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Unique Cocktails: Trendy, Unpopular, & Literature-Inspired

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Do you want to serve unique cocktails at your restaurant or bar? We bet every business owner wants to do something different. Sustaining a business in the hospitality industry takes a lot of hard work, researching, taking risks, investing, and getting inspiration!

This guide is all about the latter. We want to inspire you to experiment with different types of menus and offers to keep things exciting for your customers. 

Cocktail Trends to Try in 2024

Serving popular great cocktails and keeping the beverage inventory organized is not all that you need to do as a bar or restaurant owner. Curating wine lists, sourcing unique wines, experimenting with gluten-free cocktail recipes, and implementing plant-based milk into recipes are just some of the things to add to your list. 

Keeping an eye on the adult beverage trends is also important for the bartender and restaurant manager. Not all trends should make it to your menu, but you can get inspired to create something similar. Look into the historical data from your restaurant beverage tracking software and see which type of alcohol people order most, for example.

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Which Cocktails Are Trendy in 2023?

Trends can be influenced by a certain location, social events, and other happenings. Here, we have curated a list of some unique cocktails that people have been loving in 2023. 

1. Spicy Cocktails - Lately, there’s been a shift from the traditional sweeter cocktails towards more savory options. Spicy cocktails are all the rage right now. Some options to try are Spicy Margarita, Picantes, Bloody Maria, and Cucumber Wasabi Martini. 

2. 90s Throwback - Espresso Martini was a favorite in the 90s. Now, you can try serving it with a twist! Use cold brew coffee and add some vanilla. You can even switch the vodka for scotch whiskey. 

3. Unique Ice Cubes - Special ice cubes may seem too much, but they can improve the customer experience. From the glassware to the garnish of the cocktail and the quality of alcohol and the drink mixers - it all matters. Try making different shapes of ice or putting different herbs in it like thyme and mint. You can even put lemon slices, lavender, or coffee. 

4. Negroni with a Twist - Negroni is not a new cocktail by any means, but lately, it has come back. It balances bitter, sweet, and botanical flavors. Originally, it was a Campari-based cocktail but now, people change the gin for prosecco wine. This allows to achieve a lower ABV

This cocktail is known as Negroni Sbagliato, and it’s lighter and sweeter. If you replace gin with Mezcal, you will get a Mezcal Negroni, which is great, too. 

5. Experimental Drinks - Millennials always want to try something new and Gen-Z’s are looking for pretty things to take pictures of, so experimental cocktails are a great thing to offer now.  Cocktail drinks have always been beautiful and presentation will forever matter. Invest time to create something truly unique and beautiful and you can be sure that customers will want to try it!

6. No-Alcohol and Low-Alcohol Cocktails - 2023 is the year when we see an increased interest in alcohol-free drinks and low-alcohol drinks (such as low-alcohol wines and low-alcohol cocktails). Try adding more prosecco cocktails and wine cocktails to your menu.

7. Spiked Slushies - A Frozen Cosmo Slushy is a great drink to enjoy on a hot summer day. Start with the classic Cosmopolitan recipe and then turn it into a slushy. You can also make a Frozen Piña Colada and a Frozen Strawberry Margarita.

Unpopular Cocktails You Can Serve  

Popular cocktails drinks will get ordered by people, whether or not they are on the menu. Spring cocktails, summer cocktails, fall cocktails, and winter cocktails, as well as some great cocktails in between. The true classics are loved by many!

But if you want to change things up and not stick only to the popular drinks, consider reviving some unpopular cocktails. Even by changing the glassware that was used for a specific drink, you can make a huge difference. Let’s see what you can offer!

Unpopular but Unique Cocktails to Revive

Let’s see which are the unique cocktails that maybe deserve to be given another chance to get more popular!

