Planning your Holiday Cocktail Menu
It’s easier than you think... as long as you keep it uncomplicated
The trend of seasonal consumption has not missed bar programs across the country. While “drinking seasonally” is great for quality and variety, it’s no secret that revamping a cocktail menu is time consuming work.
And during the holiday rush, the last thing bartenders have extra of is time. Instead of worrying about a complete re-vamp, follow these tips for a holiday cocktail menu that’s both attractive to customers, yet forgiving on planning and prep.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
There’s so much behind-the-scenes action that goes into creating a new menu from scratch: sorting through submissions; ordering new booze; creating a par list for new prep; training staff on new drinks; even debating what names to use and dealing with pesky printer issues when the day comes to introduce your baby to the world. By the time the kinks are worked out and staff feels confident in the execution, it’s already time to scrap your work and plan for the next season.
Escape this headache-inducing cycle by focusing on classics that aren’t too reliant on seasonal fruits (i.e. Manhattans in the winter and Margaritas in the summer) and introducing two creative cocktails for the season. Or, keep a popular spring seasonal on, and tweak it for colder months by introducing a little hickory smoke. Simple adjustments can make noteworthy transformations.
A bar in Southern California probably doesn’t need to feature a Hot Toddy on its holiday menu, but if you’re operating out of Bemidji, Minn., a winter warmer that’ll break the chill is sure to be a top seller.
Also, think of holiday traditions that are popular in your area. A spiced, warm Glühwein will remind Wisconsinites of their German grandmothers, while a hot bourbon milk punch is steeped in Southern hospitality. People gravitate toward comfort and tradition during the holidays; use it to your advantage.
Make pre-batching your go-to technique. Choose drinks like the Tom and Jerry or hot-buttered rum that have a batter as a component. The batter can be whipped up in one huge batch and frozen until service. That’s less than an hour of prep that will last you all season. Look for classic punch recipes; hot punches can be kept warm on low in a crockpot, while cold punches can be stored in a Cambro until service. A large bowl of punch that can serve a group of eight is efficient during holiday banquets and parties.