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Boston Food & Drink Website|Sunday, December 21, 2014
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Boston Cocktail Summit: Ideal to Real 

Ideal to Real
You sit down at a bar.  You look at the cocktail menu.  What’s the first thing you notice? For me, I generally look for something that I think will be well-balanced, with the base spirit that I’m in the mood for.  You might do something similar, or maybe you look for totally different things.  But have you ever wondered how that cocktail menu came to be? Ever consider that each cocktail was placed on the list with a purpose?

In the seminar, Ideal to Real: From Bartender’s Choice to Drink List Reality, individuals with experience creating cocktail menus shared their wisdom with a diverse crowd.  Chad Arnholt and Joy Richard of the Franklin Restaurant Group along with Ted Kilpatrick of No. 9 Park, talked about the intricacies of building a cocktail list.  Here are some things one should consider when selecting cocktails for the menu that, in many cases, could be the first that guests look at.

Chad making a punch bowl of Champagne Juleps

  • Location: Trendy neighborhood or classic, well-established? In the middle of the city or more towards the suburbs? Across from a sports stadium or in a financial district? Location will affect what type of guests will come in, and your cocktail menu needs to appeal to the correct crowd.
  • Clientele: Obviously this could very well be affected by your location, but beer-drinking sports fans are looking for different drinks than craft cocktail enthusiasts.
  • Skill behind the bar: If you are going to fill your menu with craft-cocktails, you better have the staff behind the bar that can consistently produce.  If your menu features drinks without ingredients to encourage a conversation, your bar staff best we well-versed in spirits.
  • Volume: How much time can your staff dedicate to each drink? If tables need to be turned because volume is high, a complicated drink with 10 ingredients might not be the best idea. In a setting of enthusiasts who understand that a really well-balanced creative drink takes time to build, then you can get away for more complicated drinks..
  • Cost effectiveness: Sure, it’s great to have a feature drink with exotic or hard-to-find ingredients, but unless you’re charging $16 dollars, you might want to balance that drink out with something that’s cheaper for the bar to make.

Interactive part of the seminar as teams prepared their own cocktail menus.

Here are a few cocktail menu concepts that were discussed:
  • Suitable for a server to answer easy questions about the drinks.
  • Drink list without ingredients to encourage discussion between guest and bar staff.
  • Self-explanatory list  that the guest can easily navigate on their own with little staff interaction.
  • Fun to read, with tid-bits of fact or comical notes.
When a large majority of guests are unsure of their order, a cocktail menu has the ability to influence that decision.  For industry folk, this seminar raised many important questions and concepts to think about while designing your menu.  For the enthusiast like myself, it was interesting to get an inside glimpse of the details that I’ve always taken for granted.  You can bet that the next time I sit down at a bar, I’ll be trying to read between the lines for the concept behind the menu.
Thanks to Chad, Joy and Ted (left to right) for an awesome seminar!

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