10 Tips for Savvy Signature Cocktails, Part 2
Editor’s Note: This is the final part in a two-part series looking at how you can update your cocktail menu to see top-line benefits. Read the first part here.
While making drinks can be fun, it’s not easy. Last week, Adam Seger discussed his five tips to enhance your cocktail menu, but for a bar or nightclub, the drink is the thing that keeps patrons sitting on the bar stools longer and ordering more. It takes more than just ingenuity and desire, but also it’s about great products and how bartenders are using them to tell your bar's story. Duggan McDonnell, founder and master blender at Campo de Encanto Pisco in San Francisco, discusses an additional five helpful hints to get your beverage program back on track.
6. Use great products. McDonnell doesn’t mince words. If the ingredients aren't good, then the drinks won’t be. “You have to have limes to make a Margarita. You have to have 100% agave tequila. You have to start with the right ingredients to create something delicious.” He continued that if an owner/operator isn’t willing to pay for premium spirits and fresh ingredients then “don’t start thinking about having a smart cocktail program.”
7. Deliver unique value. Guests are smart, McDonnell said. “You have to offer a consumer something that is unique, that is special and fresh.” If you don’t, then the consumer won’t see the value in it, he says. A guest will see the $14 pisco cocktail and the $9 Manhattan, and won’t see the value in the more expensive one. “The unique part comes from having something unique to the house and identity of the brand and the establishment.”
8. Build repeat business. “To have a consumer return several times in the month is to get higher cash flow,” McDonnell said. Repeat business will create that profitability that bar owner’s desire. “If someone comes in twice a year or some level of infrequency, and I’m trying to get an extra buck out of them, that’ a tourist trap,” he explains. “If I’m a bar at the top of a hotel, and all I get are tourists, then gouge them on it, but if I’m a neighborhood bar and can build regulars more than once a month, then you can create value and experience that makes people want to return.”
9. Know your story. If a bar or club doesn’t know its brand identity, then they’ll flounder. The drink menu will fail and people will stop coming. “You need to know where you come from to know what you should be selling,” McDonnell said. Drinks need to “derive from the concept. Any signature cocktail must be born from the concept and theme of the establishment.” Owners need to ask themselves: “What’s the theme? How is it driving the beverage theme? Is it a geographic theme, a time period theme?” From there, you can find ingredients and make drinks that will enhance the establishment.
10. Size of glassware is important. “The consumer doesn’t register that,” McDonnell said. A big glass, he says, can get you more, but it doesn’t deliver a value at the end. But a properly sized glass that’s tightly focused is important. Not only glassware but the look of ingredients can sell a drink, as well. “People eat and drink with their eyes,” he reminds. “And visually selling your drinks is important. A Negroni looks great in a glass … same thing is true with blackberry and a Cabernet Caipirinha—it’s a beautiful drink.” Once people see that drink, bartenders easily make another sale, he says.
Spice & Ice
All drink photos provided by Tanzy Restaurant