By: Mike Walls, Certified Cicerone®, Operations & Beverage
We often go to bars for comradery, to relax and spend time with our friends while we imbibe together. In years past that may have meant ordering a bottle of champagne or a round of shots, but one of the hottest trends in cocktails right now has us imbibing together in a whole new way. It is no longer a strange sight to see a group of friends at a bar using six 16-inch metal straws to share a giant golden vase filled with a delicious, boozy, handcrafted concoction. Bars and their patrons across the country are embracing these giant shareable cocktails because they are profitable, recognizable, often outrageous and they bring us together.
When deciding how to serve these enormous beverages, bartenders have a whole universe of untapped vessels to choose from, including vases, punch bowls, fish tanks, spigot dispensers, repurposed coffee equipment, and hollowed out melons. The right presentation can be a showstopper where the whole restaurant turns their heads saying, “I wonder what they got?” as the server triumphantly delivers the showpiece across the dining room. These often whimsical and over-the-top presentations also encourage another big trend in the bar and restaurant world: taking pictures that are Instagram-worthy. What better way to spread the word about your offerings than having your own guests feel compelled to show off their experience by plastering social media with pictures of your creations? The spectacle alone drives sales and gives the bar the opportunity to flex some creative muscle that the whole world can see, free of charge.
Much like any drink, these supersized cocktails can capitalize on other trends in a big way like using fresh, herbs, smoke and tea infusions. The size does not limit the quality or creativity of the drink and it can fit right in with the rest of the menu offerings. Many restaurants are even creating scalable cocktail lists from which the guest can order a cocktail from the menu as a single or in a number of shareable sizes depending on the number of guests. These cocktails can be batched, made fresh, mixed tableside or served deconstructed allowing the guest to customize and experiment as they drink.
Prices of $50 to $300 are not uncommon with punch bowls that serve a large group may be made with ingredients like fresh juices, cognac and a whole bottle of champagne. This is a serious increase in check averages similar to selling a high-end bottle of wine, most likely at a better cost; with only a bit more prep. It may sound crazy to charge so much for a cocktail, but the price is generally calculated by multiplying the number of servings by the price of a single drink (and usually comes in a few dollars less). Guests understand the math and don’t mind spending more money sharing in this better-than-bottle service experience with a group of friends.