It might feel like spring has only just sprung, but like it or not, summer is right around the corner — and that means it’s time to start planning your summer cocktail menu. If you’re looking for ways to help those thirsty customers beat the heat and spice up your selection of seasonal sips, you’ve come to the right place.
Before you dive into planning your menu, let’s go back to basics for just a minute. We encourage you to take some time to think deeply about the people that sit at your bar or dine at your restaurant during the summer months. Who are they, really? Obviously, you don’t need to know all their names or detailed family histories (although that’s awesome if you do!). But having a solid sense of your core clientele’s demographics, vibe, and tastes is essential to menu planning, seasonal or otherwise.
Are your average customers adventurous trend-setters looking for something new and exciting? Or perhaps they are reliable regulars who come in for familiar favorites. Whatever the case, you’ll want to keep these folks top-of-mind and at the heart of your menu planning.
If your establishment hosts a wide variety of customers, or operates in a tourism-based area, we recommend looking at any past sales data you have on hand (this is a great idea even if your business isn’t tourism based; you might be surprised at what you find). Maybe a particular cocktail sold like gangbusters last summer, or you’ll discover a drink performing well this spring that could be revamped for hotter weather.
Once you have a solid sense of who you’re serving and how you can best meet demand, it’s time for the fun part!
How to Spice Up Your Summer Cocktail Menu
Building an enticing summer cocktail menu doesn’t have to be complicated. Hot-weather staples like margaritas, mojitos, sangria, palomas, caipirinhas, and negronis are reliable “sell wells” for a reason. Tangy, crisp, sweet, or herbaceous – at the end of the day these classics are all delightfully refreshing and can provide a strong backbone to your seasonal menu. They can also be a great starting point, with plenty of room for creative tweaks and seasonal upgrades, such as:
· Incorporate seasonal fruits like watermelon, peaches, strawberries, or cucumber; or refreshing herbs like mint, basil, or rosemary for extra aroma and flavor
· Experiment with unusual syrups and/or bitters for depth and complexity; think along the lines of lavender syrup, grapefruit bitters, rosewater, rhubarb shrub, etc.
· Explore ways to incorporate lesser-known liquors like Pisco, Shochu, or Sotol, which can bring an exotic twist on old favorites
· Play with new textures; coconut cream, egg whites, or even avocado can add a new layer of interest and really take a cocktail to the next level
Whether you put your own spin on old favorites or create entirely original concoctions, when it comes down to it, you want your summer cocktail menu to offer a mix of safe, consistently good sellers and a few new (or revamped) creative options to show off your establishment’s unique expertise. And remember, your summer cocktail menu doesn’t need to be a million miles long. Aim for a cleanly curated, well-rounded menu that won’t bog your customers down with decision anxiety, so they can focus on what matters most: enjoying their experience at your establishment.