A listing of a drink’s ingredients on a cocktail menu without any additional context or description can be confusing or misleading. Even if guests are familiar with all—or most—of the components, it’s not always apparent which flavors will be at the forefront and which will be merely supporting players.
An innovative new beverage program at Omni Hotels and Resorts helps eliminate any guest confusion or apprehension thanks to an interactive, user-friendly and engaging format. Flavor Origins, which rolled out in May 2019, features a selection of 24 craft cocktails organized according to one of three categories: fruit, botanical and earth. It’s also won Omni the Best Overall Beverage Program award for 2020.
Here’s how Flavor Origins works: Drinks are further defined within each category based on their predominant flavor. An accompanying quadrant-formatted chart moves from light and refreshing to strong and aromatic, and from comforting to adventurous, with numbers on the chart corresponding to each drink.
The program is all about discovery, according to Devin Burns, Omni’s vice president of rooms and food and beverage. “Whether guests are looking for something new or familiar, we’re aiming for their experience to be fulfilling, possibly unexpected, but mostly fun,” he says.
“When guests stay with us, they’re typically looking for more of an adventure than when they are at home, [and] they might be more inclined to try something new.”
Burns and his team aimed to provide a more-robust, fun and unique presentation vs. a traditional menu with lengthy, hard-to-read descriptions. Flavor Origins is designed to be easier to explore, with each sip getting its own box with an illustration of the highlighted elements and glassware and listing the base spirit (or zero-proof “spirit”), elements, a brief description and price.
Broad Flavor ranges
Omni selected three main categories that would allow for the broadest range of flavor. “Fruit is juicy and appealing to most guests; earth includes minerals, wood and smoke, which are comforting—especially around the holiday season; and botanical contains flowers and seeds,” Burns says.
He notes that while the latter elements can be overpowering or overwrought on their own, mixing them with other ingredients in the proper ratio can render them highly enjoyable.
Among the most popular in the fruit category is the Rock Star Martini with Grey Goose vodka, Chandon Brut sparkling wine, Passoa passion fruit liqueur, cinnamon and lime. A winning botanical sip is Smooth Flight, with Aviation gin, Chambord, Re’al blackberry puree-infused syrup, lemon, egg white and Scrappy’s lavender bitters. And the Untraditional Manhattan, with High West American Prairie bourbon, Martini & Rossi Riserva Speciale Ambrato and Benedictine with cedar smoke and served on a smoked cedar plank—is indeed earthy.
A sense of adventure
The Flavor Origins program stirs visitors to step out of their comfort zones in several ways. For one, if someone is crazy about a certain flavor, such as banana, but isn’t generally a bourbon fan, they may still be willing to give the Go Bananas cocktail a try.
The drink combines Elijah Craig small-batch bourbon, Cruzan aged light rum, St. Elizabeth Allspice liqueur, Re’al banana, lime, bitters and club soda. “We might have just introduced a new love for whiskey to someone!” Burns says.
What’s more, cross-referencing the cocktails with a flavor chart lets guests select an overall style without getting too hung up on flavors about which they might otherwise be lukewarm—or outright dislike.
“They can choose an area of the chart that intrigues them, maybe cocktail #18, which is light and refreshing but also a little adventurous,” Burns notes.
“We would then tell the guest what that cocktail is, and it might be something a little different than what they would typically order, but they’ll give it a go!”
Omni created a dedicated section of the website for Flavor Origins, with pages for fruit, earth and botanical. The luxury hotlier promoted the new menu on Facebook and Instagram with paid and organic posts and the hashtag #OmniFlavorOrigins and the brand hashtag #AtTheOmni.
The social media team also shot stylistic videos in slow motion across a black backdrop with beverages overflowing into glasses, and highlighted ingredients such as lemons and limes bouncing into the frame.
Even though Omni has reduced the number of cocktail offerings offered from 26 to 24, it has seen a 17% increase in sales since launching Flavor Origins. Burns views this more-personalized hospitality experience as a growing trend that others will embrace.
“We absolutely think this style of selecting your food or beverage will continue to get more popular. We’re excited to be one of the first brands to execute this type of menu, and our guests really seem to love it.”