How to Create Profitable Signature Drinks in Your Bar or Restaurant


In order to make great signature drinks, you need to make sure those drinks taste good and have a high perceived value. The goal is to gain recognition for a unique offering that gets people coming back to your place to try it. There are several important components of creating a profitable signature drink program, so keep these things in mind as you concoct your exclusive creations.

Know Your Clientele

As with any business, it is essential to cater to your target market. You need to know what your guests are coming for, how much they are willing to pay and what new things they might enjoy.

Determine What Patrons Want 

This is often one of the first things to do when opening a bar or restaurant. Determining what people are looking for in the area is a good way to set up shop and cater to those needs specifically. If you run a bar near a college campus, you may know for sure that your target market is a younger clientele who wants inexpensive drinks in a laid-back but modern environment. If you run an upscale lounge, you may have more possibilities to play with, including more expensive liqueurs or exotic garnishes.

Involve Your Patrons

When you focus on building a relationship with your customers, you can better gauge what they are looking for in their favorite bar. Regular customers will often be happy to give their opinion on what kind of drink they would be willing to try, or what type of alcohol they enjoy the most. When creating new signature drinks, involve your guests and try to obtain feedback to point you in the right direction.

Cater to a New Market

Creating new, enticing drinks can also be a great way to cater to a different group to try and bring in new guests. For instance, you might appeal to a younger, hip market in your area by offering a selection of fun, fancy cocktails. Promote a small martini menu and see if what new guests you can attract.

Create Something Unique

With your signature drinks, you want to create an impression of exclusivity. Try a new method of mixing or start using a new flavored liqueur. Look at the tips below and try something you have never done before:

Blend Different Alcohols

Some bartenders have found success by blending alcohol types that may not seem intuitive at first. Blend a blackberry or other sweet vodka with a port wine for a unique and interesting drink. For beer, take the Black and Tan a step further and try floating a porter over a pilsner. You may need to do some experimenting to get it right, but you could be surprised by the results—and have a lot of fun trying.

Try an Infusion 

Bring out your personal mad scientist and experiment with infusions. All you need are glass jars, vodka, and a selection of fruits, vegetables, herbs, candy or other interesting morsels that might add a unique flavor. Simply add your ingredients to your jars of vodka, and wait a week or two. Some bars create entire concepts around unique infusions like this.

Add Perceived Value

When guests come to drink or dine at your restaurant, you want to offer them a good value. Adding perceived value puts that little something extra in the customer’s mind as something they find exceptional, exciting and ultimately, worthy of a higher price. Bar and restaurant owners and managers can add perceived value in a number of things, but here are a few examples of ways to tack on that special something:

Production Value

When a guest sees a bartender making a drink, they will probably either ask themselves if they can make something like it at home, or they will look on in awe as their masterful bartender whips out a seemingly complicated drink in no time flat. If your guests believe that they can only find a drink of this kind at your bar, you have made the right impression.

Make the Garnish Count

For many bars, a few lime slices thrown in with the ice counts as a garnish. If you want to create perceived value, this will not fly. With signature drinks you expect people to pay good money for, you want to create the sense of style, class, pizzazz, or whatever it is you think people want. A kabob of tropical fruit on a skewer makes any Mai tai look better. A rock-candy swizzle stick in a fruity martini adds something out of the ordinary. The garnish goes a long way in adding perceived value for the guest, often at low cost to you.

Choose Glassware Wisely 

You may think of your bar glassware as mere vessels for your alcoholic concoctions. However, glassware is incredibly important to your profit margins as well as the value customers find in them. For instance, simply choosing an eight-ounce rocks glass instead of a ten-ounce one can give you another shot or two per bottle of spirits. When it is packed full of ice and filled almost to the top with alcohol, guests believe they are getting a great deal. Likewise, choosing a fancier glass, such as a martini glass or a hurricane glass, can give your customers the impression of value without the addition of more alcohol. This may cost more at first, but over time these small changes in glassware can save you money.

Make it Memorable

Creating a signature drink is about more than just the drink. You want your guests to have a memorable experience at your establishment; the drink is just the gateway. Often, making a memorable drink adds spice and flare to the overall experience, encouraging people to think of your bar or restaurant next time they are looking for a great time.

Choose a Jazzy Name

Choosing a fun or memorable name can give your customers a sense of curiosity about the drink before even tasting it. Some bars name their signature drinks after the owner or a relation to the owner, such as a “Bloody Mary Jane,” to put a spin on a traditional favorite. You may even choose a nonsensical name like “Woo Woo” to gain interest. As soon as a guest asks, “what is a Woo Woo?” servers have a good opportunity to sell one.

Make Your Service Unforgettable

Some bars are known for their signature drinks because they light them on fire before serving them to the guests. Others give their drinks a ride down an ice luge before serving them. Things like this create an extraordinary experience and give the customer something to remember about your bar instead of the competition.

Remember Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Just because the majority of your adult clientele will be looking for a drink that will give them a buzz does not mean you should not provide an exciting non-alcoholic beverage menu. After all, there are designated drivers, children and other non-drinkers who will appreciate the chance to try something other than a Coke or virgin daiquiri. Try whipping up a rum-free frozen Mai Tai with chunks of fresh pineapple, or offer unique flavors of Italian soda with real whipped cream. Specialty coffee drinks are also great options for your sober guests. These drinks may even be more profitable for you, since they often contain mainly juice mixes and garnishes. By catering to every one of your customers, you are more likely to get the respect and repeat business you want.

photo credit: Cosmo Poured into Eclipse Glass via photopin (license)


About Author

John Garcia

Amateur cook, expert eater. Originally from Granby, Colorado, I'm a mountain boy who enjoys the simple things in cheeseburgers and pet cats. I'm also a blogger for Food Service Warehouse who enjoys writing about food just as much as eating it.

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