Just desserts

Bars are responding to demand for sweeter cocktails inspired by classic puddings and sweets, reports Mark Ludmon 

The revival in classic and vintage cocktails has transformed drinks lists at Britain’s bars, as bartenders explore the history of their profession. But a Whiskey Sour or a Hanky Panky are not to everyone’s taste, and sweeter, creamy cocktails are making a comeback.At Après Lounge in London’s West End, general manager and mixologist Jez Jewitt created a special list of five “Candy Shop” cocktails based on retro sweets and childhood puddings during March. Popular choices included the Rum & Raisin made with Myers’s rum, butterscotch liqueur, Frangelico hazelnut liqueur, mango syrup and cream, served with a dusting of cinnamon.Another was Rhubarb & Custard made with Tovaritch vodka, passion fruit, rhubarb cordial and soya milk. Après already offers classics such as a Negroni and Pisco Sour alongside fruity Martinis and other twisted classics, but Jez says they will look at adding popular Candy Shop cocktails to the permanent menu, joining their Pink Panther made with vodka, watermelon and Mozart White Chocolate Cream Liqueur.“It adds a fun element and is really accessible,” Jez says.“It flies in the face of the trends for classic cocktails.We could spend all day making Manhattans but we have to give customers what they want.”

Cocktails inspired by sweet shops have been added at Ultimate Leisure’s bars and clubs, part of Orchid Group, after research confirmed that the under-25s are more attracted by sweeter flavours.“Recognising the generally younger age group of our customers, we created a brand new cocktail menu with a palate to appeal to their
sweet taste buds,” says Ultimate Leisure marketing executive Claire Reid. “We have all the favourite flavours from the sweet shop, including tutti frutti, Skittles, gummy bears,After Eights, Bounty,Toblerone and toffee apples.” To create Skittles in a glass, their bartenders shake 17ml each of Taboo and blue curaçao, 16ml of Belgravia gin and 100ml of orange juice with ice and then top up with lemonade and garnish with a wedge of lemon.

Dessert cocktails are on the menu at Orchid Group’s Living Rooms bars such as a Black Forest, made with Kahlúa, Baileys, Cherry Marnier Liqueur, blackberries,
milk and cream, or the Apple Pie Martini combinining Żubrówka bison-grass vodka and Ketel One vodka stirred with honey and apple juice and topped up with fresh cream and cinnamon.There are also some made with bourbon such as an Apple & Gingerbread Crush using Maker’s Mark and a Gingerbread Manhattan with Jefferson’s Small Batch.

Another group to add more sweet flavours to its drinks menus is Mexican restaurants Chiquito, joining dishes such as a refreshingly zesty Margarita Sorbet made with tequila and lime.“In trueWilly Wonka style, dessert-inspired cocktails are shaking up the pudding and cocktail menu,” says Chiquito’s marketing manager Susan Judge.“They are an attractive alternative for customers who haven’t left much room or for those wanting a powerful end to a meal.” The new menu includes cocktails such as a Raspberry Ripple and a Mexican MilkyWay.“These cocktail desserts are a glass of nostalgia mixed with a grown-up twist.”

Dessert cocktails including a Tiramisu Martini are being promoted by Funkin for making with its syrups, fruit juices and purees, and chief executive Andrew King expects demand for them to continue in 2012.“Best executions of this have a balance of rich cocktails, often using chocolate, or coffee-based drinks, light summer fruit cocktails and ice cream or sorbet recipes to suit all tastes,” he says. Other Funkin ideas include a Gingerbread Man-tini, made with apple-flavoured vodka, gingerbread syrup, Funkin lime and apple juice, and a Strawberry Shortcake made with amaretto, Funkin strawberry puree, two scoops of ice cream and a strawberry garnish.Andrew adds that summer is a good time to look at adding sorbet or ice cream cocktails.

“Simple tweaks to recipes incorporating summer fruits or seasonal favourites such as ice cream or sorbets are simple to make yet can make a huge difference to customer perceptions of your menu.”

Along with the ubiquitous and essential Espresso Martini, the Mixxit training team from drinks company Maxxium UK offer dessert cocktails as part of their arsenal of recipes, such as a Banoffee Martini made by muddling chopped banana with Stolichnaya Vanil vodka, butterscotch liqueur, Bols banana liqueur, cream and Canadian maple syrup.Their Raspberry Cheesecake Martini mixes Stolichnaya Razberi vodka with Bols Advocaat, Bols raspberry liqueur, lemon juice, Monin Pure Cane Syrup and fresh raspberries, or the simpler Orange Brûlée combines Courvoisier Exclusif VSOP cognac with Bols triple sec liqueur, amaretto and cream in a Martini glass. Mixxit manager Wayne Collins says a key benefit of offering dessert cocktails is to maintain spend per head, particularly in restaurants.“Sometimes guests opt out of dessert altogether and choose coffee instead, but by offering a dessert cocktail, customers will be encouraged to take the full three courses as well as coffee afterwards. By offering something different, such as a mini dessert cocktail alongside an espresso, the dining experience will also be enhanced.”

Manuel Terron, global brand ambassador for Midori, points out that dessert cocktails have been popular for many years, dating back to classics such as a Brandy Alexander and a Grasshopper.The Midori Splice – made by adding coconut rum, pineapple juice and cream to the melon liqueur – became a modern classic in Australia, he adds, while “guilty pleasure” recipes are also being promoted for Midori such as a Key Lime Pie Cocktail and a Hot Apple Pie Cocktail.“Although palates of both the industry and the general consumer have developed to appreciate a more diverse selection of flavours, dessert drinks are still essential to the drinks industry and work perfectly as an after-dinner treat in place of a heavy dessert,” Manuel says.

The shift in restaurants from haute cuisine towards heartier meals, such as burger and grill-style restaurants, means diners are less inclined to eat dessert, points out Simon Green, marketing director of drinks company Global Brands whose brands range from St-Germain and Goldshläger liqueurs to Myers’s rum and Four Roses Bourbon.“However, there is a trend among consumers for sweeter-tasting drinks, and cocktail sales now represent five per cent of all spirits sales, so dessert cocktails are a growing area of interest for the on-trade.”

Global Brands has report strong growth for Thorntons Chocolate Liqueur in the on-trade, both for dessert-style cocktails and on the rocks. Mixing ideas include blending it with Teichenné Strawberry, fresh strawberries and crushed ice to create a Thorntons Choco-Berry Milkshake, or blending it with vanilla ice cream and

Fratello hazelnut liqueur to make a Nutty Chocolate Sundae.“A dessert cocktail offers a far higher gross profit than an actual dessert and, as the summer approaches, consumers will look for refreshing options that are lighter yet still indulgent,” Simon points out,“so licensees should make sure they are capitalising on the opportunity that dessert cocktails present.”

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