Perhaps spring doesn’t present as obvious an opportunity for a seasonal cocktail menu as winter or summer, but introducing lighter, fruitier cocktails can help your customers think about warming up for the coming months.
“Our customers start ordering differently right at the start of spring,” says Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herb’s, a 61-year-old landmark and sports bar on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis and a winner of a 2001 Cheers Award for Beverage Excellence. “They are thinking of spring break.”
Margaritas are “always huge” at this time of year, according to Jeffers. Two of the most popular are Stub & Herb’s Strawberry Gold Margarita, made with Cuervo Gold, lime, strawberry mix, orange juice and Grand Marnier, and its Tropical Margarita, made with Cuervo Gold, triple sec, lime juice, melon liqueur and pineapple juice. Another favorite is the Western Margarita (Cuervo Gold, lime juice, Southern Comfort and orange juice).
Even beer sales change at Stub & Herb’s with the advent of spring. “Right before spring break, Corona sales start increasing,” says Jeffers, who, this year, got quite a bit of attention — and sales — with a sign in the window that read “Pants A Little Tight? Drink Beck’s Light.” Jeffers reports that sales of hard lemonade and wine coolers also increase in the spring.
So what are customers looking for as the temperature rises and the days grow ever longer?
“Mainly, they are moving from the more warming, darker liquors of winter toward more refreshing drinks made with white spirits,” says Julie Reiner, bar manager of C3 Restaurant & Lounge in New York City. Reiner keeps her winter cocktail menu through February, then introduces a spring one in March, although she admits the changes are subtle. “The two big differences [in the year] are summer and winter, of course,” she says. “The changes for spring are minimal.”
One C3 springtime offering straddles winter and summer. Reiner infuses spiced rum with pineapple and serves it straight-up, Martini-style.
The CV Rose, made with Courvoisier, above, and the Sweet Red Kiss and Fat Cat Fizz (right), are French-inspired solutions to spring cocktails.
Like Reiner, many other operators start showcasing fruit flavors as the weather turns balmy. At Red Square, a Russian-themed restaurant in Miami Beach owned by China Grill Management, there are always at least two or three infused vodkas at the bar. “Right now, we are using mixed berries and cantaloupe/pineapple, which is excellent,” says Nick Zeitlin, one of the managers. “As summer comes closer, we use sweeter fruits, so right now we would do something like green apples, while four or five months from now, we would do something like pears, which are sweeter.”
One favorite at Red Square with a spring feel is the Bolshevik Bellini (champagne, peach vodka and peach schnapps). All the cocktails are Red Square are priced at $9.
Duane Dennis, bartender at Bamboo Club, an Asian-themed concept that is about to open its third restaurant in the Phoenix area, agrees with Zeitlin that melons make great spring vodka infusions. “Cantaloupe and honeydew work well. Watermelon doesn’t: it gets as flat as a pancake. Kiwis, which are a melon, are great: they add a lot of color and a flavor that is fresh, light and fruity.”
Dennis also uses melons to infuse tequila, though he usually adds a bit of triple sec to the resulting drink to make the taste a bit smoother. And he uses a pineapple-infused rum to make the Bamboo Club’s pina coladas.
The aptly named Infusion in San Francisco always has eight infusions on hand and changes them seasonally. “In the winter, we are very heavy on the citrus, such as mandarin orange,” reports Erin Robinson, restaurant manager. “As winter moves into spring, we start doing things like berries, though we still hold onto citrus in the early spring. For instance, we might do a strawberry/lemon. Then, in the summer, we move into more tropical fruits, like pineapple.”
NYC’s Luvbuzz offers Sno-cones (below), and such innovations as the Creamsicle and Purple Haze, to keep customers satisfied in the shoulder season.
Most of Infusion’s infusions are served straight up, though the restaurant’s Strawberry/Lemon Drop has become its signature drink. Other favorite variations of the lemon drop at Infusion include a ginger lemon drop and blackberry.
