Cocktail Specials

09 September, 2014

What does it take to make and maintain a great cocktail list? Christian Davis asks around

A COCKTAIL LIST IS THE BAR EQUIVALENT OF A SHOP WINDOW or price list for a business. It is more than just what it sells – it should also reflect what the bar is.

“A cocktail list should always offer a selection of drinks with different flavours and include a range of spirits to suit the consumer’s preference,” says Frazer McGlinchey, Caorunn gin’s UK on-trade brand consultant.

Tom Green, in-house cocktail consultant with Matthew Clark – the UK’s largest on-trade distributor – says: “A good cocktail list is one which caters to every type of consumer. It should offer a range of long, short and straight-up serves, including the classics, modern classics and house specialities. A good menu doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to offer a bit of everything.”

Sune Risum-Urth, from Ruby in Copenhagen, Denmark, says: “In compiling a cocktail list it’s important to balance it so it can be executed fast but still looks interesting. If everything is painfully laborious, guests are going to end up waiting 30 minutes for a drink in a quiet bar. First, make it obvious what kind of place you run. Take a stand regarding your style.”

Andrea Montague, GB whisky brand ambassador for Diageo Reserve Brands, tells Drinks International: “A list has to reflect the branding of the bar and its offering. It should be easy to read. If a customer is struggling to find something then it isn’t user friendly. You have to use language so the customer recognises what is being offered.”

“When I create menus, I have to think Fat Duck (top English restaurant) or Cheers (US TV series),” says Sean Ware, Bombay Sapphire’s UK ambassador. “Do you want customers to come once for an exceptional experience or do you want your guests to be in every other day?

“I’d start with making sure you have something for everyone, now I mean from your gran to the off-duty bartender. 

“Have a great aperitif and digestif drink that can stand alone, or work alongside a food offering – something you can get out to your guests quickly that is tall and tasty,” he says. 

“And have confidence in what you sell. Make sure all staff are behind the drinks then your guests feel more comfortable in ordering the drinks you want them to try,” says Ware.

Terry Barker, director of marketing & sales at Cellar Trends, a UK distributor handling more than 40 brands, says: “Cocktails based on champagne and the main spirits – gin, vodka, whisky, rum, tequila, cognac – supported by major mixer ingredients from bitters to liqueurs. The list should contain recognisable cocktails such as Mojito, Cosmopolitan, Margarita, Bellini, Bloody Mary and creations unique to the bar. It is often the bar manager’s special creations that bring customers back repeatedly.”

Barker goes on to make an important commercial point: “Cocktails have been responsible for the continued growth in sales of the spirits and liqueurs sector. 

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