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Crafting a signature cocktail menu is easier than you think

Signature cocktails are the perfect way to kick off a dining experience. They give you the chance to showcase your creativity and uniqueness, and create an air of exclusivity that cements customer loyalty. Finally, signature drinks are also a wonderful focal point for your marketing efforts, especially on social media!

Discover Chef Brown’s tips for crafting a delicious signature sip, and how to dress it up with the perfect cheese pairing.


What are the key features of a signature cocktail?

  1. Creativity: What ingredient, process, or presentation element make this drink different? Are you offering a twist on a classic? Does it have a creative name?

  2. Ingredients: What creative flavour combination are you serving up? Are you supporting a local distiller? Are you growing any ingredients yourself?

  3. Uniqueness: What’s special about this cocktail that nobody else could replicate? Are you using a homemade ingredient, like an infused syrup made with fruit peels or herb stems?

  4. Presentation: What makes your cocktail look nice? Are you using infused ice cubes, garnishes, themed glasses, a showy pouring method?

  5. Demographic: Does your cocktail meet your client’s expectations and align with your brand? Are you focusing on what you do best?

How to use garnishes to dress up your cocktails 

Garnishes can create a bridge between your cocktail menu and dinner menu, especially if you use ingredients you already have on-hand (as a bonus, it’ll help you reduce waste!). These tasty additions can give your cocktails a “wow” factor and transform them into mini appetizers.

Adding a garnish is also a great way to upsell and introduce other menu items. If you serve the Pacific on the rocks cocktail, for example, your servers can tell customers about your nacho burger since it uses the same cheese.

While cocktails might seem worlds apart from cheese, they can be paired just like wine or beer! Adding a cheesy garnish can balance out the sugar ratio in your drinks, since something too sweet will curb customers’ appetites. We asked Chef Brown for some expert pairings for cheese and spirits – here are some of his favourites.

  • Gin cocktails: The botanical astringency of gin pairs well with many cheeses, including washed rind varieties like Cantonnier and blue-veined cheeses like Bleubry.

  • Fruit-based cocktails: Fruity drinks highlight the distinctive notes of sharp flavoured and blue cheeses very well. Try using a fruit liqueur like Campari or Aperol as a base, then cutting the drink with a light bubbly liquid like tonic, club soda, Kombucha, or prosecco.

  • Whiskey-based cocktails: Whiskey’s smoky, grainy notes match perfectly with sharp cheeses like Manchego and old white cheddar.

  • Effervescent cocktails: Prosecco, sparkling cider, and champagne complement the firm creaminess and nuttiness of cheeses like Swiss, Raclette, and Edam.

  • Warm cocktails: Wintery drinks that use eggnog, cream, or milk go great with rich, soft, bloomy rind cheeses like Brie. They’re best served as a dessert course or after-dinner drink.

If you are using cheeses with high milk fat content, keep the portions small, or compliment them with something acidic so guests don’t feel full after their drink.

How to draw customers in using cocktails

  • Showcase your cocktails on social media to highlight your creativity and personality – two qualities that will attract customers and get them interested in your food. Luckily, cocktails are very photogenic!

  • Attract people with a promotion, like a discount on appetizers or other high-margin items when they order a cocktail.

  • Offer mocktail versions of your boozy drinks. 33% of people are ordering more mocktails than two years ago1, so non-alcoholic drinks are a great opportunity to attract a diverse crowd. 

  • Consider including cocktail or beer pairings for different menu items. It’s a great way to inspire diners and increase your average eater cheque.

  • Have a rotating cocktail menu that is clearly written on a chalkboard or other display. Make sure your servers know each drink’s flavour profile so they can make recommendations based on customers’ preferences.

Signature drinks are perfect for introducing customers to new and exciting ingredients, like specialty cheeses. Get inspired by what you have in your kitchen, let your creativity run wild with presentation and ingredient combos, and wow your customers time and time again.

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1 Technomic, 2020

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