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Expanding your cocktail list

Question:

If you're a bar that does mostly beer and shots and you want to start offering crafty cocktails, how do you upgrade?

– Dania Rajendra, PR Consultant, Baltimore, MD

Answer:

It is smart to expand your cocktail program, especially if you perceive a market demand. Guests are very price sensitive to beer since these are branded items, often bottled, that are widely available. So unless you are offering a rare brew, some must-see entertainment or an unparalleled view, guests are cranky about paying you dollars more than your competitors charge for the same product.

With cocktails, on the other hand, you can charge premium prices for premium products. Liquor costs as a percentage of sales can be below 20% without too much of a stretch and if you add some signature cocktail creations to your menu, you can entice guests with something unique to your establishment.

“Start simply,” says Paul Tanguay of NYC-based beverage consultants Tippling Bros. “First and foremost have the equipment necessary to produce cocktails. A drink rail to line up shakers, ice bin and plenty of ice, Boston shakers, bar spoons, mixing glasses and strainers. There’s nothing worse than having cocktails take too long because of improper equipment”

Tanguay suggests starting with what you already have in inventory before spending a lot of money on new bottles. “Start with spirituous cocktails like variations on Manhattans that don’t require fresh fruit and are simple in terms of execution. Grab ideas from classic and modern recipe cocktail books. A lot of bars stock tons of liqueurs that they don’t use: Grand Marnier, St. Germain, Galliano, Chambord, Campari. You can use these in cocktails and don’t have to start muddling or making your own syrups right away.”

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