The summer months are almost here and that means it’s time for cocktails on outdoor patios. Guests at bars and restaurants are looking for drinks that are refreshing and feature summer fruits or other seasonal items. Harry Nikolaou, bar manager at GNH Bar and Plum + Spilt Milk in London is responsible for ensuring that the cocktail list at both restaurants match the changing seasons. “We always want to make something revolutionary, making cocktails which have never been made before,” he says.
Crafting a seasonal cocktail list can seem like a difficult task, but Nikolaou has a few tips to help bar managers give their drinks menu a seasonal twist.
Start with inspiration
Nikolaou grew up in Patras, Greece and uses his memories of summers there to create drinks for his cocktails lists. For him creating drinks is about telling a story and there’s no better way to do that then by recreating the smells and tastes that remind him of warmer months. “Ingredients like fresh peaches, grapes, rose petals, berries, white rum, Violette liqueur – all these scents and flavours remind me of the smell of fresh air by the sea at the beginning of spring in my hometown,” he says.
Think of the cocktail list as a parallel to what’s going on in the kitchen
While most guests expect the kitchen to update the menu to reflect the seasons, they may be surprised to learn that cocktail lists get the same treatment. Nikolaou says that he has made it a priority to show that the bar programme is just as seasonal as the food programme. “At Plum + Spilt Milk, we not only want to create cocktail menus which utilise the best seasonal produce, but which also evoke the memory of each season,” he says. Drinks like the King’s Garden, made with apple juice, mint and cucumber from the restaurant’s garden, help add a summery feel to the cocktail list by taking advantage of what’s available during the season.
Tell your guest a story via their glass
“I believe that aromas, colours, presentation and the story behind the drink can take you to the seaside during the summer or to snowy slopes during the winter,” says Nikolaou. Thinking this way can help bartenders create cocktails that speak to the warmer season and make guests feel like they’re having a new experience. “We always try to think about the whole guest experience and not just about the drink on its own.” Those stories, and new cocktails are a way of connecting with a guest and giving them a more complete experience. “Our aim is to guide people so that they become more adventurous in their choices and try new ideas”.
Don’t forget to stock up on ingredients for the classic cocktails
While Plum + Spilt Milk is known for its inventive cocktails, guests also know that they can order classic warmer weather drinks, and the team is happy to make a classic drink for guests. “Mojitos, Bellini and aperol spritz,’s are in high demand during the summer months,” Nikolaou says, “whilst we always look to push creative boundaries we have great respect for the classics.”
Add your personality to your drinks menu
“Crafting cocktails is a presentation of your personality and soul, it is not just a mix of ingredients,” Nikolaou says. Bar managers and bartenders should think of their cocktails as a way to communicate with their guests and show a bit of themselves. “I would advise other bar managers to look into their unique memories and feelings of each season and try to create the cocktail menu based on their feelings about what each season means to them and how they would communicate this through one cocktail.”