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Five Easy Ways to Transition Your Bar Menu to Specialty Holiday Cocktails (and Attract More Patrons)

July 13, 2022

One drink can change everything. Consider the Pumpkin Spice Latte, with fans waiting impatiently for its arrival every year.

Fortunately, you don’t need to turn everything into a pumpkin to transition your bar menu to cooler weather (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Here are five ways you can shake things up and gain new patrons looking for the perfect drink, reminiscent of cozy sweaters, colorful leaves, and crisp autumn nights.

1. Focus on Fall Fruit

Savvy consumers are looking for craft cocktails that are interesting and unique (and look great on Instagram). You’ve got plenty of inspiration as there are so many fall fruits offering flavor profiles for the perfect seasonal cocktail.

Cranberries, apples, pomegranates, pears, and figs are all fruits that taste great and make for a picture-perfect presentation. In short, if you can make a pie out of it, you can make a delicious craft cocktail from it, too.

2. Use Savory Herbs and Rich Spices

You might think of sage, rosemary, and thyme as better for Thanksgiving dinner, but these savory herbs work beautifully in craft cocktails.

For example, a sage and maple toddy combines bourbon, lemon juice, maple syrup, and sage leaf tea for a deep, memorable flavor. Add a simple rosemary syrup to cranberry juice and gin for a drink that looks and tastes like the holidays.

Spices also work well in fall cocktails, with enhancers like allspice liqueur or cinnamon syrups adding great flavor.


3. Tap a New Sweetener

Fall is the time to break out the rich flavors, and any sugar you use in your craft cocktails should add to that depth of taste. Maple is perfect because it adds both flavor and sweetness.

While maple syrup is a natural with rum and bourbon, don’t discount lighter liquors with maple – add maple syrup, star anise, and sarsaparilla to gin for a spiced maple gimlet. And maple sugar makes for a fun and tasty garnish on any cocktail glass.

4. Add Nuts

Nuts are a popular flavor profile for craft beverages. But for fall, two nuts that will elevate your seasonal cocktails: pecans and black walnuts.

Nut-flavored liquors and bitters add a depth of flavor to craft spirits that say “autumn in a glass.” Pecans are a traditional fall favorite, but the unique taste of black walnuts will make your cocktails stand out.

5. Heat Things Up

Next to a fireplace, a hot cocktail might be the best way to show your patrons a warm welcome. Swapping out one element in old favorites can create new hits.

For example, mix lapsang souchong tea syrup with bourbon for a beautifully smoky drink. Add Irish cream to masala chai tea. Use bourbon instead of whiskey for a Kentucky coffee, and elevate a hot toddy with tequila and cinnamon bark syrup. Give your customers a warm drink to hold, and they’ll keep coming back for more.

The Perfect Accompaniments

When transitioning your bar menu to the holidays, don’t forget to change your bar food, too. You might offer seasonal cookies as an accompaniment to cocktails or highlight autumn flavors in your appetizers. It’s an opportunity to create a unique and fun experience that will win you new fans no matter the season.

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