Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
November 5, 2020

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When cooler weather moves in, diners’ expectations reflect the changing seasons. Satisfy their cravings by offering hot and cold beverages that provide warmth, spice and perhaps a touch of nostalgia. Alcoholic and nonalcoholic cold-weather beverages are stress soothers. Consumers typically sip them more slowly, becoming wrapped in their nurturing qualities while sharing their enjoyment socially.

These seasonal beverages deliver a powerful sensory experience with visual cues, aromatics, flavors and textures. Operators can add value to their cold-weather beverage lineup by focusing on quality and personalized indulgence, coupled with a splash of novelty. This hits a sweet spot, injecting fun and garnering broader appeal. Incorporating functional ingredients will make seasonal drinks even more welcoming. Read on for 10 beverage opportunities poised to punch up winter menus.


Hot cocoa never goes out of style with its chocolatey rich comfort. Infusing this classic with seasonal warming flavors amps up the indulgence factor. Introducing alluring, trend-forward ingredients into the mix adds a premium, signature touch.

Tahini-Butterscotch Cocoa
Half and half + dark cocoa powder + tahini + butterscotch

Snowflake Cocoa
Thai coconut milk/condensed milk + white chocolate + vanilla + housemade lavender marshmallow square


This simple yet robust blend delivers sweet herbal and spiced flavors. Experiment with the Scotch and Drambuie ratios to match your guests’ tastes. Without straying too far from this dynamic duo, add complementary notes to provide a subtle twist.

Blackberry Rusty Nail
Drambuie + blended Scotch whisky + blackberry syrup + lemon twist + an ice ball

Smoky Nail
Drambuie + peated single malt Scotch whisky + orange bitters


Trendy moon milks (essentially warm milk drinks), which can be made with cow’s milk or plant-based substitutes, lead this category with their pleasing colors and wellness elements. Spiced milks, whether warmed or chilled, work well at both breakfast/brunch and late night. Tout their healthfulness and unique flavorings.

Gilded Pumpkin “Milk”
Warmed almond milk + pumpkin purée + grated fresh turmeric + cardamom + cayenne + honey

Pink Panther “Milk”
Chilled oat milk + beet powder + red maca powder + cherry juice + blood orange purée


Create versions that speak to the seasonality of this brunch favorite during colder months. Flavorful heat and bigger plays on umami, even when chilled, are a great way to deliver warmth in cooler seasons.

Brothy Mary
Beef bone broth + Bloody Mary mix + vodka + beef jerky spiral and celery stalk garnish

Fuji Mary
Sake + Bloody Mary mix + yuzu juice + pickled plum slices + togarashi spice rim


Nothing beats a mug of fragrant hot cider on a cold day. Cider emanates the spirit of fall and ushers in the holidays. Deepen the connection to community by featuring a local/regional fresh-pressed cider, then layering it with fun, brand-specific flavors.

Caramel-Fig Cider
Fresh-pressed cider + almond butter + caramel + fig syrup

Crimson Apple Cider
Fresh-pressed cider + cranberry juice + pomegranate seeds + cloves


Rum is enjoying a surge in popularity. What’s old becomes new when you swap out the old-fashioned base of brandy or bourbon with aged rum. This can appeal to adventurous guests who appreciate thoughtful, creative riffs on their classic cocktails.

Spiced Rum Old Fashioned
Spiced rum + sugar/bitters/water + orange and lemon twist + sour cherry

Dark Rum Old Fashioned
Dark rum + simple syrup/bitters + orange twist + Luxardo cherry


Build off the trust that diners place in the comforting flavors of Mexican cuisine by offering this thick, corn- and masa-based drink, flavored with piloncillo, vanilla and cinnamon. Traditionally served at breakfast, it can also be positioned as a natural fit for midday beverage occasions.

Cinnamon-Orange Atole
Masa harina + whole milk + orange juice + cinnamon syrup + vanilla

Chocolate Atole
Masa harina + evaporated milk + Mexican chocolate + dark piloncillo + ancho chile


This warm, boozy beverage brings to mind the spirits of the holidays, and is primed for updating with modern and signature elements. Use elegant flavor combinations to let guests know that this is something special.

Winter White Wine
Chardonnay + pear liqueur + maple syrup + cinnamon stick + black peppercorns

Christmas Wine
Merlot + brandy + golden raisins + tangelo slices + star anise pod


As consumers turn to healthier beverage choices and seek ever-new experiences, many modern drinks have become fruit-centric and lean on herbal notes for contrasting flavor tones. Spritzers are an ideal vehicle to deliver on this trend.

Rosemary Citrus Spritzer
Sparkling water + fresh rosemary sprig + fresh lemon-lime juice and zest + agave + ice

Spiced Spritzer
Soda water + cranberry juice + fresh ginger purée + kumquat slices + fresh sage leaf + ice


Limited-time miniature mixed-drink offerings do more than warm the spirit; they can warm up the menu experience. Guests can enjoy a quick sip before or after a meal, or experiment with a flight of drinks.

Gingerbread Cider-Rum Shooter
Hard cider + rum + gingerbread syrup + lemon juice + bitters

Drambuie Cocoa Shooter
Drambuie + chilled hot chocolate + cinnamon/sugar rim

About The Author

Rob Corliss

Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and owning the culinary consultancy ATE (All Things Epicurean) since 2009. Based in Nixa, Mo., ATE has an energizing passion focused on flavor innovation and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. Rob is also a regular contributor to Flavor & The Menu.