Forecast: A Warm Front is Trending in Beverages
The best part about a chilly winter eve is warming up. Share the warmth with your customers and offer a piping hot toast to seasonal flavors. Whether it’s spirited, sweet, spicy or all three, the popularity of winter beverages will warm up sales.
On the drink menu this season: coffees and hot teas will continue to keep a firm grip on daytime mugs, along with new concoctions of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages featuring modern twists on traditional seasonal flavors.
“Especially in the colder months, people are looking for warm comfort items and if an operator can offer something a little out of the norm, even better,” explains Elizabeth Freier of Technomic, a food industry research company. “People choose what they know and love, that being typically coffee beverages. Thus, offering seasonal riffs on classic coffee beverages might be a way to go.”
In independent restaurants or smaller chains where there might be more opportunity for innovation, operators may want to trial some of the more up-and-coming winter flavors like spiced rum, advises Freier. Featuring more inventive presentations of beverages also highlights their appeal. ”Mason jars have been especially popular, so perhaps featuring a beverage in those could reinforce that authentic, rustic appeal ... and push the bounds even further by featuring cinnamon sticks or real mint.”
Technomic’s research reveals this season’s emerging flavor trends for hot beverage menus: clementine, spiced rums and maple are in the mix now along with mainstay seasonal flavors such as gingerbread, mint, nutmeg, hazelnut and cinnamon. With an overall trend toward natural sweeteners on menus, operators can blend agave, honey or maple to sweeten drinks and soothe chilled customers. For example, national chain, True Kitchen features The Natural, with fresh lemon, ginger, local honey, cayenne and Echinacea in hot water.
Bay Valley Foods is seeing a lot of ‘vintage reinvented’ right now, according to Perteet Spencer, Director of Category Marketing for the company. “Traditional flavors like apple and ginger are being combined or paired to deliver a fresh twist, such as mulled ciders with ginger and citrus, or hot chocolates with spiced chilies.”
Among non-alcoholic beverages, MenuMonitor data below suggests a few more up-trending flavors to consider:
Expanding the warm beverage menu provides operators with an opportunity to present pairings for comfort dishes this winter: “We have found inventive flavor pairings like the Hot Scotch at Claddagh Irish Pubs as well as comfort dishes like hot cocoa with cookies, doughnuts or beignets. Or hot sake can pair well with sushi dishes, fruit salads and salty dishes like olives and caviar,” says Freier.
“Heat is big now,” adds Spencer. “People are looking to awaken their restless palates with smoky, hot flavor. We are seeing many sweeter profiles paired with jalepenos, cayenne and chili peppers.”
Operators might leverage the sweet and spicy trend with Mexican Hot Chocolate and Mexican Chocolate Latte drinks, which add a smooth, cinnamon flavoring to the mix. Add a warm Churro to your menu and you have the perfect dessert pairing, says Freier.
A wintry mix of alcoholic beverages will also bring a blast of warmth through your bar service this season. According to Freier, notable menu entries include:
- Hot Scotch: butterscotch Schnapps and hot cocoa, topped with housemade whipped cream and a caramel drizzle (Claddagh Irish Pubs).
- Salted Caramel Apple Cider Martini (available hot or cold), with apple cider, caramel vodka and spiced rum, garnished with a maple and cinnamon-sugar rim (Claddagh Irish Pubs).
- Bourbon Furnace: hot apple cider, fresh lemon juice, honey and Kentucky Straight bourbon whiskey (McMenamins, Portland).