Bartending and menu creation are inherently creative endeavors. The key to crafting a perfect menu is in balancing innovation with an eye on the bottom line. Profitable cocktails increase your bar's profit margin and allow more room for creativity. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of nine profitable classic cocktails that balance the books and drive revenue.
Defining Bar Profit Margin For Cocktails
Before we get into the list, we need to define exactly what metrics were used to determine the profitability of the cocktails. We started with the pour cost of each drink, with 18-24% being an industry-reported average.
Many consider a 20% pour cost to be a reasonably ambitious per-drink target. However, there are a million variables involved here. If your bar is bringing a steady profit at a 24% pour cost, we’re not going to argue.
But, for the purpose of finding objectively and inherently profitable cocktails, we’re using the industry-standard 18% pour cost as a baseline. All of the classic drinks you’ll find listed here are going to keep you well under that figure by more than a couple of percentage points.
Best Bar Profit Margin for Whiskey Cocktails
Old Fashioned: 13.8% Pour Cost
There’s no surprise here. The Old Fashioned is the cocktail that started it all. It's simple to make and economical to feature on your cocktail list. Not only does it offer a very low pour cost, but Old Fashioned's are typically a popular order. Of all the drinks on our list, the Old Fashioned is a veritable piggy bank for bars to keep on menus. One quick tip: place high-margin cocktails like the Old Fashioned near the top of your cocktail menu. It's one of many bar hacks to help you increase your sales.
Whiskey Sour: 16.1% Pour Cost
A signature combination for many profitable cocktails is a mix of spirit with fresh juice and sugar. Using house spirits eliminates a huge chunk of the drink’s pour cost. With the cocktail’s sweeter components taking the near-center stage, you can skip reaching for top-shelf whisky. Properly storing fresh-squeezed juice can lengthen its longevity and use, cutting down on added costs. However, it's important to balance this act by replacing fresh juice often to ensure premium drink quality for your guests. As most of Whiskey Sour’s components are inexpensive, it’s no surprise that this one made our list.
Best Bar Profit Margin for Vodka Cocktails
Mule: 9.4% Pour Cost
Mules are runaway hits on many cocktail lists. With a staggeringly low 9.4% pour cost and a price tag that can comfortably be pushed into the $11.00+ range, the Mules are highly profitable cocktails. Ginger beer takes center stage, allowing you to serve palatable, mid-range Vodka. Svedka or Absolut makes a perfectly fine Mule. It's also incredibly simple to serve. This no-brainer classic should sit prominently at the top of your menu for maximum visibility.
Best Bar Profit Margin for Tequila Cocktails
Margarita: 13.1% Pour Cost
Overwhelmingly made of spirit, it may be surprising to find the Margarita on this list. Between flavors and recipe variants, there’s a lot of (profitable) room to play in the Margarita, and that drives this drink’s average pour-cost down significantly. Experiment with non-spirit ingredients like fruit purees to offer a unique take on the classic while keeping pour-costs low.
Paloma: 10.4% Pour Cost
When the sun is out, tequila is our go-to. As we approach the spring season, consider driving traffic to your bar or restaurant patio with fun tequila specials. The Paloma, in particular, is an underrated moneymaker. Comprised mostly of grapefruit soda, the drink offers a staggeringly low 10.4% pour cost and can comfortably be priced in the $10-$12 region. Between its low cost and high mass appeal, it's a solid cocktail for bars to include on their menu.
Best Bar Profit Margin for Rum Cocktails
Mojito: 13% Pour Cost
Much to the chagrin of many bartenders, the Mojito is an inherently profitable drink. Some bartenders have even likened the drink to a disease within a bar: not only are they incredibly time-consuming to make, but they also tend to attract lots of eyes. Once a casual drinker sees a Mojito, they want a Mojito. And for good reason — they're delicious! But, the fact remains — Mojitos are cheap to make. Mojitos can comfortably be priced in the $12-$14 range, creating a very hefty profit margin. Tip: with the influx of new and inexpensive rums and rhums on the market, try swapping traditional white rum with something new for an exciting and flavorful twist.
Daiquiri: 13.6% Pour Cost
As far as we're concerned, Daiquiris should have a spot on just about any menu. Aside from its <14% pour cost, Daiquiris require very little work from the bartender. It's a shaken, three-ingredient cocktail that doesn’t need a special glass or garnishes. While it’s difficult to ask for more than $12 for a Daiquiri, the low pour cost makes this a very profitable drink.
Best Bar Profit Margin for Gin Cocktails
Tom Collins: 13.4% Pour Cost
The Tom Collins is a perfect example of a profitable gin cocktail. The recipe is simple to make and the drink can easily be slotted in at a ‘premium’ price. Besides being cheap to make, the Tom Collins can present a blank-enough canvas to allow for some creative riffs on the drink. While going too off-book can drive up the pour cost, a traditional Tom Collins is a great way to make some serious cash (without much work).
Best Bar Profit Margin for Champagne Cocktails
Mimosa: 13.3% Pour Cost
A bartender can churn out dozens of Mimosas in a few minutes time, with the per-drink cost often hovering right around $1.15. In terms of unit cost and pour cost, it’s one of the cheapest and most cost-effective options for a bar to include on its menus. We wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘underrated’ — its status as a money-making brunch powerhouse is well deserved.