It’s no longer enough to have just the best atmosphere or the lowest prices if you’re a bar owner or bartender. While anybody can make the simple drinks, it’s the unique and complex cocktails that can really draw a crowd and turn newbie customers into your regulars. With that in mind, here are our 4 tried-and-true tips on inventing new and unique drinks.
1. Start with the Classics
When inventing a unique drink, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. A great jumping off point is to start with the classics. Instead of starting completely from scratch, see what happens when you take a whiskey-cola and make it a whiskey-cherry cola instead. Is it better? That’s up to you, but you’ve made a new drink with a relatively minor change. Eventually, enough small changes add up to something new and (hopefully) exciting.
2. Fail, Fail, and Fail Again
As is the case with any challenge, being able to overcome failure is the key to finding success. To paraphrase Thomas Edison: sometimes it’s not about finding the one way to make a new cocktail – it’s about finding the 2,000 ways not to.
Throughout the creative process, it’s natural to come up with recipes along the way that belong down the drain. Of course, nobody likes failing, but failing is an essential part of learning and discovering what works and what doesn’t. The important part is to take notes, determine what went wrong, and get back at it. And don’t be afraid to start over; sometimes, the best lesson is that nothing went right.
3. Learn the Ingredients
If you’re learning from scratch how to make cocktails, studying all the ingredients can be overwhelming at first. The good news is that experience is the best teacher, and eventually you’ll be able to taste a cocktail and know exactly what it’s missing or what it has too much of.
That’s why it’s important to learn the ingredients you’ll be working with, and what each one brings to the table in terms of taste and poignancy. Do you want strong (whiskey) or smoky (bourbon)? Sweet (sugar) or sour (lemon)? Thinking of ingredients in terms of what they offer can help clarify what belongs and what’s still needed.
4. What’s in a Name?
Sorry, Romeo, but a cocktail by any other name doesn’t taste nearly as sweet. Although a lot of focus goes into making your unique drink taste as delicious as possible, the naming process can make it or break it when it comes to making sales.
While there are no set rules to naming a drink, it’s important to keep in mind the guidelines: names should be as short as possible and easy to pronounce. After that, though, the best rule to follow is just to have fun with it.
One popular method of naming cocktails is to think about the setting of the drink, whether that be the theme of your bar, the city you’re located, or the time of the year. To see how it works in action, look as far as Ted Pizio.
If you don’t know Ted, we don’t blame you, but you definitely know his work. Working at the Confetti Bar in Florida, Ted was inspired by a contest to see who could sell the most peach schnapps during spring break. Combining the schnapps with orange juice, vodka, and grenadine, all he needed was a name. When thinking about his audience, college students on spring break, he thought about what they wanted most: fun in the sun. And voila, the Sex on the Beach was born.
Despite generally being accepted as a pretty bad name, the Sex on the Beach continues to be a mainstay on cocktail menus decades later. With a good taste and a better name, your cocktail could do the same.