The food and beverage industry is one of the most trend-driven businesses in the world. Every year there’s a new “it restaurant” and every season there’s a new trending ingredient. In a perfect world, we'd all stay on the cutting edge of the latest trends and the newest cocktails but owning or managing a restaurant or bar is a complicated endeavor and trend forecasting is just one small part of the job. A good way you can “cheat” your way into being on-trend is by taking inspiration from other menus. In this article, we are going to look at a few of our favorite bar drink menus and discuss some takeaways from them.
Far from a “best-kept secret,” Raised by Wolves is one of the most progressive and interesting bars in the nation. Though well renowned for its hidden entrance which features a rotating wall, Raised by Wolves is as much substance as it is style.
One look at their menu reveals a selection that is both understated and over-the-top decadent. It features fun takes on classic drinks, like the Island Old-Fashioned, a banana-infused spin on the American favorite. Another drink, called the Mild Sedative, levels up the classic Painkiller. These drinks are accessible and straightforward, while also offering something new to the patron.
On the other hand, the menu is not afraid to flex its muscle. One corner of the menu is titled the Reserve List and features some of the finest ingredients that money can buy. Included in this section is an Old-Fashioned that boasts a price tag of $699. Equal parts clever marketing and quality cocktailing, this drink provides an immediate conversation starter for anyone who looks at the menu. While your establishment may not be able to justify a $700 menu item, do not be afraid to be bold. This will give your guests something to marvel at and tell their friends about. Who knows, one day someone might even order one.
The Aviary is a world-famous cocktail bar located in Chicago, created by the Alinea Group. This restaurant group is well known for their namesake Chicago establishment, and like their other restaurants, they push the boundaries of what is possible with food and beverage.
The Aviary’s menu is constantly changing and not currently available online. However, the reputation that precedes this bar is one that should inspire owner/operators all over. Past Aviary menus have featured combinations like Everything Bagel Seasoning and Rye Whiskey, Carrot Cake and Gin, and Black Pepper-Infused Banana Brandy. These combinations are excitingly creative and wonderfully progressive.
The Aviary is also known for inventing their own cocktail-making techniques, using liquid nitrogen and harnessing the power of science to push the envelope of mixology.
Liquid nitrogen may or may not have a place in your specific establishment but it’s fair to say that there's room for creativity in any bar. When creating drink specials or new menu items, consider the Aviary. Be progressive, be bold, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.
Smuggler’s Cove is likely the best tiki bar in the world. Since opening in 2009, it has established itself as one of the top cocktail destinations and a benchmark for what a bar can be. The menu is strictly tiki, but it features both traditional drinks as well as original recipes.
One of our favorite things about this menu is its fearlessness. Simplicity is not something that Smuggler’s Cove takes into consideration. Many of their drinks feature half a dozen or more ingredients. It is impressive, to say the least, that Smuggler’s Cove can create such perfectly balanced cocktails with so many components.
Simplicity has its place; however, skillful bartenders should not be afraid to layer ingredients and components in their drinks. When creating new menu items, do not be afraid of the “more is more” philosophy. In the right hands, six or seven ingredients in a cocktail can work in perfect harmony.
If you’re looking to create a great food and beer menu, check out the Donut Bar. Although not as world-renowned as other bars on this list, Donut Bar and its menu prove that fun is the way forward. By day, Donut Bar is just that - a place to go get donuts. But on the weekends, Donut Bar features a rotating selection of draft beers. These beers are hand selected from craft breweries to pair with specific types of donuts.
Eating and drinking go hand in hand, but Donut Bar takes that idea to a new level. By combining these items on their menu, Donut Bar provides a fun, casual atmosphere that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The donuts are handmade and freshly baked and feature playful flavors like birthday cake, Pop-Tart, and the classic “Homer Simpson” pink and sprinkles. Meanwhile, a rotating selection of 24 craft beers provides the perfect accompaniment to these sweet treats.
As you design your menu or create new daily specials, remember that you don’t always have to take yourself too seriously. Have fun with your establishment. Customers will appreciate it and so will your end-of-year profits.
Stealing, Copying and Taking Inspiration
In our business, you always have to provide the customer with something fresh. As time goes on, that only gets more and more difficult. For this reason, we are big fans of taking inspiration from your peers. Whether that means putting your own spin on another bar’s drink or just finding inspiration in the mentality of another menu, be sure to keep your ear to the ground. You just may find your next fan favorite.