Outback Steakhouse has built a lot of equity in steak and onions. But unique cocktails are also a signature for the Tampa, Fla.-based casual-dining chain, and its current “Steakmas Season” menu plays into both.
“Beverages are an important part of menu promotions and we integrate food and drink at all our concepts to make them complementary,” said Becky Boyd, director, food & beverage innovation at Bloomin’ Brands, Outback’s parent company. “It has a lot to do with my passion around beverage; it really enhances the experience.”
Boyd came up through the ranks at Bloomin’, spending time as a bar manager along the way, she explained during a MenuFeed podcast. The other two members of her team have also been bartenders and/or servers, and the three brainstorm ideas and draw inspiration from that experience as well as in-depth knowledge of the Outback guest.
The “Steakmas Season” cocktails reflect holiday flavors and whimsy. There’s a Gingerbread Cookie Martini, hand-shaken with vodka, Kahlua, Bailey’s and vanilla and gingerbread flavors, then garnished with whipped cream and a mini-gingerbread cookie. Also on offer is the Smoked Cinnamon Pecan Old Fashioned, a mix of bourbon, bitters and house-infused cinnamon pecan syrup, smoked with oak and brought to the guest still smoking.
“Doing a smoked drink in casual dining and presenting it tableside is really unique and it elevates the experience,” said Boyd. This old fashioned is actually culinary-inspired; the smoked cinnamon pecans used to make the simple syrup for the drink also go into one of Outback’s salads.
There’s a bit of cross-utilization on the food side of the menu, too. For the indulgent Bone-in Ribeye with Bourbon Onion, the kitchen uses the tops it cuts off to make Outback’s iconic Bloomin’ Onions “bloom,” then upcycles them into steak toppers. The onion tops are grilled and caramelized with a brush of bourbon, then topped with roasted garlic butter and bacon.
“It makes a beautiful circle that goes on top of steak and we’re promoting sustainability by reducing waste,” said Boyd.
The same goes for the second steak in the “Steakmas” promotion: the Bloomin’ French Onion Sirloin. It combines French onion soup, a popular appetizer on the regular menu, and the famous Bloomin’ Onion. The center-cut sirloin is topped with melted provolone cheese and Bloomin’ Onion petals and served with a small ramekin of onion soup on the side.
“Guests can eat it with a spoon from the ramekin, pour it over the steak or use it as a dip for the onion petals,” said Boyd. “It’s a new way to put two classic items together—steak and onions—for a new eating experience.” The entrée is value-priced at $16.99.
Capping off the menu is a super-size dessert—the Chocolate Tower. The six-layer chocolate cake is topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings and served with raspberry sauce. “We’ve done this dessert before but haven’t offered it for a few seasons, so we’re bringing it back,” said Boyd.
It certainly hits the indulgence theme.
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