Customers also like to mix their infusions with fruit juice. “The grapefruit infusion mixed with grapefruit juice is especially popular,” notes Robinson.
At one point, Infusion experimented with infusing vodkas with flowers, such as rose petals. “We did a lavender for Valentine’s Day, which I happened to love,” Robinson says, “but nobody drank them.” Still, she says, the five-year-old Infusion’s patrons are slowly becoming more adventurous, trying things beyond the old standbys of strawberry, pineapple and vanilla.One thing customers are definitely looking for as the weather warms is fun. That’s why LuvBuzz, a lounge in New York City, begins offering its BuzzCones as soon as the weather warms. These spiked Sno-Cones are served in a plastic coconut. They are made with flavored ice made by a Sno-Cone machine and come in flavors such as raspberry margarita and pina colada.
Other big springtime sellers at LuvBuzz include the lounge’s signature LuvJuice, a strawberry/lemon martini made with Stoli Stasberi and Stoli Limonnaya, and the Purple Haze, a martini made with Stoli Razberi, Stoli Vanil and a splash of Chambord. Another springtime favorite is the Creamsicle, made with Stoli Vanil, Cointreau and orange juice. “It tastes just like the famous popsicle from your childhood,” says Cathy Cervenka, one of the partners.
The Pineapple Smooch and Kama Sutra depend on the fruit-and-cognac Alizé for zingy spring flavor.
Refreshing drinks, new flavors and fun, that’s what customers are looking for in the spring, say these operators. It’s time to get cracking.
SPRING SOME OF THESE
The Strawberry Lemon Drop
from Infusion in San Francisco
2 oz. strawberry-infused vodka
1/2 oz. triple sec
juice of half a fresh lemon
Pour all ingredients over ice and shake well. Strain into a sugar-rimmed Martini glass and garnish with a lemon wedge or twist.
A springtime favorite at Stub & Herb’s,
served in a 25 oz. mug.
1 oz. strawberry schnapps
1 oz. sloe gin
1 oz. melon liqueur
1 oz. amaretto
Big splash of sweet & sour
Equal parts pineapple and cranberry juice
1 oz. Sauza Extra Gold
1/2 oz. Midori
2 oz. sweet & sour mix
Shake with ice and pour into a salted Martini glass. Garnish with two orange wedges or lemon balls.
Pineapple Mint Julep
Several sprigs of mint
1 tsp. superfine sugar
1/2 oz. Jack Daniel’s
1/2 oz. creme de menthe
2 oz. pineapple juice
Muddle mint sprigs in bottom of a highball glass with sugar. Fill glass with crushed or cracked ice. Add remaining ingredients. Stir. Garnish with a mint sprig.
Lily Pad Martini
1 1/2 oz. Marie Brizard Kiwi/Strawberry
1 1/2 oz. citrus vodka
Serve in a chilled Martini glass. Garnish
with a kiwi slice.
The Music Vox
1 1/4 oz. Vox Vodka
1/4 oz. DeKuyper Razzmatazz
Shake vodka and Razzmatazz well, strain into Martini glass and top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist.
1 oz. Du Bouchett Tangy Sour
1 oz. Du Bouchett Peach Schnapps
2 1/2 oz. sweet and sour mix
Splash of 7Up
Combine all ingredients in glass and
1 oz. Alizé Red Passion
1 oz. orange juice
1 oz. Alizé VS Cognac
Shake well with ice and strain into
a chilled Martini glass.
The Infusion Cream Soda
3 oz. vanilla-infused vodka
Pour vodka over ice. Add ginger
ale to taste.
The Bomb Pop
Another warm-weather favorite from
Stub & Herb’s.
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. melon liqueur
1 oz. DeKuyper Razzmatazz
Big splash sweet & sour
New York’s C3 Restaurant & Lounge is heralding in spring with this new recipe.
1 1/2 oz. OP Citrus Aquavit
1/2 oz. Grand Marnier
1 oz. passionfruit purée
Served straight up, garnished with
a lime wheel.