Fresh off a 2012 VIBE Vista Award for its innovative cocktail menu inside its hotels, Omni Hotels & Resorts is turning its attention outside with a refreshing new program designed to keep guests cool by the pool.
“Art of Water,” which Omni has rolled out at 26 of its 47 hotels and resorts nationwide, features refreshing cocktails, natural spring water and ice cream sandwiches. The poolside menu launched Memorial Day weekend and will run through Labor Day.
“We really did it for two reasons,” says David Morgan, vice president of food and beverage of the new program. “One, primarily every [Omni] hotel had its own pool menu, and we wanted to ensure the message being sent with all the pools was in line with the brand. So we rolled out a brandwide menu. Second, I’m not really sure when you look at pool menus that anybody does a great, great job with them, and we thought this might be a point of differentiation for the brand.”
Irving, Texas-based Omni has already distinguished itself with its award-winning “Home Grown” cocktail menu, which featured locally inspired drinks for six regions throughout the country.
“Art of Water” borrows the concept with beverages designed to appeal to the palates of guests and locals in the Northeast, Southeast, Texas and West.
“With all the different Food Network shows now and so forth, people are inspiring to be foodies even if they’re not,” Morgan says. “When you go to a hotel, if we can give them an experience that’s indigenous to the area they’re staying in, they really appreciate it.”
The menu was designed by Liquid Architecture’s Kim Haasarud, who previously lent her mixology skills to craft cocktails for 11 hotels in the Texas region for Omni’s “Home Grown” campaign.
“We really like Kim,” Morgan says. “We’ve used her in different projects. … We felt using Kim would be a great match for the program.”
Sample cocktails include:
- Northeast Region: The Deep End Sangria, Elderflower Champagne Collins, Long Island Sound, Ginger Blossom Pick and Skinny Grapefruit Tequila Spritzer
- Southeast Region: Blood Orange Collins, Beachwalker Sangria, Peach Pick, Strawberry Mojito and Tangerine & Mint Tequila Spritzer
- Texas Region: Stoli Corona, Watermelon Lime Sangria, Grilled Pineapple Cocktail, Lemon Tea Smash and Skinny Chipotle Margarita
- West Coast: Raspberry Pick, Blood Orange Collins, White Sangria, Summer Lemon Collins and Sea Salt Margarita
Blood Orange Collins and Lemon Tea Smash
Omni conducted training with all of its poolside associates to familiarize them with the new menu.
“Anybody that’s working at the pool should be trained,” Morgan says. “My goal would be if you went to one of the pools and asked any employee about the drinks, they will know about them and can get you one.”
The drinks can be pre-batched for quick service, he adds.
“When we talked to Kim, we said, ‘What’s the difference between the pool menu and the menu in the bars?’ Some of our pools are so large, so we said in order to make [the process] efficient, they need to be pre-batched.”
In addition to signature regional cocktails, guests can beat the heat with Keeper Springs natural spring water. The supplier donates 100% of its profits back to local waterway restoration projects. Omni is doing its part to provide an additional 5-cent donation for every bottle sold to Waterkeeper Alliance, a global environmental movement uniting nearly 200 Waterkeeper organizations around the world and focusing citizen advocacy on the issues that affect waterways from pollution to climate change.
And for the ultimate cool-down treat, Omni is partnering with Austin-based Coolhaus to serve ice cream sandwiches.
“Anybody can do Häagen-Dazs or major brands, so we thought why not start with the people who have a food truck out of Austin?” Morgan says. “They’re not inexpensive and we don’t mark them up a lot, but the quality piece is just so much better than what is (usually) offered.”
Three different Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches will be available on the menu: classic Tahitian vanilla bean ice cream with chocolate chip cookie sandwich; dirty mint chip ice cream with double chocolate chip cookie sandwich and brown buttered candied bacon ice cream with chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich.
While he says it’s too early to judge the success of “Art of Water,” Morgan notes one thing is for certain.
“I will tell you these Coolhaus ice cream sandwiches are selling like crazy,” he says. “A little bit of that retro piece of the ice cream sandwich and the twist Coolhaus does of bacon ice cream—that’s just really cool.”