Q&A: Red Robin’s Katie Burkle On Creating Limited-Time Cocktails

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Creating limited-time cocktails is a matter of pairing the drink to the time of year.

We recently spoke with Katie Burkle, beverage director of Red Robin, about the casual dining burger chain’s new limited-edition Bourbon Sour (pictured above). This drink is made with Maker’s Mark, triple sec, lemon sour and a splash of orange juice with a red wine float. It’s intended to perk up their menu in winter 2o16.

Cheers: Why are you launching this drink (Bourbon Sour)?
Katie Burkle: The Bourbon Sour was developed with Maker’s Mark as part of Red Robin’s holiday menu as the complement to the savory flavors of our new Billion Dollar Baby burger. The cocktail provides guests with an exciting drink offering that will keep them coming back throughout the holiday season.

CH: What’s the advantage of launching limited-time drinks? How do you choose what to launch? How far back did you plan this?
KB: We are always evaluating our line up to ensure that we are delivering what the guest demands and the beverage offerings are appropriate for the limited-time-offering food features. Limited-time and seasonal-drink offerings are a great way to introduce guests to creative mixology trends and unique cocktails on a more frequent basis. To achieve this, it’s not uncommon for us to team up with our supplier partners, culinary team, and also listen to our guests to find the right drinks for our LTOs anywhere from six months to one year in advance.

CH: What makes this cocktail an appropriate drink for winter season?
KB: Winter and bourbon go hand-in-hand. To get guests into the holiday spirit, our bartenders combine Maker’s Mark Bourbon, triple sec, lemon sour and a splash of orange juice with a red wine float to create a flavorful drink with rich aromatics.

CH: Why did you pick the specific ingredients to use?
KB: Red Robin wanted to put our spin on a New York Sour and created an approachable cocktail with ingredients such as orange juice and red wine. The red wine also adds a bit of dryness to the Bourbon Sour, which makes the cocktail easy to drink and the perfect pairing for a juicy burger.

CH: What food items from the menu pair well with this?
KB: The Bourbon Sour is a great adult option to enjoy alongside any of our burgers, including the Billion Dollar Baby, a 100% Black Angus beef patty with peppered bacon, a golden-fried potato cake, creamy, truffle-flavored cheese blend, melted Fontina cheese, mayo, shredded romaine and grilled tomatoes on a toasted ciabatta bun.

CH: Are more customers ordering craft cocktails? Is Red Robin expanding their craft cocktail menu?
KB: Red Robin is always looking to expand our menu with limited-time offerings and new menu staples so that our loyal guests have something to look forward to on each visit. Red Robin does see an increase in spirit and cocktail purchases during this time of year, which gives us an opportunity to add a variety of drinks in LTOs that are seasonally appropriate and relevant to trends and our food features.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Cheers Magazine.

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