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Beverages: Be Cool – US Food Trends

10 July 2008

Quench customers' thirst with fun, distinctive summer drinks that help beat the heat.

This article first appeared in the 1 June 2008 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).

R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.

By Allison Perlik, Senior Editor

Muddling just-picked berries at the height of their seasonal glory makes a great start for summer drinks, but it's not the only way to stir up refreshing warm-weather beverages.

For operators in need of ideas that are a bit more bottom-line-friendly and a lot less time- and labor-intensive, a host of cooling concoctions covers all the bases.

Consider the Bellini, one of several classic cocktails enjoying a big comeback. At Scoozi in Chicago, updated versions of the traditional recipe (peach nectar and champagne) sell briskly in summertime, says Rob Lehner, manager of wine and spirits.

"They're fruity, they're light and they're great sippers," he says. "They're also not too high in alcohol, which is a plus. When it's warm outside and you get a sudden rush of alcohol, you get hotter."

Instead of using fresh fruit, the restaurant relies on purées for consistency in recipes such as the Strawberry Bellini, mixed with prosecco, the Italian sparkling wine.

Fruity flavors also take center stage in Scoozi's new wine-based cocktails. La Miele offers a blend of Riesling and apple liqueur shaken and served over ice and garnished with an apple twist, while La Breza marries Italian rosé with pineapple, sweetened lime and cranberry juices.

Lehner recommends selecting crisp varietals with high acidity when using wine as a mixer. Pinot grigio, dry Rieslings and Gewürztraminers and Italian Chardonnay all make good choices, he says.

Mix & Match
Sometimes the simplest ideas yield the biggest payoffs. Italian sodas that combine flavored syrups with soda water straight from the beverage gun are a hit with customers at the '82 Grill, a pizzeria at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass., says Carol Luscier, associate operations manager.

Students choose among 21 flavors, including watermelon, passion fruit and blood orange. They also can create their own combinations (strawberry-kiwi and vanilla-strawberry are among favorites).

"None of the restaurants around here offers Italian sodas, so the students know they're getting something different and special," Luscier says.

Just Chill
Atlanta-based chain Carvel recently introduced two new lines of frozen blended drinks targeted at teenagers and young adults. Although the new selections are available year-round, they're particularly well-positioned for summer sales.

Three coffee drinks blend ice, coffee extract, vanilla syrup and the company's creamy vanilla ice-cream mix; flavors include Mocha Freeze, Caramel Macchiato Freeze and Coffee Freeze. Arctic Blenders, the other option, have a similar base but are thicker and more indulgent, featuring small pieces of treats such as cookie dough and peanut-butter cups.

"The world seems to be focused on liquids right now, and we saw an opportunity to do something special that would really bring in incremental business," says Stan Dorsey, Carvel's vice president of research and development.

Back on the cocktail end, mixologist Jim Meehan of PDT in New York City offers this simple advice for creating summer recipes: Consider the spectrum of light to heavy varieties in the different families of spirits. Choose blanco or reposado rather than aÁ±ejo tequilas, younger versus longer-aged bourbons, and milder gins instead of richer, fuller brands. Presentation is a factor, too, he says, adding that tall glasses are a good bet for warm-weather pours.

"In summer, people start drinking earlier, so lowering the proof of drinks and serving them in a refreshing, longer format is a good idea," Meehan says. "People want drinks as refreshments, not just intoxicants."

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