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

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 16 years as a foodservice specialist, and today runs her private consultancy focused on helping manufacturers and operators analyze, understand, and leverage foodservice trends. Maeve’s expertise is in the areas of trend analysis, market assessment, consumer behavior, product testing, and brand optimization. During the past decade, Maeve was Senior Director at Datassential. During that time, she helped develop several of Datassential’s new products and programs including the company’s publications group and TrendSpotting package, headed the company’s health & wellness group, and participated in several industry initiatives including the Culinary Institute of America’s Healthy Menu R&D Collaborative. She is a regular speaker at top industry events and has contributed to major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, NPR, CNBC, MSNBC and CBS. She regularly contributes to several industry publications including Flavor & the Menu. Maeve earned her MBA at the University of Illinois, and holds a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago.