Whether summer is around the corner in your part of the world or you are looking ahead to later in the year, leading bartender and owner Paul Mathew reveals his top tips for making sure your menu is a hit with customers this summer season.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, this should reach you when the days are getting longer, flowers are starting to bloom and bartenders’ thoughts are turning to summer serves. Whether you work in a group with hundreds of bars, or have recently started your own bar with seating for five, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll be planning some changes to your drinks; egg nog really does have a very limited serving window after all.

What does summer mean to you?

Much like getting your summer wardrobe out of storage, there are a few old favourites that will always be ordered when the temperature starts to rise - mojitos and spritzes for example, all longer drinks that serve to refresh after the shorter sipping cocktails of winter, but also drinks that may have an emotive link to memories of previous summers. Emotional responses are powerful and can be used to help drinks stand out, so think about what summer means to you and translate that into ingredients. Take the Serendipity below for example. Created by our team at The Hide, this takes the summer aromas of camomile flower and honey and adds in a little reminder of cold, refreshing cider on a hot afternoon with a few dashes of apple vinegar.

Fresh, local ingredients

Of course, all those spring flowers will develop into a summer of fruits, so speak to your market suppliers and see what is ripening over the next few months and incorporate these into your drinks.

Sustainability and local sourcing are important bar trends at the moment and by knowing when local produce is available; you’ll also get the best prices. By using locally sourced ingredients you also make a strong statement to your customers that your menu supports local suppliers and sustainability, demonstrating the quality and freshness of your serve’s ingredients. If you’re only going to change your menu once, perhaps consider adding a line to say that the bar serves a seasonal cocktail that will change each week, giving you a chance to work with availability and initiate a conversation with the guest.

Preserving things as they’re in season can make your ingredients stand out too – jams, syrups, sherbets, shrubs and marinades all extend the life of seasonal ingredients (we make a summer peach and champagne cordial for example, a longer-lasting variation on the wine-marinated peaches used in a Bellini), and similarly by purchasing a dehydrator you can create seasonal fruit or herb garnishes with less wastage.

Creating a successful summer menu

When updating any menu there are some general rules to follow, such as ensuring your serves are profitable and that often less is more when it comes to the number of serves (Find out more on menus here). Here are also some other factors you should think about when building a successful menu particularly for summer.

Ratios - The market for lower ABV cocktails keeps on growing and those long summer evenings particularly lend themselves to more measured consumption. If your venue focusses on the classics, perhaps consider using sherry and vermouth in higher ratios to base spirits – a 50:50 Manhattan for example; when the weather is particularly warm, we serve these in small glasses with half the drink poured and half served in a jug on the side, resting on crushed ice to keep cool.

Dilution - Is an important consideration when it’s hot, particularly if you’re serving outside or to groups for sharing. Punches were traditionally cooled with large blocks of ice as these melt more slowly; by freezing seasonal fruit or (food safe) flowers within them, blocks of ice also act as great garnishes (try half-filling a container with water, sprinkling flowers on top, freezing, then topping up with water and freezing again for a floral layer). Even with single serves, be aware that there may be additional dilution if they’re being taken to outside tables in the heat – the balance of recipes can always be tweaked to account for this. This can be prevented slightly by making sure your glasses are cold before serving.

Garnish - In these days of instantaneous sharing and reviewing, it’s of course important that the drinks are still pleasing to the eye. Summer lends itself to bunches of fresh herbs and seasonal fruit, but make sure these are kept fresh – herbs on the bar need to be kept with stems in water (with spare wrapped in the fridge) to keep them perky, while fruit can be rotated with the most recent deliveries going for garnishes, while the less beautiful pieces do the hard work in syrups and juices.

DesignDon’t forget about the design of the menu. For summer often bright and vibrant colours work well and as with all menus ensure it is not too crowded and the images are enticing and stand out. Get creative with your menu, both visually and for the descriptions of your cocktails, for example you could use words such as tropical and long summer serve to give your menu that summer seasonal feeling.

Make the most of your summer menu

Make sure your updated summer menu is visible and is kept where the order will take place. When you spend all that time creating it you want it to be seen!

If you are a server make sure you are familiar with the updated cocktails and are confident recommending and suggesting options to customers. Look at the various opportunities over summer where you can offer customers something different – for example an outdoor occasion or a summer sports night and recommend serves which suit a customer’s taste and desired experience.

Key Serves

Summer is a time for fun and frolics so don’t let the drinks get too serious! Here are some recipes to get your summer menu started.

Chatterbox Cobbler

Taking the balloon gin serve up a notch, this is a fruity, refreshing and eye-catching summer drink that gets very cold when swizzled.

40ml SMIRNOFF

20ml Dry rosé wine

20ml Pink grapefruit juice

50ml Raspberry and cucumber soda* crushed ice

METHOD:

Add all the ingredients to a large balloon glass and swizzle with crushed ice.

Add more crushed ice and a splash more soda if needed.

Garnish with mint, cucumber and fresh raspberries dusted with icing sugar

* To make the Raspberry and cucumber soda - add 125g raspberries, 1 chopped cucumber and two cups of sugar to a sealed jar or zip-lock bag. Shake and leave until a syrup has formed (a few hours). Strain and bottle the liquid. Mix 1 part syrup with 3 parts water and charge in a soda siphon. Alternatively use 15ml syrup and a 35ml splash of soda water.

( 1.9 standard drinks*- 1.9 units per serve)

Serendipity

This gin sour has a fresh floral nose, with the camomile and honey playing beautifully with the botanicals of the gin. The salt and red peppercorn rim adds a savoury balance and a tingling, spicy finish.

45ml TANQUERAY LONDON DRY GIN

20ml Honey & camomile syrup*

20ml Lime juice

2 Dashes apple cider vinegar

*make a strong camomile tea and use this to dilute an aromatic floral honey 50:50

METHOD:

Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into a copita with a fresh chunk of ice

Garnish with salt and crushed pink peppercorn** rim to the glass.

**pink peppercorns should carry a nut allergy warning

( 1.9 standard drinks*- 1.4 units per serve)

Hacienda

Everyone loves a tiki drink in the summer, with the added advantage that bamboo cups are an unbreakable and sustainable option for al fresco drinking. This is an easily modified formula for a house rum punch.

40ml RON ZACAPA 23

25ml Lime juice

20ml Crème de pêche

20ml Pineapple juice

15ml Orgeat syrup

3 Dashes aromatic bitters

5ml Coffee liqueur

METHOD:

Shake all the ingredients over ice

Strain into a hurricane glass or bamboo tiki mug over fresh crushed ice.

Garnish with pineapple leaves and wedges, lime shells, umbrellas, pink flamingos.

( 2.0 standard drinks*- 1.9 units per serve)

Paul Mathew is one of the owners of The Hide Bar, The Arbitrager and Demon, Wise & Partners in London. He has been working in bars for over twenty-two years, more than seven of them in China and SE Asia, particularly Cambodia where the summers were very hot indeed!

https://www.diageobaracademy.com/en_zz/account/signup/

Join in the conversation and Tweet us at @diageobarac, share your photos on Instagram @diageobarac or post on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

Sign up and become a member of Diageo Bar Academy today and unlock the latest industry news, trends and tips to keep your bar knowledge up to speed!

(*One standard drink contains 8g of alcohol)