Spirits programs have gotten increasingly competitive as American consumers expect higher quality drinks and ingredients in order to part with their hard-earned dollars. The spirits program at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, with 142 domestic restaurants and 95 lounges, outdoor and pool bars, features 180+ premium spirits selections, 19 specialty cocktails showcased in a domestic beverage menu, 10 vacation-style cocktails featured in a pool bar menu, and dozens of additional cocktails created for highly-themed restaurants, bars and lounges. That, plus their well-established reputation for training and presentation, won Disney the VIBE VistaAward for best spirits program among hotels, casinos and cruise lines this year.
“Our spirits program supports the company’s strategic aim to offer a broad assortment of quality selections designed to create an unforgettable experience,” said Brad Ward, beverage sales and standards manager for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “The average stay at one of our resorts is over four days and our program features everything from handcrafted and specialty cocktails to premium spirits and more so guests never tire of the selections and can always find something new.”
Premium spirits are used in all specialty cocktails featured in the domestic beverage menus. Popular is the Agave Nectar Margarita made with Tres Generaciones Organic Plata Tequila, organic agave nectar, and fresh lime juice. High-end spirits are also standard in classic cocktails - the Rye Manhattan is made with Bulleit Rye, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth and Angostura Bitters garnished with Luxardo Maraschino Cherries. Dominating the sales mix are signature beverages such as the Magical Star Cocktail and Blue “Glow-tini,” along with vacation-style drinks with a Disney Twist – the Captain’s Mai Tai, Piña CoLAVA and Bahama Mama.
Disney’s spirits program includes specialty cocktails developed to suit highly-themed restaurants and lounges. For example, 22 French- and New Orleans-inspired handcrafted cocktails developed in partnership with Southern Wine and Spirits mixologist Armando Rosario are available at Club 33, a members-only private club inside Disneyland Park. California craft spirits are also featured at Club 33. Hawaiian-themed specialty cocktails are the stars at the Aulani Resort & Spa in Oahu, and handcrafted tiki cocktails and rums are featured at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at the Disneyland Resort in California.
Carthay Circle Restaurant and Lounge inside Disney California Adventure Park is modeled after the historic Carthay Circle Theatre where Walt Disney’s first full-length animated film premiered in 1937. Sixteen handcrafted classic cocktails are featured including several signature cocktails developed in partnership with Southern's Francesco Lafranconi. The Carthay Martini is prepared with Hendrick’s Gin or Double Cross Vodka, Lillet Blanc Dry Vermouth, and gourmet truffle olives served with an ice sphere made from locally sourced purified water. Other cocktails pay tribute to vintage Hollywood. An extensive premium spirits list developed in partnership with expert Doug Frost includes a diverse variety of small batch award-winning tequilas, rums, cognacs, armagnacs and whiskies.
Disney’s spirits program offers great breadth and depth. Trader Sam’s back bar displays more than 20 different brands of rums and vodkas. The restaurants and lounges at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa feature more than 40 single malt scotches, small batch bourbons, cognacs and rare selections that allow discriminating guests to indulge, including The John Walker Blended Scotch Whisky and Glenmorangie Pride 1981 Single Malt Whisky at $225 per ounce.
Managers and bartenders participate in comprehensive spirits training whenever a new beverage menu or cocktails are introduced, receive step-by-step recipe instructions during the training and display drinks are created to ensure every cocktail is executed properly. Disney provides four-color handouts that highlight each cocktail including recipes and pictures and conducts regular tastings. When bartenders and managers return from training, servers are introduced to the new beverage menus and cocktails. All servers are trained to explain and recommend specialty and signature cocktails including premium spirits.
“Our current spirits program is outperforming previous years’ programs, and we feel confident that we have the right mix of specialty cocktails and premium spirits,” said Ward. Specialty drink sales have increased six percent over the prior year at lounges and bars, and specialty cocktail sales at restaurants have increased five percent. Additionally, specialty drink sales at pool bar locations increased seven percent over last year. Thanks to an educated and well-trained staff, innovative menus and an outstanding variety of cocktails and spirits, we have exceeded our goals and can offer guests a truly memorable beverage experience.”