The most popular– and most visible– might be signature cocktails. A signature cocktail (or cocktails) helps establish and reinforce a property’s identity and can create considerable revenue for a restaurants and bars.
“I think it is very important to have signature cocktails on your restaurant/bar menu,” explained Luther Thomas, supervisor at Frost Bar at The Sebastian– Vail “If you are a restaurant that is famous for your food menu, having a small signature cocktail list gives the guest an impression of a ‘complete’ experience.
“If you are a restaurant or bar that have good food but isn’t receiving Michelin Awards, a good unique cocktail list can help drive people in the door.”But if you have a great cocktail, you’re going to remember because it’s personalized to that experience and to that location.”
In that regard, signature cocktails, said Ekrem Tercanoglu, director of food and beverage at The Four Seasons – Lanai, “are an excellent way to showcase a local flavor of the destination – something that travelers seek out.”
The resort, for example, features new Champagne and Prosecco cocktails that include the “Smokey Thrill,” which features ingredients from the Hawaiian islands, including pineapple smoked with Kiawe (mesquite) grown on Lanai.
The “garden to glass” concept at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, also is influenced by local ingredients and the culture of the Hawaiian Islands.
“Quite a bit of planning and research was performed in creating The Banyan Tree cocktail list,” said John Zaner, executive chef of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. “It was a significant collaboration with our food and beverage and culinary teams working very closely with the local mixologists, our garden manager and our cultural advisor to assure that each cocktail is relevant and unique to local area.”
Tamaneaka French, mixologist at Six Peaks Grille at the Resort at Squaw Creek (Calif.) utilizes fresh herbs, seasonal fruit, as well as grilling and smoking in a margarita with fresh grilled peaches and jalapenos.
One of our most popular cocktails is antioxidant mojito which was an absolute crowd-pleaser during the summer. Muddling fresh berries with fresh mint from our gardens make this cocktail a true delicious summer cocktail.”
Special signature cocktails, said Steven Teaver, beverage director at The Four Seasons – Vail are paramount in producing repeat guests.
“I like to think that we have more of a ‘signature style’ than a signature drink. The constant evolution of our cocktail lists also helps to drive repeat business.”
Signature cocktails, mentioned Charlie Barrett, director of outlets at the Loews Don CeSar hotel in St. Petersburg, Fla., play an important part of driving local and out of town business.
“Creating signature drinks can drive Loews brand recognition and generate word of mouth marketing,” Barrett said. “New exciting beverages inspire conversation, creating important relationships between guests and service staff. Learning opportunities can open guests’ eyes to new processes and products while enhancing perceived value culminating in an elevated guest experience.”
Furthermore, Barrett said, signature cocktails allow team members to get creative, showcase their talents, and explore emerging trends.
“Featuring a team member’s creations adds value to team members’ and employers ‘relationship, inspiring ownership of an area,” Barrett said.
Those productions don’t just happen overnight. A signature cocktail is the result diligent planning that takes into consideration everything from ingredients to glassware to food pairings.
“Creating today’s cocktails starts with a solid understanding of the products you are using which will range from the popular to the esoteric,” said Maria Baronas, director of restaurants at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla. “Next comes no small degree of creativity combined with a trial and error method that is best done amongst other team members for real time feedback that is instrumental in creating the perfect addition to your beverage menu.”.
At the Fontainebleau hotel in Miami Beach, “We put a very high priority on our own creative style,” said David Mokha, the hotel’s director of beverage.
“As we go through each of the menu items, we look at what ingredients are seasonal, “Mokha said.” We still leave a core of 30 to 40 percent of cocktails that stay on the menu year ’round, but we want to give guests something new to try, too.
Nigel Moore, director of food and beverage for Fairmont Hotels Asia Pacific, said it is not always the alcohol that is the key to starting to develop a signature drink; rather it is the ingredients from fruits, herbs, tonics and vegetables.
“International travel has made this a lot more remarkable world as bartenders are having access to more and more exotic ingredients, “Moore said.” Time is spent on infusing roots, herbs, vegetables with spirits and sometimes bartenders will work with chefs to produce unique recipes.
“The artisanal trend in the spirits industry is making small batches of unique spirits be it a gin, whiskey, tequila, rum or vodkas are being used by the bartenders to mix the infused base ingredients with.”
Once the ingredients are mixed, Moore said, it is then another task to recognize the vessel in which to serve the drink.
“The process of creating a signature cocktail can be many different things,” Thomas said. “Classic cocktails from the ’20’s and ’30’s and so on are very popular again today. Many professional bartenders are putting twists on those cocktails.
There is no substitute for tasting a drink in its native country and environment, made from its original creators with its native ingredients. Still others are inspired by a taste, a smell, an experience.
So what some of the more popular spirits in today’s signature cocktails?
“Gin is trending again with clientele, “Thomas said. It is also a favorite of spirit chefs because of its fruity and floral characteristics. Today’s gin lends itself to cocktail creators.
“The wide world of whiskeys should always appear on today’s signature cocktail list. Integrated with some of the best blessings from ancient monks like Chartreuse and Benedictine you will see a sacred spectrum of flavor unparalleled.”
Teaver also selects whiskey as a major focus in The Four Seasons – Vail’s beverage program.
“It’s by far our largest seller,” he said. “That being said, breaking away from the standard whiskey mixers and accompaniments is something we’ve become very good at. Now, tea and chai infusions and syrups are very prevalent. They add such a special layer of flavor and all at once they don’t take away from the base spirit.”