Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Using Unique Ingredients to Elevate the Cocktail Experience Using uncommon ingredients in beverages offers significant benefits well beyond that of flavor enhancers or profile creators

At New York’s Patent Pending, Harrison Ginsberg and Nick Rolin leverage unique ingredients to upgrade classic cocktails. The Light Me Up is a variation on a whiskey sour but mango black tea and a Szechuan peppercorn rim add depth and heat. Inspired by a malted milkshake, the Currents & Coils blends rums, coconut and malted milk, finished with banana chips
PHOTO CREDIT: Simmer Group

Cocktails are moving well beyond the realm of “drink before dinner” and are an event in and of themselves. In fact, the seasoned cocktail patron is looking to be excited and often wants new experiences.

In some cases, those experiences may need to be unique—enter the less-common ingredients or exotic world spice blends. In other cases, an experience needs to be grounded in the familiar to be more approachable, for which fats, teas, produce and popular sauces may work better.

Using uncommon ingredients in beverages offers significant benefits well beyond that of flavor enhancers or profile creators. Spices and unique produce items can create gorgeous visual effects. The dramatic presentation opportunities with smoke are endless.

But as in the culinary world, balance is key in beverages. Many of today’s less-common beverage ingredients like spices and smoke have strong flavor profiles that could easily overpower and unbalance the best of cocktails.

With a thoughtful approach, the pantry for signature beverage development offers tremendous opportunity. Consider uncommon beverage ingredients when designing new beverages or bar menus in the coming months and seasons.

Putting Nontraditional Beverage Ingredients Into Action: Why & How

  • Accenting/supporting uncommon world spirits
  • Supporting culinary innovations/specials
  • Effectively using perishable ingredients
  • Experimenting with new, trendy ingredients
  • Increasing cost effectiveness of limited-order ingredients
  • Reflecting the local culture, environment, resources
  • Color creator/enhancer
  • On-glass garnishes
  • In-beverage inclusions/garnishes (like the gold specks in Goldschläger)
  • Muddling
  • Flavoring the glass
  • Presentation elements
  • Subtle flavor enhancers
  • Seasonal flavors/specials
  • Reviving/reimagining standard or traditional cocktails

Read more: 10 Next Level Beverage Ingredients


About The Author


Maeve Webster, President of Menu Matters, is a lead consultant for foodservice manufacturers and operators. She has spearheaded hundreds of major industry studies during her 18 years as a foodservice specialist. Today, Maeve focuses her consultancy on helping manufacturers, operators, commodity boards, and marketing firms leverage food and consumer trends, using her expertise in trends analysis, market assessment, consumer behavior, product testing and brand optimization. Maeve has an MBA from the University of Illinois, a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago, and owns a cafe in Bennington, Vt., where she runs the kitchen and designs the menu. She is a regular speaker at industry events and a contributor to major media outlets and industry publications, including Flavor & The Menu.