  • Embarcadero Cocktail - It’s close in flavor to Negroni and the Boulevardier. Many people who have had it think it’s more drinkable than the other two, but it still remains unpopular. The Embarcadero pairs well with charcuterie boards, light appetizers, and salads. Different types of pasta, as well as Mediterranean and Asian dishes, go perfectly with it, too. 
  • 20th Century Cocktail - Tom Collins and Dry Martini are some of the best cocktails from past decades, but the 20th Century cocktail deserves attention, too. It’s made of creme de cacao, Lillet blanc, and some tart lemon juice. It goes well with seafood dishes, salads, sushi, chicken, duck, fruit desserts, etc.
  • Left Hand Cocktail - This drink is a delicious blend of bourbon, Campari sweet vermouth, and chocolate bitters (see: what are bitters), garnished with a brandied cherry. 
  • Jungle Bird Cocktail - At first, this drink was popular in Malaysia, but later it became a part of all good Tiki cocktail lists in the US. It’s made with pineapple juice, freshly squeezed lime juice, rum, Campari, and simple syrup. It’s a perfect match for spicy Indonesian and Thai dishes, coconut shrimp, and tropical desserts.
  • Pink Lady - The Pink Lady is a blend of dry gin and apple jack with some lemon juice and egg white. The pink hue comes from the splash of grenadine. It also gives it a sweeter note, which the lemon gives it freshness. Pink Lady is goes with appetizers and canapés, light seafood dishes, chicken salads, and pork dishes. Cheese pairings are also recommended.  
  • Warday’s Cocktail - It’s one of the unique cocktails from the Prohibition period. It’s a mix of gin, calvados, and sweet vermouth and it’s finished off with Yellow Chartreuse. It’s an amazing transitional drink from summer to fall cocktails. From nuts and pretzels to cheese platters, smoked salmon and desserts with nuts - it goes with so much!
  • Corpse Reviver Number 1 - Corpse Reviver Number 2 is a lot more popular than the first variety. The original recipe has a strong cognac base, a little bit of apple brandy (calvados), and sweet vermouth. This is one of the unique cocktails that goes with a huge range of foods, too. 
  • Horsefeather - This is the whiskey cocktail that people who don’t even like this type of alcohol, truly enjoy. It’s a mix of rye or bourbon, ginger beer, and a dash of bitters. It goes really well with fried chicken, barbeque, tacos, sushi, and spicy Asian dishes. Burgers and sliders, as well as Mexican cuisine, miso-glazed salmon, and potato dishes pair well with it, too. 

Common Cocktails from Around the World

Many of the popular and unique cocktails come from North and South America. They are served at restaurants and bars, hotels and cruise ships, at country clubs, etc. Some even have their own canned versions, similar to canned wine

  • Margarita from Mexico - Research the best tequila brands when you add the ever-so-popular Margarita to your menu. It’s a true classic from Mexico.  
  • Piña Colada from Puerto Rico - This nice rum cocktail is mixed with coconut cream, and pineapple juice. It’s a great summer cocktail to have in Puerto Rico or anywhere esle, especially around the pool or at the beach, too. 
  • Mojito from Cuba - Who doesn’t love a Mohito, especially in the summer months? This awesome cocktail comes from Cuba but people from all over the globe love it!
  • Sangria from Spain - Sangria is the most popular wine cocktail in the world! The flavors of the wine and the fruits make it so fresh and delicious. Here you can read how to make sangria.
  • Negroni from Italy - Italy is the land of so many amazing beverages - from cappuccino to wine and a good Negroni, and many more amazing cocktails. 
  • Moscow Mule from United States - Moscow Mule was actually created in the United Stated, despite the name. It’s a great drink for the hot summer days.
  • Gin and Tonic from United Kingdom - G&T is a true favorite for many in the UK, where the cocktails was originally created. Another great refreshing drink people love!
  • Daiquiri from Cuba - From Hemingway Daiquiri to Watermelon Daiquiri, Peach Daiquiri, Banana Daiquiri, Cherry Daiquiri, and Strawberry Daiquiri - there’s a lot to choose from. The Daiquiri drink is popular for a good reason and you can make your own version that will land among the unique cocktails on your menu. 
  • Sazerac from United States - Sazerac is a New Orleans classic. The drink is a close relative of the Old-Fashioned, which many people know and love, too. 
  • Irish Coffee from Ireland - Considered to be one of the best winter cocktails, the Irish Coffee is warm and delicious. You can easily add it to your seasonal menu!
  • French 75 from France -  This cocktail is named after a World War I artillery piece. It’s a sophisticated and refreshing unique cocktail, which people will love all year round.
  • Porto Tonico from Portugal  - This port wine cocktail is often served with a lemon twist. Another great drink to add to your summer offers.
  • Lychee Martini from Asia - Lychee Martini is a version of this famous cocktail that comes all the way from Asia. This cocktail deserves a spot on your cruise ship beverage menu, for sure!
  • Calamansi Cooler from Philippines - This cocktail from the Phillippines is a tangy and refreshing choice. It’s a good pair for seafood dishes, sushi, salads, and spicy meals. 
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Famous Cocktails Inspired by Popular Novels

Getting inspired by something you read or see can do a lot for you and your business in the hospitality industry. Not all cocktails were made spontaneously. Some were inspired by great novels and people love them for that. 

Vesper Martini, inspired by Casino Royale

Casino Royale is a novel written by Ian Fleming. James Bond was a book character before he the movies were made and in this specific book, the author created a special cocktail.

