Cocktails’ Brightest Stars? Beer and Wine

Last June, we discussed beer cocktails emergence on menus at bars and restaurants nationwide. But would consumers’ and operators’ sudden interest in sudsy cocktails amount to nothing more than a one-summer fling?

Not hardly, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor online resource: Beer-based cocktails’ menu appearances climbed 30% from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014 at those bars and restaurants tracked by MenuMonitor. That was the largest surge in menu incidences for any type of specialty drink; beer cocktails beat other gainers such as Bloody Marys (menu appearances up 12%) and classic cocktails (up 10%).

More impressive still is that the number of on-premise operators offering beer cocktails rose 44% during the year-over-year period. Prices are up, too: Beer cocktails’ average price in the first quarter of 2014 was $7.14, up 9% from the same period last year.

The next-biggest up-and-comers on cocktail menus are drinks made with wine (sparkling or table). The number of Bellinis and mimosas on bar/restaurant menus rose 16% from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014; the number of sangrias rose 14%. And as with beer cocktails, even stronger growth was seen in the number of operators adding wine-based cocktails to their menus.

Why the still-rising interest in beer- and wine-centric cocktails rather than those that showcase spirits exclusively? For one, beer and wine offer a point of flavor/style familiarity. For consumers looking to venture somewhat beyond their typical beer or wine drink order while still “playing it safe,” cocktails that feature their favorite beer or wine brands and styles may be an appealingly approachable choice. This is true especially for brands and styles in trending beer and wine segments—imported beers, hard ciders, red-blend table wines and imported sparkling wines, for example.

Second, there seems to be a growing thirst for flavorful lower-alcohol choices that allow guests to enjoy multiple drinks over the course of an adult beverage occasion, be that occasion an afternoon watching a baseball game at a bar or a dinner outing with friends. (We noted this “less is more” idea in our 2014 adult beverage trends outlook.) Though beer and wine cocktails that get an extra kick from whiskey or a liqueur obviously dont fit this bill, micheladas and wine-and-fruit-juice blends can.

The rise of beer and wine cocktails is interesting, too, in light of another notable MenuMonitor finding: Overall, the number of specialty drinks on menus declined more than 6% in the year-over-year period, and drinks such as daiquiris, coladas, mai tais and even mojitos saw both their menu incidences and the number of operators offering them fall. For operators, editing down specialty-drinks selections can bring focus to an adult beverages menu while helping maximize the operational and cost efficiency of the bar program. And a tight but intriguing lineup of beer and wine cocktails can let operators make wider use of the growing number of beers and wines that many of them (according to MenuMonitor) are now offering.

Here’s a look at 13 eye-catching beer and wine cocktails to hit menus so far in 2014:

Beer Cocktails

  • Watermelon Wipeout, Cheeseburger in Paradise: Cointreau and watermelon purée topped with Angry Orchard Hard Cider
  • Michelada, The Counter: Corona with lime juice, soy sauce, Tabasco and worcestershire sauce
  • Grand Moon, Duffys Sports Grill: Blue Moon and Grand Marnier
  • Spiked Orange Ale, LongHorn Steakhouse: Absolut Mandarin, house-made orange cream and Blue Moon
  • Novara Sunset, Papa Razzi: Blue Moon, Campari and lime soda
  • Fireball Orchard, Claim Jumper: Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, Angry Orchard Hard Cider and cherries

Wine Cocktails

  • Leonardo, Il Fornaio: Prosecco and strawberry juice
  • Blood Orange Mimosa, Ocean Prime: Blood-orange juice, simple syrup, Cointreau and Champagne
  • Strawberry Rhubarb Sangria, Not Your Average Joes: House-made strawberry-rhubarb purée, New Amsterdam Red Berry, brandy, Pinot Grigio and lemonade, topped with a strawberry Moscato float
  • Blackberry Sangria Press, Bonefish Grill: Infuses orange, lemon, lime and blackberry with red wine for a perfect blend
  • Stillhouse Sangria, Famous Daves: Firefly Peach Moonshine, Ecco Domani Pinot Grigio, pineapple and orange juice
  • White Sangria, Shulas Steak House: Cruzan Mango, fresh orange and pineapple topped with prosecco
  • Berry Mint Sangria, bds Mongolian Grill: Moscato, Finest Call red sangria mix, Finest Call huckleberry syrup and mint






Christine LaFave Grace

Christine LaFave Grace writes for and produces Technomic's Trends & Directions e-newsletters. She joined Technomic in 2013 as an associate editor. Her previous roles include assistant digital editor for Crain Communications’ Modern Healthcare magazine and associate editor at Reed Business Information’s Restaurants & Institutions magazine.

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