From flair mixology to stylish decorations, we’ve got everything you need to know about how to make your cocktails stand out and stay on trend this autumn.
Now that summer is drawing to a close, people are starting to look for their seasonal favourites as they begin to swap G&T’s for Hot Toddys.
However, it can be difficult to transition from those summer vibes, where people are now returning to the office and begining to ease back into society. Venues will want customers to continue frequenting the bar going forward into the colder months, and cocktails could be the key to keeping those summer spirits alive.
Effectively transitioning your cocktail menu is a good starting point as Kitt Stutt, owner of The Clockwork Rose in Bristol, explains; “The phrase ‘fresh is best’ is one of the driving forces behind seasonal menus. Not all natural ingredients are available all year round and because of this, we have come to associate certain flavours with different times of the year”.
Alongside their main menu that is launched in the autumn, The Clockwork Rose release three seasonal cocktail menus every year (in December, April and June); “Since the Autumn is taken up with our main menu launch, we tend to add seasonal cocktails to our specials board to meet the guest expectations of autumn flavours. We regularly serve our Pumkin Spiced Brandy Alexanders and Bonfire Old Fashioneds during this period!”
Commenting on how best to start, Kitt explained; “Each season is vastly different in their flavours. Oranges are a wonderful fruit that can actually cross over between each season. They can be used to lenghten cocktails in the summer, rounding off your autumn spices, and sweetening your winter ones, before easing the transition back to longer drinks in the spring and summer again”.
Just like The Clockwork Rose, The Oracle in Liverpool also change their menu – advising why it’s so important to do so; “A new season is a great chance to showcase new drinks, increase social media interactions and give your bartenders a chance to show their creativity, boosting team morale.
“We market our new concoctions on social media throughout each new season. It’s always important to keep the menu fresh, sparking the curiosity and imagination of those that are kind enough to visit” says Benjamin, founder of The Oracle.
However, according to Benjamin, the real reason for changing your menu might be a lot more simple than you think; “The real reason to transition your menu is because a season isn’t just a season, it’s a feeling. Certain tastes and smells can create memories or spark nostalgia, and our aim is to give each guest the experience of a lifetime. Some call it pandering, some call it hustling, we call it hospitality”.
New trends often appear throughout the year, a good indicator for what to expect and what to stock. Ben Peacock, General Manager at The Milk Thistle in Bristol, believes that flavoured tonics are going to continue their rise in popularity among consumers – outlining that venues can always use flavoured tonics and add shrubs instead of using traditional cocktail mixers to create a little something different.
Michael Edwards – creative partner at Aether Bar in Liverpool, has projected that savoury and herbaceous mixers will be popular; “The cocktail mixers we have seen becoming more popular are more savoury and herbaceous. These combined with a fruit aspect of a drink really adds a new characteristic to any serve, no matter how simplistic or complex, take for instance London Essences’ Peach & Jasmine Soda – mixed simply with Johnnie Walker Black Label, it just creates a more fun take on the classic highball”.
Michael suggests that venues looking to follow trends should start out simple; “When swapping out ingredients for something new, we tend to start with a simple infusion, for example infusing Bay Leaves with Ketel One Vodka to create ‘Bae Vodka’, which again adds a depth of flavour and a slightly sweet note to the vodka – bringing a great new twist to a classic Martini or even a Moscow Mule”.
The UK is fast becoming known as the world’s cocktail-capital. American Mixologist Tyler Zielinski digresses; “The lockdowns caused an increased interest in mixed drinks due to imbibers having to make cocktails for themselves at home”.
Mixologists and bartenders are experimenting more with their concoctions, and it’s mixers that they can really be creative with – swapping out traditional ingredients to create modern twists on old-time classic cocktails; “Using the template of the classic El Diablo cocktail—a mix of tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and ginger beer—I simply swapped the base of tequila with a hibiscus-infused mezcal, and used a macerated strawberry syrup to replace the dark berry notes of the cassis. The variation is simple, but adds endless complexity to this serve”.
Not forgetting presentation – the way the cocktail is made can encourage drinkers’ curiosity. Multi award-winning flair bartender, Tom Dyer, discussed how this type of mixology can push promotion for venues; “We live in a digital world through social media and guests are constantly looking for the new ‘cool’ thing to shout about through their social feeds. So when there is a bartender using flair, they are usually found on these social media platforms representing their bar”.
Guests are looking beyond the menu, with nights out back on; “It is no longer enough to provide a tasty beverage, guests want the experience to go with it and that’s what a Flair Bartender can provide”.
While flair bartending can be a daunting prospect – with many wondering how achievable this is and questioning the amount of time, training and experience that is needed to add this extra something to your venue, Tom explains how simple it can be and the amount of class it can add; “Flair bartending is not just about juggling 3 bottles in the air and making a vodka cranberry. It comes in many different shapes, forms, ideas and techniques.
“The definition of flair bartending is to bartend with stylishness and originality or to have a unique aptitude to do bartending well. Using this definition, any good bartender can use flair whilst making cocktails. Be creative stand out and create your own unique techniques and you are bartending with flair”.
Whether it’s creating colourful concoctions, jazzing up the menu or getting imaginative with classic bartending, cocktails alone can be the answer to keeping your customers returning this autumn.
45 ml hibiscus-infused mezcal
7.5 ml macerated strawberry syrup
15 ml lime juice
Topped with ginger beer
Garnish: mint sprig and hibiscus flower
Hibiscus-infused mezcal: 2 g hibiscus tea leaves and 100 ml mezcal
Macerated strawberry syrup:
100 g sliced strawberries
100 g sugar