Home' Hospitality Business : HB DEC 2015 Contents Hospitality BUSINESS | December 2015 / Januar y 2016 | 57
hen I lived in London some moons ago, I would
frequent a rather famous bar called the Lab. Many of
that city’s finest bartenders (many of whom are now
well recognized brand ambassadors) came out of that
venerable institution. What they were perhaps most famous for –
besides their liberal use of crushed ice, passionfruit and vanilla sugar
was the length, breadth and creativity (at least for its time) of their
cocktail menu. It topped out at a whopping 162 drinks.
Now if that sounds like a preposterous number of mixed drinks
to populate a menu then you would be correct. But this was a
certain time and place in our recent history when this wasn’t
unusual. ‘Bigger is better’ was the mantra of some bars, consistency
be damned. And as I write this article about creating a world class
cocktail menu, perhaps the first and arguably the most important
factor I should highlight is consistency, something we should all be
striving for with unwaver ing precision.
It doesn’t matter how good you think your bartender (or you)
are, your drinks will never be as consistent on a massive drinks
compendium as they will be on a short, succinct menu. Times are
indeed changing, especially in Amer ica where I now ply my trade and
have done so for over a decade. Smaller, more balanced lists are the
nor m and it’s much harder to create a small, curated list of mixed drinks
than it is to add dozens and dozens of twists on a single theme. Do you
really need ten mojitos on the menu?
For me the most important thing to str ive for is balance and this
is pertinent whether you choose to list 12 or 200 cocktails on your
menu. Is there a solid mix across the board of spirit categor ies, colours,
glassware, garnishes, fruits or juices and drink styles? Is your list too
heavy on any of these? If so, time to re-work it. Several bartenders, such
as Joaquin Simo, the proprietor of New York’s Pour ing Ribbons, which
has one of the most thoughtful menus I’ve seen has a simple and ver y
effective way he approaches each new menu.
Once the drinks have gone past the first phase of testing, he wr ites
out the recipes of each drink side by side. Next to each, he draws an
icon for the type of glass each will go in and writes the colour of the
drink also. He looks across the page and looks to see if there’s too much
repetition of any aspect I descr ibed above. Are there too many bourbon
drinks? Oops, there’s three drinks with pineapple juice. There’s too
many that are served in a rocks glass.
Language is a powerful tool. Especially when reading a menu. I’ve long
been a student of menu psychology, especially as it is something that
not enough people in our bar industry think about a great deal.Which
seems silly to me given that the menu – or the cocktail menu in this
case – says a lot about a venue and is often the first thing people see (or
want to see) when they enter.You can tell a lot about a bar immediately
by glancing over their cocktail list and other beverage offer ings.
Every single word, comment, image or gesture on a menu sends a
message. Sometimes that message is clearly transparent, while at other
times it’s more subliminal and may need some further explanation from
the staff. Either way, don’t underestimate how different people decipher
and inter pret your menu. The message you are trying to convey might
not always come across how you intended. Ambiguity is a bitch.
That’s why I never use the word ‘syrup’ on any of my menus.
It immediately conveys that the drink is sweet, even if it isn’t. For
example, if a drink has raspber ry syrup in the recipe (such as a classic
Clover Club), I would refer to it as ‘raspber ry cordial’ on the menu, or
simply, ‘raspber ry’. The dark disco era of the 70s and 80s ruined many a
cocktail for people and they still assume that the major ity of drinks are
sweet. This is why we need to be even more cognisant of this on our
menus and how we word certain ingredients.
Always use words that sound enticing and leave out any that are
superfluous or uninspired.There are two schools of thought here: go
simple, listing a drink’s ingredients with extreme minimalism, such
as this: blanco tequila + mezcal + yellow chartreuse + lemon + chili
tincture + yellow bell pepper.The drink certainly sounds tasty, r ight?
Got a great drink? Make it sound inviting
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