Designing Drink Menus

Well-designed menus put drinks in the spotlight.
Well-designed menus put drinks in the spotlight. Menu Masters

As beverages become a bigger part of restaurant operations, menu design needs to make room for more splashy descriptions.

As beverages become a bigger part of restaurant operations, menu design needs to make room for more splashy descriptions.

Ever since the word “mixology” entered the bar and restaurant lexicon, beverages have started to move from sideshow to center stage. This trend shows no sign of slowing, with more restaurants adding show-stopping drinks, and more beverage-centric concepts emerging on the scene. To make sure that drinks get proper billing, we asked some industry experts for tips on using menu design and descriptions to give beverages their time in the limelight.

Tip No. 1: Give them space

Give signature drinks their own menu, says Phyllis Weege, owner of Menu Masters, a menu and marketing specialty company in Pewaukee, Wisconsin.

“Especially when you are devoting some resources to craft beers, wines, and a good mix of cocktails, your drink menu needs its own attention. Don’t tuck it away in another part of a menu. Pull it out, stand it up, and keep it on the table. Having it out at all times increases awareness and sales,” she says.

Weege reports that her corporate clients already know the importance of separate menus and often need to go further, with four-color silk screening, unusual shapes, different bindings, and color photos that grab diners’ attention, can be cleaned easily, and hold up well.

MenuMasters seeks out different materials like plastic, PVC, wood, and synthetic paper that can stand up to food, liquid, and wear and tear. Weege recalls one design project for a place set in a train station in Chicago that used Masonite, old iron nails, and laser etching—fitting the décor of the rustic concept while winning points for durability.

“For an upscale hotel lounge, we recently designed an acrylic folder of drinks that had tabs for sorting sections of spirits based on craft beer, wines varietals, and regions and specialty drinks,” Weege explains. “An ambitious drinks list shows that you are staying on trend. A well organized menu presentation will help educate and keep people curious about your latest offerings.”

Tip No. 2: Stay Organized

For Johanna Corman, who, with her husband David Corman, owns a craft beverage—centric concept in Portland, Maine, called Vena’s Fizz House, the menu is both an educational and an organizational tool. Vena’s menu sorts non-alcoholic drinks into three sections: curatives, restoratives, and digestives.

“These are three historical types of apothecary drinks that people took for different health reasons, like helping to digest a large meal or getting a jolt of energy,” Corman explains. “We spent a lot of our first year with just a chalkboard drinks list and talking with people, letting them taste and answering questions.”

“We use a very old ingredient called phosphates—it imparts more of a feel and a tingle than a taste, so it can be hard to describe. It’s an ingredient used before people used citric acid,” Corman says.

Now that Vena’s has an official, printed menu, the Cormans use it to educate people and give a history lesson on how ingredients and botanicals developed in drinks to be used for medicinal purposes.




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