Having saturated entrees, appetizers and sides as well as emerged in adult beverages and desserts, spicy flavors have finally made their way into the last existing mealpart: non-alcoholic beverages. Operators are taking the complication out of innovation by simply using one or two spicy ingredients to heat up already-popular drinks. Restaurants can menu these drinks at higher price points because consumers are willing to pay more for premium, unique beverages. For example, consumers expect to pay $1 more for a specialty coffee beverage than a regular coffee, according to Technomic’s Beverage Consumer Trend Report.
Further, as predicted in Technomic’s Season’s Eatings report, operators like Starbucks are taking mainstay cold-weather flavors like cinnamon to the next level by pairing with chili for a sweet-heat combo. Expect to continue to see more fusions like this through fall and winter as these high-margin items can help differentiate restaurants.
Let's take a look at new spicy beverages.
Starbucks’ Chile Mocha
Joining the returning Pumpkin Spice Latte on Starbucks’ fall menu this year is the Chile Mocha. The beverage combines espresso, steamed milk, cocoa and cinnamon powder, topped with whipped cream and sprinkled with ancho and cayenne pepper powders, cinnamon, paprika, sugar and sea salt. It’s available hot, iced or blended, and can be made with hot chocolate instead of coffee.
Sonic’s Chipotle Spiced Margarita Island Breeze
In late July, Sonic Drive-In launched a line of new Island Breeze Frozen Drinks, including this Chipotle Spiced Margarita version. Scott Uehlein, vice president of product innovation and development for Sonic, says the drink features “a classic mix of lime, lemon and orange flavors with a twist of mango [and] a hint of smoky chipotle.” Despite the name, alcohol is not included.
Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts’ Mint Lemonade Cayenne Milkshake
This two-unit Ohio chain’s Boardman location unveiled a Mint Lemonade Cayenne Milkshake in August. The shake is made with lemonade, vanilla ice cream and cayenne spice blended together, topped with whipped cream and garnished with mint, more cayenne spice and a green cayenne chili pepper.