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8 Easy Ingredients that will Instantly Upgrade Your Bar Program

It’s a tough business out there, and the (very harsh) reality is that if you’re not constantly improving, you run the risk of getting left in the dust. Luckily, ‘constantly improving’ doesn’t have to mean an entire overhaul of your operation. With a few tweaks here and there, leveling up your establishment doesn’t have to be a daunting task. Today, we’re going to start with your stock. A few versatile spirits and mixers are really all it takes to upgrade just about every drink on your menu. So, we’ve assembled a brief (but diverse) list of ingredients that can give your bar an instant upgrade.


Bitters are perhaps the biggest ‘little’ way to upgrade your cocktails. A single bottle lasts a long time, and just a few drops can instantly transform any drink. Chances are you already have the most basic bitters in-house: Angostura and orange bitters. They belong in every bar, but it’s also a great idea to branch out. Think about bitters like salt -- you don’t want a cocktail to taste like bitters, but you can instead use them to align and accentuate flavors.

A good starting place? Lavender bitters like Scrappy's Lavender Bitters strike a great balance between unique and versatile, making them a fantastic option for breathing some new life into your cocktails.


Banane Du Bresil

We recently spoke about the growing trend of banana flavor in cocktails, and Giffard’s Banane du Bresil is our favorite incarnation of that trend. It’s a fruit-derived liqueur, yes, but it’s a far cry from the 99 Bananas and green apple schnapps of the mid-2000s. Banane du Bresil is made from a maceration of (you guessed it) bananas from Brazil, which is then enhanced by a splash of Cognac.

Banane du Bresil is an easy, versatile spirit that can add a hint of tropical, tiki-flavored fun to any number of cocktails. Want to tiki-fy an Old Fashioned? Here ya go. Looking for a simple banana daiquiri? Done. Although Banane du Bresil might feel very ‘niche’, it’s actually a surprisingly versatile way to upgrade a huge variety of drinks.


Weird Simple Syrups

We all know the recipe. One part sugar, one part water, and you’re done. Really, though, simple syrups should be looked at as more of a blank canvas. They provide a great medium for infusions and variations. On top of that -- an infused simple syrup is a great way to get rid of ugly or old produce. Got some questionable citrus? Steep it in some simple syrup for a fantastic Citrus Syrup. Alternatively, you can even look at what kind of sugar you’re using. Try ditching the white sugar, and opt for a Turbinado or brown sugar instead. This can add a fantastic, earthy dimension to your cocktails.

All in all, changing up your simple syrup is a great (and economical) way to incorporate new, diverse flavors into your drinks. In fact, this type of subtle experimentation can be the thing that moves a cocktail from ‘good’ to ‘great’.


Good Vermouth

Vermouth ain’t just for martinis anymore. Sure -- there’s nothing inherently wrong with something like Martini & Rossi. But, there are so many fantastic, flavor-forward vermouths being made today that to ignore the category is to do yourself a huge disservice. By definition, vermouth is just a wine that’s been aromatized (infused with botanicals) and fortified (spiked with brandy). Feeling frisky? Try making your own.

But, bringing in a slightly-upgraded version of vermouth is a great way to add a bit of panache and old-school flair to your cocktail program. More and more, vermouths are being re-examined and even sipped on their own, and for good reason -- they’re darn tasty.


(American) Brandy

Alright, we’ll admit it: this one is half trend-prediction and half easy-upgrade. But the fact remains, Americans are slowly diversifying beyond whiskey. American drinkers are looking for new brown liquors to drink, and American bartenders are looking for new riffs on classic cocktails. Enter brandy. Made from any type of fruit, American Brandy often packs a powerful balance between fruitiness and oaky, aged quality.

There was a time when brandy was a very ‘all or nothing’ sort of proposition. It was either bottom-shelf or $600 per bottle -- but not anymore. Now, more and more whiskey distillers like Copper & Kings Distillery are producing incredibly brandies for an incredibly amicable price point.


Non-Alcoholic Spirits

For a while now, people have been wondering if the non-alc movement is ever going to slow down. Well, as we predicted in early 2019, non-alc is still very much the drink-du-jour. Companies like Seedlip are enjoying enormous success as more young people are drinking less and less. With that said, incorporating non-alcoholic options into your menu is a great way to diversify, and even bring in a whole new customer base.


Better Tonic

At Provi, we’re definitely on team “Drink Better Booze”, but we’re also in the less-often-discussed “Use Better Mixers” camp. And today, we’re talking tonic. While Schwepp’s and Canada Dry are good options for some bars, there’s been such an influx of new, cutting-edge mixer companies that it’s about time you upgraded your G&T. After all, gin is getting more and more interesting every day, so you’ll want a tonic that’s up to the task.

Our pick? Jack Rudy Small Batch Tonic. It’s a concentrated syrup, which allows you to determine how much of the pleasantly bitter, quinine flavor you want in your drinks.


Real Grenadine

Say it with us: “Grenadine is not made from cherries.

If you’re buying grocery store grenadine, you’re probably getting some combination of corn syrup, red food coloring, and cherry extract. It lacks the flavor, texture, and freshness that “real” grenadine can bring to a drink. Authentic grenadine is a pomegranate syrup, which admittedly presents some hurdles. Making pomegranate syrup in-house is incredibly labor and resource-intensive. But luckily, there are plenty of good bottled grenadines that use real pomegranate juice. Jack Rudy and Small Hand Foods both make game-changing grenadines that fit the bill.


Alex Squiers


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