James Bond is a character famous for his sophisticated taste. He loves beautiful women and Martinis, too. Vesper Martini was a drink Bond created in the book for his love interest - Vesper Lynd.

Lynd requested something strong and not too sweet when he stirred up a Vesper Martini with three measures of gin, one of vodka, and half a measure of Kina Lille, garnished with a large peel of lemon.

Mint Julep, inspired bu The Great Gatsby

Before the popular Leonardo DiCaprio movie, The Great Gatsby was just a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Gatsby throws extravagant parties and desperately tries to win back his beloved Daisy Buchanan. 

Gatsby is sipping on Mint Julep at all these parties and serving it to his guests. It’s a refreshing cocktail drink, a mix of bourbon, mint, and sweetener. It’s served with crushed ice. 

Jack Rose, inspired by The Sun Also Rises

Ernest Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises in 1925. The storyline is about friends who went to Spain to see bullfighting. The main personage in the book is in love with a girl but a war injury makes things a bit complicated. 

The book, like the previous two, is filled with drinking and parties. There was one special drink that people started making in real life too, and that’s the Jack Rose cocktail. The cocktail is made with applejack or apple brandy, lime juice, and grenadine. This sweet but refreshing drink stood the test of time. 

Butterbeer, inspired by Harry Potter 

Non-alcoholic drinks are great to have on your beverage menu, too. And what’s better than the well-known mocktails? Butterbeer, inspired by Harry Potter, of course!

Butterbeer is a mix of cream soda, caramel and butter extract, heavy whipping cream, butterscotch topping, and powdered sugar. Potterheads will be increadiable happy to see this drink at your bar or restaurant. It’s a great addition for your fall seasonal menu. 

Mr. Darcy, inspired by Pride and Prejudice

The beautiful love story, created by Jane Austen, has inspired some unique cocktails. One of the drinks is called Mr. Darcy and it’s another refreshing beverage you can serve. 

Mr. Darcy is a blend of Earl Grey tea, elderflower syrup, vodka, and lemon. It’s served with a lemon slice and over ice. Many fans of this timeless novel will enjoy a Mr. Darcy with their casual dinner or perhaps a tasty brunch (see: what is brunch).

Dorian Gray, inspired by The Picture of Dorian Gray

In this famous masterpiece, there were no special cocktails that the characters would drink, but a few cocktails were created with this novel in mind. One of the cocktails is called Dorian Gray, after the main character. Made with white rum, orange juice, cognac orange liqueur, and cranberry juice, this is sweet cocktail customers will enjoy. 

Creative Cocktail Garnishes to Use

Making unique cocktails won’t cut it if you don’t make them beautiful, too. People consume with their eyes a lot of the time, and the right type of garnish can be the reason you sell more from a specific type of drink.

To improve the customer experience, you should experiment with both the classic and unique garnishes we have listed below. 

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Classic Cocktail Garnishes

  • Citrus Twists 
  • Citrus Wheels and Wedges
  • Maraschino Cherries 
  • Olives 
  • Cocktail Onions
  • Mint Leaves
  • Celery Stalks
  • Pineapple Wedges or Leaves 
  • Cucumber Slices
  • Cinnamon Sticks
  • Grated Nutmeg 
  • Lavender Sprigs
  • Edible Flowers
  • Bitters Drops or Swirls
  • Herb Sprigs
  • Different Berries
  • Pepper Grind
  • Candied Ginger
  • Spices
  • Coconut Flakes

Unique Cocktail Garnishes

  • Bacon Strip
  • Dehydrated Citrus Wheels and Other Fruits 
  • Edible Gold or Silver Leaf 
  • Dried Chili Pepper
  • Pickled Vegetables 
  • Candied Bacon 
  • Flaming Herbs 
  • Tapioca Pearls
  • Popcorn 
  • Cotton Candy 
  • Marshmallow Skewer 
  • Foam Art
  • Herb-Filled Ice Cubes 
  • Dried Flower Petals
  • Chili-Salt Rim

For the custom drinks you want to make for your bar or restaurant, you should experiment with both classic and unique garnish options. You can even combine a few to achieve the desired WOW effect. 

Making Cocktail Creation Easy

If you want to serve unique cocktails with ease and have many satisfied customers, but also a happy bar staff, you should use a good beverage inventory tracking software. Software, like BinWise Pro, will make keeping your inventory in check so much easier!

You will be able to follow trends, keep alcohol from expiring, do digital ordering, implement it with over 50 different POS systems, and so much more! Book a demo now to learn more.

Reduce inventory counting time by as much as 85%. Schedule a demo now:
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