Cocktails on tap, punch, barrel-aged cocktails, and bottled cocktails—these are some of the hottest trends hitting the bar in recent years. None are flavor trends, but rather changes in format from standard, individual-size drinks. And they can be prepared in advance or mixed to order in bulk, for the added benefit of speeding drink service in busy restaurants. In fact, the downside to the current craft cocktail renaissance is that meticulously-prepared, nuanced, complex drinks take longer to mix, stir, or shake than do Jack & Coke or Gin & Tonic off the soda gun. Customers don’t particularly enjoy the added wait time, and slower drinks can reduce bar profits if price isn’t adjusted accordingly. But all of these new (or retro) formats are showy and appealing, and, at least for now, the novelty entices customers to order the drinks.
Built to Order—Punches, Pitchers, Barrels, and Flasks
Though pitchers are most often associated with beer, sangria, and patio bars, bartenders are finding they can serve other cocktails in them as well. More eye-catching than small cocktail glasses, pitchers brimming with fresh garnishes such as cucumber or orange rounds and herbs such as mint and basil tempt people at nearby tables to follow suit and order their own.
Restaurants like Eveleigh in Los Angeles offer sophisticated cocktails by the pitcher, such as the Eveleigh Lemonade made with chamomile-infused tequila, Cocchi Americano, Combier orange liqueur, lemon juice, and honey.
Punch by the bowl is another revitalized phenomenon that has become more popular of late. One of the first mixed drinks from the 1600s, punch dates back to British sailors traveling to India and incorporating tea and spices into their drinks. Shared bowls of punch were popular through Colonial American days, after which they were phased out in favor of individual-sized beverages. More recently, of course, punch has been associated with college parties and drinks made in trash cans; but bartenders have reclaimed the beverage, inspired by the retro-cocktail movement and the influential book Punch by David Wondrich.
Regardless of formula or flavor, punch has regained a place at the restaurant bar. At venues like Boston’s Citizen Public House, located near Fenway Park, punches are part of the family-style dining program that includes menu selections such as a whole roasted suckling pig. Bar and beverage director, Joy Richard, says people ordering the whole roasted pig will often order several punch bowls, as do people seated at a corner booth at the end of the bar.
Though Richard says the punches don’t necessarily hasten service, the overall program is “built for speed,” with most cocktails containing four or fewer ingredients and the menu featuring a special shot-and-a-beer section. They also offer one cocktail and Fernet-Branca on tap, and are preparing to install a frozen-drink machine in which they’ll serve sophisticated versions of cocktails like Daiquiris and Pina Coladas. “That will be an easy one to sell really quickly,” Richard says.