Beverage Innovation: Creating Awesome New Drinks!

We’re all looking for that next Long Island Ice Tea, Hemingway Daiquiri or even a spin on one of the classic cocktails, ala Moscow Mule, Negroni or Old Fashioned.  How does one break out of the pack on new beverage ideation and hit the “sweet spot” of success?

At T.G.I. Friday’s in 1994, the Southeast Division team aspired to build a “Shaker Margarita” with a take-home logo glass.  This ended up being the first of many Ultimate Cocktails (“Ultimate” craze) at T.G.I. Friday’s!  So the inaugural Ultimate was and still remains the popular “Ultimate Margarita”.

Beverage Ideation is about knowing your customer, listening to what they like and want.  This is part of your brand architecture and how you make decisions through that lens. Here are some suggested steps to help you hit that “sweet spot” recipe on your next venture into beverage or drink ideation.

1.  Identify the vision or model

  • To support a specific (food) promotion or theme
  • Design a drink feature to capture a beverage trend

2.  Use beverage vendors as resources

  • They provide trend analysis and category management data (they get it)
  • For category innovations (ice cream, rum, tequila or bourbon, trendy martini flavors or adult milk shakes)

3.  Test, Test, Test. 

  • Don’t roll out based upon the fact you love the drink.
  • Test with tasting panels or marketing insights groups
  • Make necessary tweaks to end with perfection
  • Remember:  Model / Test / Roll

4.  Understanding pricing strategy

  • To move drink ideation forward you need the masses to order, taste and begin that movement toward a new hit or trend
  • Trial is critical for new features so price comes into play here
  • A new feature, at the right price that will resonate with guests
  • Compare pricing against the competition so you come out strong

5.  Gain buy-in at all levels

  • From top management down to key team members (servers and  bartenders) 
  • Server Knowledge is King.  Make it a priority 
  1. Shout to your guest base, then Execute
  • Drive sales by shouting (marketing) to your customers
  • Operations has a critical role to then execute flawlessly

7.  Trends come and go

  • Trends revolve and shift quickly in both food and beverage
  • Stay on top of current trends through suppliers, trade journals and social media

8.  Creating the “WOW” factor

  • Guests love having the server or bartender pouring a martini table side and this also creates fun for the staff (great theater)
  • Pouring the PINK PUNK (SKYY vodka, Cranberry juice, Pineapple juice and a lime squeeze) from a shaker at the table into a martini glass on top of a fluff of  pink cotton candy is magical and a WOW!

Beverage ideation and creating awesome drinks takes a concentrated effort, a little luck and the ability to fully understand your brand and customer. MODEL what you want delivered to your guest, TEST it to insure it’s perfect and tweak where necessary, then ROLL it out. SHOUT loud and clear with operations ready to fanatically EXECUTE, first time, every time.  “That’s How WE Roll”!


Make sure to attend George Barton’s session on Reaching Millennial’s with Marketing and Promotions at the Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show on Tuesday March 19th.

For a Complimentary Operations Assessment, contact George Barton via email at [email protected] or phone at 407-876-8529.

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