The cocktail revolution has made a big impression on bars and restaurants, but as the warm months approach, one easy and satisfying drink style doesn’t really get the creative attention it deserves. That’s too bad because long drinks - Coolers, Highballs and the like – can provide opportunities galore for improving drink presentation, quality and profitability without the laborious and sometimes difficult multiple-ingredient shaken cocktail.
It’s not that the supplier community hasn’t been trying – for example, recently in New York, Bombay Sapphire Gin in a promotion with Tom Collichio’s ‘wichcraft restaurants, created the Sapphire T in Shandy - 1 part Sapphire, 3/4 parts lemon juice, 1/2 part simple syrup and a bottle of Belgian wheat beer, garnished with lemon and orange slices. Simple, quick and yummy, and without the requirements for exact precision pouring – a slight over or under in haste will be managed by the mixer quite nicely. (Of course, over or under pouring is never correct, but it happens all the time – better in a drink with some leeway for error provided by copious mixer than in a precision cocktail.)
Tall drinks provide many advantages but too many operations depend on the default classics – Gin and Tonic, Vodka Soda, etc. – without upgrading them. Take the Spanish style of Gin and Tonic, which is a slightly elaborate presentation style using fruit and a large goblet like glass as well as gin and tonic. Made properly, the drink makes converts instantly of those who thought they didn’t have anything new to appreciate about the old classic.
Last May I was in Portugal where the weather is already hot by May, and fine dining restaurants in the Douro Valley and Porto quickly had rolled out White Port Coolers and Spritzers, a drink rarely seen here in the States but as simple and pleasant as any other summer thirst quencher. Port has become an exceedingly hard sell in the US, but whip up one of these and sample your staff of under-30 drinkers and you might find an instant surge in sales as they share their new thing with guests and friends.
Sherry Cobblers, Julep-types of any stripe, these too can be tweaked for long drink service, specific market preferences and consumer niches. The best long drinks are lower in alcohol, enhanced with fresh fruit, carbonated, and probably are already your best sellers – Rum and Coke, Jack or Jim and Coke, etc. But even those can be upgraded with a little thought and care, up sold as well.
Here’s an easy one: the Arnold Palmer is now an enormously popular summer drink in some markets. Surely even Arnie could use an occasional boost, with dark rum, perhaps, or brandy and a dash of liqueur. Whiskey and tea and whiskey and lemon are both naturals – why not add a little blended Scotch to the mix and call it a St. Andrews?
Task your bartenders with coming up with a few new long drink ideas each and try them out on the staff the next time you’re thinking about hiring pricey consultants to create your summer drink menu – I’m sure they have a better hand on what your customers will and won’t drink. If nothing else, it will better prepare you for the long drink season, when thirst quenchers are in the spotlight.