Cocktail-savvy consumers have come to expect to see drinks lists that reflect the season. But coming up with fresh ideas and changing menus frequently can be challenging for some bars and restaurants. The Hawthorne in Boston changes its drink menu more often than with the four seasons. Bar manager Jared Sadoian shares a few tips on inspiration and execution of seasonal cocktails.
1) Listen to your chefs. They have a finger on the pulse of fresh fruits, vegetables and the like, and they’ll know what’s good and when. You’ll also have a better idea of what they’re planning to use in the kitchen.
2) Tap into vendors. Your specialized food suppliers can also provide insight on culinary seasonality and give you some ideas for drinks. For example, one of our vendors, Specialty Foods Boston, will often send a newsletter attached to our invoices that lists out “fresh” or “new” items. These can be a good starting point when I’m creating a seasonally focused cocktail menu.
3) Try a gradual shift into seasons. All of the great fruits and vegetables that come onto the market don’t follow our traditional four seasons to a T. We are lucky at The Hawthorne to be able to change our menu more than four times a year, which allows a little bit more of an “ebb-and-flow” to the cocktails changing over time.
So instead of having to create seven new cocktails for one major “summer menu,” and potentially missing some key flavors of the summer just a few more weeks out, we can do one or two cocktails at a time. This gives our guests a reason to come back to sample new surprises throughout the season.
4) Extend seasonal flavors with shrubs. Drinking vinegars or shrubs are one of my favorite ways to preserve flavors and transport our guests to a different place.
Imagine fresh peaches—picked at the peak of ripeness in the summertime—packed with sugar and apple cider vinegar and turned into a beautiful, acidic and flavorful shrub. These shrubs can be used in the dead of winter, when the only “seasonality” we have in the northeast are root vegetables.
5) Balance your menu. Make sure your seasonal offering includes different styles of drinks. For instance, summer often brings to mind cold, shaken, citrus-driven refreshments, but an entire menu of these cocktails can become monotonous.
You might try adding in a stirred, flavorful yet low-ABV offering. Sherry is the best at this game: a crisp manzanilla or fino works great, and keeps the proof down so guests can have several.
Look for more on developing seasonal drink programs in the July/August issue of Cheers.