In good times and in bad, people walk into a bar or restaurant looking for a beverage to buoy their mood. With the news coming out of the Supreme Court last month aligning with the official start of summer, the country is going to be needing a big one, or a few, no matter whether they are mourning or celebrating the decision.
Fortunately, for every bar and restaurant’s bottom line, summer menus recently kicked in or are about to, and soon you’ll have the answer to the question… what’s the drink of summer 2022? The answer is… while we hate the idea of jumping on trends here at totalfood.com because it’s got that fly-by-night feel, we know a good thing happening when we see it. Summer 2022 is officially the take it easy and enjoy life in a glass summer. There’s no question that frozen drinks are holding steady, and rosé wine with its rosé all day craze is sticking around, but the thing bringing us the most liquid joy right now is the ability to sit back and enjoy the return of the simple, refreshing highball.
Lest you worry that the ever-popular frozen Margarita or Pina Colada are going to take a back seat, don’t. Life is being enjoyed 35-40% more so far this summer if sales at Bloomers Frozen Drinks are any indication. Founder Stacie Weisman notes the benefit of a strong frozen drinks program for operators as she says, “It’s great; with the shortness of staff, you don’t have to worry, you have a pre-made drink that you just have to pull the handle to.”
That pre-made option that keeps guests happy while effectively addressing the ongoing issue of short on staff situations is one reason frozen drinks are here to stay. At Vitamix® Lisa Klein, VP, Commercial and International sales, also reports an uptick and says, “After the first wave of the pandemic, the demand for our commercial machines, such as The Quiet One®, went up and it continues to increase, alongside rising consumer demand for cold and frozen beverages in quick-service restaurants.”
She continues, “We are also seeing our machines and accessories being used to create an ever-wider range of cold and iced beverages, including specialty coffee and smoothies. In general, beverages are becoming more complex and varied, with a wide range of choices, including customizable options. Made-to-order beverages have become a way of creating meaning or fun in people’s daily lives, not just a means of hydrating or getting caffeine.”
According to Kala Ellis, Beverage Director at Indigo Road Hospitality, frozen drinks in Nashville have always been a fun thing. The same is true in New York, where The Smith changes up their menu seasonally to wow guests in their always-packed restaurants. Mike DiTota, The Smith Bar Manager who oversees all restaurants concurs with Ellis and comments, “We are big fans of frozen drinks, and think they offer an opportunity to enjoy a cocktail in a new way.” At The Smith this currently means you can enjoy a frozen French 75. Drinks like this classic turned into an icy experience keeps frozen drinks in the top-10 bestselling cocktails during the summer. But ask DiTota what his guests are asking for over and over as the temperature climbs right now, and he’ll tell you, “Tonic or soda topped cocktails that are simple, and crisp have been ones we’ve seen people looking for more often.”
Meghan Balser, a former NYC bartender who is now the San Diego based brand ambassador for Humboldt Distillery understands why and she shares, “This is the summer of cocktail freedom. Summer is all about light, refreshing, crushable, and sessionable. There’s a reason lower ABV Rosé (All Day) caught on and breweries now make sessionable beers. Longer days mean longer hours of sunlight, and if you are partaking in daytime drinking, you want to make sure that you can sustain your sobriety throughout the afternoon. Lower ABV cocktails or Hard Kombuchas are always good to have on the menu during summer.”
Ellis concurs and shares her opinion that the low proof highball is the drink of 2022. Her research supporting this? Bartenders, always the arbiters of next year’s trends, have been on the low abv highball bandwagon for at least a year. And who can question the popularity of canned cocktails and hard seltzers? Currently Ellis’ favorite call is a blanc vermouth with soda and a lemon twist.
The Rosé Sangria Spritz that reappears on The Smith’s summer menu annually reflects Ellis’ and Balser’s thoughts about summer drinking, and there’s no denying that hot and sticky Washingtonians embrace the classic Rickey as their signature summer hometown drink for a reason.
While refreshing is the name of the game, quality ingredients and interesting options draws them in and makes guests order one more. Ellis looks to under the radar spirits like Trakal from Patagonia, while creativity drives Adam Montgomerie, the Bar Manager of the New York outpost of London’s famed Hawksmoor, and his team who worked together to produce a summer cocktail program centered around the dual themes of thirst-quenching and compelling. He explains, “For us it’s all about Highballs. We have some staples on our menu, La Mariposa, Ginza Highball, Hawksmoor Calling, and for summer we’ve added a couple more. The Mandarin Paloma is our take on the classic Paloma which we’ve updated with Mezcal, mandarin and other tropical notes. Our Mackinaw Highball features the classic combination of Bourbon and peach and is accentuated by Cognac and Jasmine tea.”
Riffing on drinks like the Paloma and the Margarita allow Montgomerie to reach for ingredients like the Oro Blanco grapefruit he sources from California. Just as Ellis knows that drinks need to reflect the setting and food coming out of a kitchen Montgomerie also seeks ingredients that suit the venue as he explains, “Oro Blancos are less acidic and have a really delicious, sweet flavor that makes them perfect for this drink. Bernard Ranches also farm sustainably and put some serious work in to looking after their land which aligns with Hawksmoor values.”
Klein concludes with a few thoughts, “The objective is not to put as many beverages on your menu as possible but to know your customers and to have options they truly want. It’s also important to organize your menu so it’s easy for people to quickly discover what meets their needs at the moment.”
The moment is calling for refreshing drink options. Count on washing a lot of Collins glasses this summer.
SIPS TO SAVOR:
While highballs and frozen drinks will remain center stage this summer, there’s still always room for rosé. And this special edition that hit the market in June in time for Pride month is one you’ll want to know, both for its desirable off-dry rosé style, and because sales from the Love Now bottle of Maison Marcel benefits the Latino Equity Alliance. Guests will love this blend of Grenache, merlot, black and white muscat that comes in at 12% abv. Doing good while tasting great is an extra bonus.
(Photo by Eugene Lee)