Drinking for Health: Cocktails with a Purpose


The Gloamin’ Homer, courtesy of JW Marriott.

JW Marriott program uses fresher ingredients for beverages

Two years ago, the JW Marriott chain introduced its Cocktails with Purpose program, rolling it out in select locations with the goal of meeting guests’ desire for wellness.

The program was hugely successful and although it continues to have a place on the chain’s bar menus, its principles are now embraced through many of the cocktails the bars shake up.

“We use almost all fresh ingredient in the cocktails for our Lobby Lounge,” says Brianna Muniz, food and beverage manager at the JW Marriott Chicago. “We implement a lot of different elements that are very appealing to our health-conscious guests.”

The idea is to meet consumer needs but also offer an elevated bar experience, she says. “The quality of your drinks is elevated when you don’t have processed flavors, and it makes for a much more balanced cocktail when you use fresh ingredients. It’s a better tasting cocktail too. I think it’s become the expectation, to do at least fresh lemon and lime juice. Here we have changed our expectation to do everything we possibly can and don’t like to source out anything. This way, we also have the opportunity to source local ingredients.”

Examples of the JW Marriott Chicago’s cocktails include the Twee Meridian, using banana-infused mezcal (housemade using dehydrated banana chips soaked for 24 hours in mezcal), Domaine de Canton ginger liquor, egg white, fresh lime juice, and housemade grenadine syrup. There’s also the Gloamin’ Homer, which is made with Bulleit Rye, fresh lemon juice, fresh cantaloupe juice, housemade simple syrup and Bitterman's Hopped Grapefruit Bitters.

“We try to make as many products as we can and use as many fresh ingredients as we can,” Muniz says. These include ginger beer, lime cordial, cantaloupe juice, watermelon juice, ginger syrup, raspberry syrup and chamomile tea syrup.

“Cocktails with Purpose was the groundwork for our program,” she says. “Guest expectations here are quite different from a small town in the Midwest, for example, because Chicago has a great craft cocktail scene. Our guests have many choices when they’re looking to go out for a cocktail so we want to be able to provide the best possible experience for them.”

There are no downsides to making cocktails a little healthier, except a small increase in labor, Muniz says. “I think what intimidates a lot of places from doing it is the cost and the time. The cost is not more. To get it set up takes time but once you have it down to a routine, it really doesn’t take much more time.”

Another plus is that the JW Marriott Chicago introduces two new cocktails a month — one with alcohol and one alcohol-free — “which keeps the creative juices flowing for the bartenders,” she says.

This month the bar’s debuting Seven Paces, an alcohol-free drink featuring muddled Granny Smith apples, muddled oranges and over-steeped Earl Grey tea.

The Colonial is the new cocktail. It’s a twist on the Old Fashioned and includes Bacardi 8, orange bitters, demerara syrup and Angostura bitters.