This is considered by most experts to be the golden age of the cocktail, rivalling the legendary times just prior to Prohibition and the ensuing years of the great mixologists as they traveled to foreign countries and discovered new exotic ingredients. Although this trend began in New York City and established itself primarily in such locations as San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, today it can be found in small cities and large towns across the country as casual fine dining restaurants look for ways to increase their business and offer their customers a new experience.
Many of these restaurants focus on using local fresh ingredients, especially those that focus on fusion style cooking. This is also one of the driving trends behind the craft cocktail movement. Bartenders and mixologists are looking to fresh ingredients, such as fresh squeezed juices and syrups produced in-house, to replace the mass produced ingredients previously common in the bar scene. They are also including exotic fruits, such as kiwi and star fruit, and expanding their herbs far beyond mint to include such items as rosemary, basil and anise.
Helping this partnership take off is the opportunity for bar managers to create a cocktail list that pairs with the menu selections. Much like wine pairing dinners that have been an industry standard for decades, restauranteurs are discovering that by creating specific cocktails that reflect the same flavors coming out of the kitchen, they can help create a brand for their restaurant. An established brand creates loyalty, and it is repeat business that makes a restaurant successful.
As well as being a partnership with the food program, a good cocktail program can help a bar stand out on its own and drive business that way. People will begin to recognize the restaurant not only as a place for the occasional dinner but also a good choice to meet for a drink with friends who are visiting or arrange for a work related happy hour outing. The greatest advertising a restaurant can do is by introducing itself to people, and a solid bar scene as part of the restaurant will do that. Especially if the menu selection or culinary theme is something that people are unfamiliar with, any way that encourages people to come through the door to check them out is crucial. A casual place to have an exciting cocktail is a great way to do that.
With no signs of fading or simply being a trend, craft cocktails and a vibrant bar scene are the perfect complement to any successful restaurant. By focusing the bar and drinks to match thematically and flavorfully the menu items from the kitchen, it helps to create an overall environment that will help turn a restaurant into a destination. Big city cocktails and culinary masterpieces are now available in a small town near you.
Jack Terry is a freelance writer who has been covering the food and beverage industry for over 20 years.