating the key ingredients or flavours is always a good option. A simple mango daiquiri or grapefruit and thyme Collins is descriptive and informative.
Location, location, location – Highlight the origins of your ingredients or incorporate the name of your venue, such as the Clover Club or the Bristol ice tea.
Get to grips with your history – Historical events or people can provide great inspiration for cocktail names, for example the Hemingway daiquiri or the French 75.
Make it personal – Draw from your own experiences and memories to give your cocktail names a very personal touch.
Always try and include images or illustrations of your serves. If a guest wants something long and refreshing, they’ll be disappointed with something short and straight up. Not knowing what cocktails look like can be a major barrier for customers when ordering, and images will avoid any uncertainty and build a cocktail’s appeal
Everyone is conscious how much they spend on a night out, and many customers will have a limit in their head. Including prices on your menu puts your guests at ease and makes them more comfortable – no one likes that moment of panic when the bill arrives and you’ve gone way over budget! A few things to think about:
Keep it simple – Studies show that removing currency symbols and ending prices in .99 or .95 instead of .00 makes customers less likely to focus on the cost.
Think about positioning – Rather than writing prices in a column from lowest to highest, randomise your prices and put them next to the drink name or description in the same font. Mixing up the layout makes guests think less about money and more likely to choose something they’ll enjoy rather than the cheapest option.
Highlight your profitable drinks – Draw attention to your most profitable cocktails by separating them or putting them in a box. Indicating that a drink is “recommended by our bartenders” or “best seller!” can have a huge impact on sales.
As tempting as it may be to include dozens of cocktails on your menu, studies show that customers have a harder time making decisions when faced with too many options. There are a few different ways to avoid this “choice overload”:
- Champion one cocktail – Drawing attention to one particular drink can reduce choice overload by creating a default option for indecisive drinkers.
- Use the messenger effect – Joe the bartender loves that drink? Add that information to your menu. Your bartenders are the authority figures in your venue and their recommendations carry a lot of weight.
- Create a social norm – Indicating which drink is the favourite in your city or venue will make customers more likely to order it. The more localised the social norm, the more effective it is.
You’ve built the perfect menu, now you need to fill it! Sign up to Diageo Bar Academy today for unlimited access to all the latest recipes and serve inspiration from some of the biggest names in the industry.
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