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By
Kali Mireva

Essential Bar Drinks to Always Have on Your Beverage Menu

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When you are first stating a business in the hospitality industry, you are faced with decisions that have to be made and challenges to be overcome. Whether you are opening a bar or a country club, food and beverage are a crucial part of it all. 

The food you choose to serve greatly depends on the type of cuisine you like and want to center your establishment around. Choosing drinks, however, is a bit different. Although you need to think about delicious drink and food pairings, there are essential bar drinks that should always make it into the beverage menu

We are experts when it comes to building an outstanding beverage inventory and that’s why we want to help you narrow down the options for your menu. If you keep reading, you will find our comprehensive list of essential bar drinks that we believe most, if not all bars and restaurants should serve. Regardless of the type of cuisine or the style of their establishment. 

Essential Bar Drinks: Must-Have Alcoholic Beverages

Let’s start with the most important decisions - what types of alcoholic beverages to serve. There are great cocktails that can be added to the menu. You also have to build an outstanding wine list, regardless of how big or small it may be. Beer brands have to be selected and so much more! 

Here are the essential bar drinks to have on your menu or if you don’t, the bartender should be able to make them upon request.

Key Takeaway: When you first open a bar or a restaurant, you should not forget about the basics. The drinks everyone knows and loves will help you step into the local bar and restaurant scene and build your options up from there. 

1. Classic Cocktail Drinks

The most popular cocktails in the world will be ordered by customers whether you have them on the menu or not. That’s why we recommend you have all of the necessary ingredients. Putting your own twist on them is also a great idea. This will help you stand out from the crowd while still offering drinks that everyone loves. For example, you can play around with the cocktail garnish or the glassware

  • Martini
  • Old Fashioned
  • Negroni
  • Manhattan
  • Moscow Mule
  • Mojito

In previous articles, we talked about how to find the best gin for Martini, shared the Negroni recipe, and discussed the best ginger beer for Moscow Mule. To perfect any of these cocktail drinks dive deeper into these topics. 

2. Other Popular Cocktails and Mixed Drinks

The previous list is of the absolute must-haves in the world of cocktails. Now, we will share another list with a bit less popular drinks. However, they are also ones that people from everywhere enjoy and would probably ask for, even if you don’t have them listed anywhere. 

  • Margarita
  • Piña Colada
  • Daiquiri
  • Mai Tai
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Long Island Iced Tea

Want to know which is the best tequila for Margarita? We got you covered! You will also find a full article on how to make a Whiskey Sour. But if you want to dive deeper into the world of the best Daiquiris, this list is for you: 

Here, you can find out which is the best rum for Daiquiris, which will help you plan your inventory. Don’t make any compromises with quality when selecting the types of alcohol for your bar or restaurant and will see an increase in satisfied customers, as well as profit.  

3. Signature Cocktails

As we mentioned already, you can always put a twist on classic drinks to make them more your own. But it’s also recommended you put time and effort into developing your signature drinks. If you are not an expert in cocktail making, get the help of a professional mixologist. With their expertise, you can create drinks that match the cuisine at your restaurant, the season, and/or the vibe you want to create when people are at your establishment. 

4. Different Types of Beer  

Beer is one of the most popular drinks in the world. Especially now, when Super Bowl watch parties are just a few weeks away, make sure you stack up on many different quality beers. From pale ales and dark beers to craft brews - there are a lot of options. You can read about the Super Bowl beers we recommend, which are a great choice all year round. 

However, it’s always good to find local breweries and try their unique craft beers. Craft beer and food is a great way to end the day or enjoy a football game. Keep that in mind and cater to the beer lovers in your local area. They will appreciate it!

5. Wine Selection

There are so many different varieties of wine in the world. You can’t possibly know and try all of them. So you start with some basic categories:

You can look into gluten-free wine, as well as vegan wines. Low-alcohol wines and non-alcoholic wines are something you can consider, too. Add a few bottles of each type so you can have something for different types of customers. 

6. Non-Alcoholic Beverages

The variety of non-alcoholic drinks is huge! You can mix popular mocktails and healthy mocktails, or just make virgin versions of common cocktails

7. Spirits 

Some people love a neat drink. Make sure you have all these spirits at your bar or restaurant not only for cocktail-making: 

When you have a good selection of spirits, you will be able to create various cocktails and serve some of the spirits as aperitifs and digestifs.

8. Hot Drinks 

Let’s not forget about the hot drinks! Coffee and tea are a must-have for any business in the hospitality industry. You can look into specialty coffee, as well as matcha tea if you want to take these drinks to the next level. Hot chocolate should be in your inventory, too. 

9. Seasonal Drinks

Although we are focusing on the all-year-round must-haves, it’s important to mention that you should have seasonal offers, too. Building a seasonal menu can be a challenge but to help with that, we have articles on: 

Don’t be afraid of experimenting. You can create unique cocktails for each season and see what your customers like best. If they love it so much, you can add the seasonal drink to your permanent menu. 

10. Water and Sodas

Still and sparkling water are another bar and restaurant must-have. Stock up on sodas, too. Tonic water can make the cut as well, together with colas and other popular soda drinks. 

Essential Bar Drinks: How to Manage It All?

The list of essential bar drinks is long and takes a lot of time to curate and then manage. That’s why you need to use proper beverage inventory software. This is the only way to save time and money while ensuring smooth operations in your bar and restaurant. 

BinWise Pro will help you with digital ordering, following trends, and customer behaviors. It will also help you build your wine list and edit it on a needed basis. Our platform has integrations for over 50 POS systems, so don’t waste any more time and book a demo to learn more!

Frequently Asked Questions about Essential Bar Drinks

If you want to know more about essential bar drinks, read this section. We will answer some frequently asked questions!

How to Create a Balanced Cocktail Menu?

A balanced cocktail menu should include a mix of:

  • Classic cocktails
  • Popular mixed drinks
  • Signature cocktails unique to the bar
  • Mocktails

These options will help cater to a diverse range of preferences. 

What Is the Difference Between a Cocktail and a Mixed Drink?

A cocktail typically refers to a drink made by combining a base spirit with other ingredients like bitters, sugar, and citrus. A mixed drink, on the other hand, is a broader term that encompasses any beverage made by mixing different ingredients, including non-alcoholic drinks. 

How Often Should a Bar Update Its Drink Menu?

The frequency of updating a drink menu can vary. However, it's a good practice to do so seasonally or at least a few times a year. This allows for the introduction of seasonal ingredients and keeps the menu fresh and interesting for regular customers.

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