• Steve The Barman
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How to create your Cocktail Menu - First Steps

The first things to think about is Trends, Seasonal Flavours and the style of Drinks you want to list. You don’t have to go down the seasonal route. Some do, and some don’t. It might just be that a summery Elderflower Cocktail will also sell really well in Autumn. In fact, this might be a controversial statement, but Seasonal Menus are sometimes left to the top end Cocktail Bars where all the ingredients they use are fresh and syrups and purees and made from scratch.

However, it is worth keeping an eye on Trends. If Rum is the new trend, it does you no favours having a Cocktail Menu heavily influenced by Gin. But that said, if Gin makes up 75% of your Spirits sales, then don’t ignore that. But you should still offer something to satisfy other tastes.


Menu Categories

Think about the look and feel of the Menu…or how it reads. Your Segments or Categories.

  • Will you be separating Cocktails off by Spirit?
  • Will they be grouped by Glass Style, for example; Martini serves and HiBall serves.
  • Will they be separated off by Drink style, for example; Fun & Tropical and Classy & Elegant.
  • Don’t also forget that the No and Low category is good money too. Not every customer who comes in wants to drink Alcohol. But on the same token, not even Non-Drinker wants Coke, Lemonade or Orange Juice!

Building a Cocktail Menu


Make a List of Drinks

Once you have a vision in your head of what will work for you, your team, your venue and your customers, its time to start listing down all the cocktails. In this case, the more the better. Because the whole purpose of this exercise is to start to get rid of the Drinks that you think will have less appeal or be the slow movers. For example, If you think you want 10 Cocktails on a Menu, try to list out 20. But don’t just list them for the sake of it. List Cocktails that you’d genuinely love to sell.


Where to get Cocktail Inspiration from

  • Your own creations, including your Team. (an "in-house" Team Competition is great for this and it also builds morale)
  • Cocktail Books
  • Brands Websites
  • Instagram

The art is not to steel, although no one can really “own” a recipe. But if you can take the inspiration and put your own twist on a Cocktail, then that’s ideal.

For example, Steve the Barman says “every Menu he has created has always had a “Woo Woo” on it. It Sells. It puts great money in your Tills. But I’ve never just Listed a normal Woo Woo. For example, I’ve swapped out the Vodka for maybe a Raspberry Vodka and maybe added Monin Cherry Puree. It’s such a simple variation, but you put a "Berries & Cherries Woo Woo" on a Menu and people go mad for it! And you can do that with so many standard cocktails.”

Strawberry Woo Woo

Now what?

When you have your list of possibles. There are a few things you HAVE to do now.

  • Research to make sure you can source all the ingredients easily. As in, you need to make sure you can replace them within a few days.
  • Cost them out (which we’ll cover in a future blog)
  • Make them. You need to see how quick and easy they are to make. And you need to judge them all on taste. Never put a Cocktail on a Menu that you think just tastes “meh”. If you’re going for 10 on a list, all 10 need to be “Wow, that’s good!”


Final pointers

Remember during this phase, you’re looking at using Brands and Products that your venue has good connections with and that customers can buy into. To use the JJ Whitley or Whitley Neill example again. If you currently sell them, then it makes no sense to start using Absolut in Cocktails. But it does allow you to get creative within brand. Going back to the Woo Woo again. Using the JJ Whitley Raspberry Vodka, or the Peach and Apricot gives you great riffs on Cocktails, without deviating from those tried and tested brands you already sell.


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