Consumers want customizable options when it comes to foodservice, and this interest is spilling over into adult beverages as well. Restaurants and bars are adding create-your-own specialty cocktails to menus, offering customers the ability to build a drink they are far more likely to enjoy.
Customizable specialty cocktails often spotlight pre-selected, non-alcohol ingredients, but encourage guests to select a spirit to personalize the drink. Not just a full bar, this option is presented as an actual cocktail list, featuring drink varieties made with bartender-selected specialty components; the customer then simply selects from the type of alcohol they want within that cocktail. Operators can reach out to a wider range of drinkers by offering a variety of spirit options, such as rum, gin, tequila and vodka. This option can also appeal to guests who have brand and quality preferences, allowing them to select from various types and price points within a single spirit category, such as whiskey. New York City’s The Happiest Hour offers three spirit suggestions for each of its signature cocktails and also offers vodka as a substitute in any cocktail.
Other operators are taking customization a step further, allowing guests to not only select the spirit, but also the ingredients and flavors within their one-of-a-kind drink. Craft cocktail lounge The Berkshire Room in Chicago offers a Dealer’s Choice option in which the guest selects a spirit, flavor profile and glassware. The bartender then creates a personalized, handcrafted concoction inspired by these choices.
Another concept that employs this tactic is New York City’s Mulberry Project, which serves its Bespoke Cocktail, offering patrons a choice of spirit and preference (shaken, stirred, refreshing, aromatic, savoring, light, sweet, sour, spiced, light and alcohol-driven). On menus, these “choose-your-own-adventure” cocktails may be laid out in a checklist format that lets guests can select options from various columns.
This option also serves as a way for adventurous, surprise-seeking consumers to try off-menu items created by the bartenders, which adds an extra element of specialization and exclusivity. Trade, in Boston, is all about the element of surprise with its Trade Creates collaborative cocktail program. On special nights, the restaurant asks guests to write their answer to the question, “What do you usually drink?” and check off two adjectives from a list that includes words like “bitter,” “dark” and “strange.” In this scenario, the guests are completely unaware of the spirit and ingredients that will appear within their beverage. The program is designed to get guests “out of their cocktail comfort zone” while also making them part of the process.