Guests are feeling the heat of the summer, causing them to order refreshing beverages. They are pairing liquor with menu items on their own , but they want more options.
The continued growth in craft cocktails and mixology has influenced guests to be significantly more adventurous when they head out for a drink.
So the ability to satiate the thirsty masses looking for intriguing cocktails that are perfectly paired with food offerings is a win for both the restaurant and the guest.
The great part is that the menu can be tweaked to fit the beverage program or vice-versa.
Need some recommendations? Let’s go over a few.
To Pair with Gin
First off, your beverage program should be consulting with the kitchen when developing a signature beverage. Pairing liquor with menu items is something that should be approached deliberately, but with a subtlety that doesn’t beat the guest over the head with your idea. Sure, adding juniper berry to a marinade or menu item is an option, but it will appear forced and predictable.
Luckily, there are plenty of gin cocktails that make guests think differently about ordering that standby gin and tonic. Gins use a variety of botanicals that offer a variety of directions when deciding on pairing this liquor with menu items.
Fruity, flowery, and sometimes spice-forward, the subtle flavors in gin can be extracted with the right dish.
Gin does quite well with seafood, and during the summer months, guests are eating more of it. Shellfish and gin get along swimmingly, with that brine-y ocean flavor and the juniper and botanicals.
Depending on the style of menu, and seasonings used, the gin cocktail can be altered to complement just a bit more. A fruit or cucumber-forward gin would do quite well in a beverage like a gin mule, offering another level of a summer refreshment. Don’t hesitate to lean on additional ingredients like St. Germain to offer a bit more floral and sweet flavors, especially if the paired dishes are heavily spiced.
Salty or dishes rich with umami should be paired with a gin cocktail that offers some acid to counter the salt and richness. Be careful of dishes that are especially spicy, because many of the flavors of a top shelf gin could be lost, making the guest wish they opted for the cheaper G&T.
To Pair with Rum
The resurgence of tiki drinks and rum-based cocktails hasn’t even hit full stride, so offering interesting rum cocktails is a must.
Rum comes in many forms, and while some are aged, dark, and mysterious, some are light and refreshing. French rum, or rhum agricole is one of the more delicate of the bunch, so simple cocktails like Ti’ Punch should be suggested with a cheese board, or perhaps a salad that includes some tangy goat cheese.
A medium bodied gold rum offers plenty of versatility with a menu, since the cocktail options can range from a fruit-forward cocktail to something a bit more dry and sparkly. Proteins that have been smoked, or seasoned heavily can benefit from a refreshing rum cocktail. The sweetness the sugar cane provides, and the molasses flavor offered in gold and dark rums will stand up to spice and will seem appropriate if the meat has been cooked for a long period of time.
Vegetables like cauliflower that have been aggressively seasoned or finished in a wood-fired oven can also be complemented by rum in a variety of cocktails. Use caution with the mixers here. Consider the dishes you will be pairing with rum cocktails. A mixer that is cloying and sweet could overtake the food or make it seem less impressive. Don’t forget a bit of acid with a rum cocktail, especially if the dish includes some fattiness or sweetness.
Pairing spirits with menu items offers you options and helps the team engage with customers.
Offering a suggested cocktail with menu items reassures guests that you have thought about their overall experience.
How to Get Started?
An R&D session could take place in one afternoon. Don’t over-complicate the process and start by identifying a handful of items on the menu, then come up with a drink to match. Design a signature version of a cocktail for each of the sections on your menu. Then educate the team on the pairings. Pro tip: bartenders look forward to offering their insight and will appreciate the challenge of coming up with the perfect match. Make the process fun and the guests will surely appreciate it.