With today’s customers craving variety, innovation, and flavor, it should come as no surprise that beverage innovation has proven to be among the top industry trends in 2013. A dynamic, original beverage program can have a significant impact on restaurant traffic, revenue, and brand awareness. Let’s take a look at some of the hottest non-alcoholic beverage trends.
Handcrafted & Artisanal Sodas
As the first-ranked beverage trend by the National Restaurant Association’s 2013 ‘What’s Hot’ survey, house-made soda is becoming increasingly prevalent on successful menus. In San Francisco, The Corner Store offers 4 house sodas (cucumber, grapefruit, spiced orange whip, and mixed berry shrub) and 10 classic regional sodas such as Cheerwine and Boylan’s. In Ann Arbor, Zingerman’s Deli’s soda fountain has been lauded for unique offerings like Puck’s, a nostalgic soda made with natural cane sugar and no artificial flavors. The trend has also taken root on a national scale; Starbucks recently began testing a line of proprietary handcrafted beverages including root beer and ginger ale, and Ruby Tuesday’s introduced a series of seasonal, made-to-order sodas.
Specialty Iced Tea
Iced tea is also experiencing a huge jump in popularity with many restaurants finding success by offering flavored tea drinks or even by using tea as a cocktail base. The trend is influencing brands across all segments; Wendy’s now features Wild Berry Tea, McAlister’s Deli has added Peach Sweet Tea, and Jack-in-the-Box is serving raspberry, peach, and mango flavored teas.
Lemonade variations are another popular way to elevate an otherwise ordinary drink menu. Chefs are giving lemonade the gourmet treatment by infusing the classic drink with unique, unexpected flavor combinations. Lemonade, a fast-casual concept serving seasonal Southern California comfort foods, offers 6 varieties of lemonade daily, including flavors such as blueberry mint, spinach pineapple, and blood-orange. On the opposite coast, NYC’s Gramercy Tavern serves their Limeade with a small pitcher of simple syrup so guests have the ability to adjust the flavor to their preference and Birdbath’s Farmer’s Lemonade is a unique mix of house lemonade with dairy cream.
We especially love the idea of adding muddled mint to lemonade such as in this great recipe for Watermelon Mint Lemonade from J. Kenji Alt at Serious Eats.
2 quarts 1-inch seedless watermelon chunks
1 cup fresh juice from 10 to 12 lemons
1/2 cup sugar
Cold water (as needed)
1 small bunch mint
1 quart ice
1. Place watermelon, lemon juice, sugar, and salt in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into 1- quart liquid measuring cup. Add cold water to equal 1 quart.
2. Place mint in the bottom of a pitcher and muddle lightly with a wooden spoon. Add watermelon mixture and stir to combine. Add ice. Serve immediately in ice-filled glasses garnished with mint sprigs.
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