Incorporating Beverage Trends into Your Bar Menu

By Ray Foley, Heather Dismore

Every bar owner wants to stay on top of the Next Big Thing in cocktails. And it’s easy to give this advice to bar owners: “Hey, watch for trends.” But it takes another step to figure out how to actually do it. Follow these guidelines for staying aware of trendy drinks and techniques:

  • Read: Read everything related to the industry that you can get your hands on. Trade magazines (like Bartender and Nations Restaurant News) are good. Consumer magazines, such as Food & Wine, GQ, and Esquire, are also good because they often have roundups or summary articles on the ten best scotches, whiskeys, and the like. Watch for articles on hot bars in big cities. You can go visit or even just look at their websites to see what they’re pouring.

  • Watch: Websites dedicated to liquor, wine, and spirits often have a video component. Watch these videos. Yes, they are often glorified commercials, but you can still learn something. You may pick up a tip that you can use in your bar (for example, rinsing your glass in absinthe before mixing a Sazerac Cocktail).

  • Taste: Often when people talk (or write) about cocktails, they talk about flavors, recipes, and ingredients. Make these recipes, taste the ingredients, experience these flavors. Ultimately, that’s how you learn. You make the drinks and consider how they taste relative to what your customers like. So if your customers tend to like their drinks a bit sweeter than the tested cocktail, you may decide it’s not a fit, or you could modify it to add an extra dash of simple syrup for your crowd.

  • Talk: Talk about your bar with other bar owners, liquor sales people, bartenders, and patrons. These people travel, drink at other places, and most likely have a different set of experiences than you. They may bring you the trendy tidbits you’d never expect. Maybe you have a conversation with a regular where he mentions that a great bar in his hotel last week had a rye cocktail that was outstanding. Or a liquor rep brings you a tip on a line of craft Mexican beers that will soon be available to serve in your tequila bar.

  • Write: Take notes on all your reading, watching, tasting, and talking. Over time, you’ll likely see patterns starting to emerge. Looking at these patterns can help you decide where to take your cocktail menu, liquor list, and beverage program over time. For example, you can see when elderflower liqueur first hit your radar and how many times since then you’ve seen cocktails made with it. Notes will help you decide when and if you should add it to your menu.