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Signature drinks pose a purchasing puzzle

Snazzy signature beverage offerings can get customers in the door and keep them coming back for more. Often it takes just an ingredient twist or two to make bar drinks your own. But finding that something special can be a purchasing puzzle. Chow, in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, touts its unusual cocktails based on fresh fruit purees. Priced at $8 each, the seven cocktails include a Blood Orange Cooler, mixed with vanilla vodka, orange juice and blood orange puree...

Snazzy signature beverage offerings can get customers in the door and keep them coming back for more. Often it takes just an ingredient twist or two to make bar drinks your own. But finding that something special can be a purchasing puzzle.

{mosimage}Chow, in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, touts its unusual cocktails based on fresh fruit purees. Priced at $8 each, the seven cocktails include a Blood Orange Cooler, mixed with vanilla vodka, orange juice and blood orange puree; a Mango-Tamarind Martini, made with mango-flavored vodka and tamarind puree; and the Lychee Martini, which blends orange vodka, Grand Marnier and lime juice with exotic lychee puree. Chow sources purees from Perfect Puree, a Napa, California company that specializes in flash freezing the fruit pulps for freshness. “It’s pricey,” says Chow’s GM, David Boyajian, “but the fresh taste is worth it.” The chief bartender pours the purees into squirt bottles, then labels them and rotates first-in-first-out.

Chow’s short-but-select wine list includes a sparkler from New Mexico, a gewürztraminer from France and a gruner veltliner from Austria. “Some purveyors lock down a supply of special wines just for us,” says Boyajian.

Sometimes you have to create your own supply line for hard-to-find ingredients. That was Cuba Libre’s solution to sourcing sugarcane for its signature Cuban cocktails. “We told suppliers exactly what we wanted,” explains Stacy Schulist, director of marketing. The two Cuba Libre locations–one in Philadelphia, the other in Atlantic City–juice the raw cane in-house into guarapo for its mojito variations, Pisco cocktails, Daiquiris and a Cuban Manhattan. Now, says Schulist, there’s actually a market for sugarcane, with other restaurants benefiting from the business.

Boasting a collection of over 80 different rums has established Cuba Libre as an expert, which earns it first dibs on new rums and tightly allocated bottlings. Having units in different states can be difficult, especially when one (Pennsylvania) has a state liquor control board. “Sometimes a vendor has a new item that we want, but we can’t source it in both states,” says Schulist. The Sauza Hornitos Take the Tequila the concept specs for margaritas: The distributor used its influence to list the brand in Pennsylvania.

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