As the colder months approach, it’s time to tackle the delightful challenge of updating your menus to reflect the season's chilly charm. Here are a few ways to make your menu winter-ready and ensure you are wrapped in the warm spirit of the season.
Cozy Up Your Cocktails
As the temperatures drop, it's time to update your beverage menu with spirits and cocktails that will wrap your customers in delicious coziness. Be sure to stock up on warming spirits such as whiskey and bourbon of all varieties, spiced rum, smokey tequila anejo, cognac, and vodka. These staples will be the backbone for classic cold-weather cocktails like the hot toddy, Irish coffee, spiked hot chocolate, eggnog, old fashioned, etc.
To inject a little personality and complexity into your beverages, consider incorporating seasonal liqueurs and flavor-infused spirits. Nut, cream, peppermint, spiced pear, and crème de cassis; cinnamon, honey, or vanilla—there’s no shortage of options and plenty of room for creativity. To really go that extra mile, try incorporating pie spices, such as anise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.
Embrace Warming Wines
Speaking of warming beverages, the right glass of wine can go a long way on a chilly winter evening. Robust reds like Nebbiolo, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Shiraz, with their depth, body, and rich tannins, are perfect for sipping alongside hearty winter dishes. There are plenty of options for white wine lovers, too. Buttery oaked Chardonnay, Vermentino, white Rioja, white Burgundy, and Chenin Blanc all have the heft, minerality, and creaminess to cut through fatty, heavy meals without sacrificing any of the coziness typically associated with red wines. Your own unique take on mulled wine is also a great addition to any winter wine menu.
Another thing you might consider when creating your winter wine and spirit menu is offering wine flights or themed cocktail lists that showcase the best of the season. And be sure to offer guidance to your customers on which wines or spirits pair well with specific menu items, as well as educate your staff so they can make informed recommendations to guests, too.
Incorporate Seasonal Ingredients
When crafting a winter-worthy menu, it’s all about embracing the bounty of seasonal ingredients. Hearty veggies like squash, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and kale really shine when temperatures drop, especially in delicious, cozy dishes like roasted butternut squash soup, sweet potato gnocchi, or Brussels sprouts gratin. Root vegetables like carrots and parsnips can be turned into comforting purées or roasted to perfection. There’s also an abundance of winter fruits, such as apples, pears, cranberries, persimmons, and oranges, available to work into your mains, desserts, and even drinks.
Oh, and don’t skimp on the spices and herbs! ‘Tis the season to lean into those delicious “pie” spices: anise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, green cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. They are a match made in heaven alongside all that gorgeous seasonal produce, guaranteed to give your winter dishes that extra dash of warmth your customers are craving.
Leverage Holiday Excitement
Winter is synonymous with the holidays, which means plenty of opportunity for your establishment to boost traffic and sales. Why not create a special holiday takeout menu so families can enjoy time together over a great meal without the hassle of cooking and cleanup? You could also upsize your offering for large catering orders and workplace holiday parties. Alternatively, you can make your business the go-to place for festive family or office celebrations or even host your own holiday events. Think live entertainment, a deluxe menu, and prix fixe or entry charge.
Whatever approach you take to crafting your winter menu, the key to any successful seasonal update is to balance familiarity with innovation. While it's important to introduce new items and specials, don't forget to retain some customer favorites from your regular menu to cater to all tastes. Also, keep an eye on food costs and pricing to ensure your winter menu remains profitable. With these things in mind, you’ll have no trouble making your establishment the go-to spot for those seeking warmth and comfort during the colder months.