LTOs go a long way at a full-service winery bar
Roughly every two weeks the bar launches a seasonal LTO cocktail. It then gets to work on exciting its customers. For a fortnight after a drink is released, marketing specialist Heather Davis posts photos and details on Facebook. She’ll repeat this four or fives times over the next couple of weeks until the next LTO is released.
Servers also talk up the LTO cocktails, and a small chalkboard on the bar features the beverage. But what helps push the drink more than anything is actually seeing it, Davis points out. “We make sure the cocktails look as good as they taste, so as soon as one person orders it three other people see it and ask about it.”
Annata Bistro/Bar opened in January 2016, “and we use the short -term drink specials to promote the fact that we have a full service bar, one of only two in Temecula Wine Country,” Davis says.
It’s important to regularly switch out the LTOs, she explains, to keep excitement high. Featuring them for a short time also gives customers that extra incentive to come in and try them. “People see something they haven't had before that isn't going to be around forever, so they want to come in and have something new. If nothing else, it reminds people that we have a bar.”
The drinks also serve another purpose: They give the winery an excuse to talk about what it offers. Many of the syrups and juices are made in-house from products such as citrus fruit and pomegranates grown on Mount Palomar Winery’s grounds.
The two most popular LTO cocktails have been added to the regular cocktail menu. These are the Pomegranate Martini (Aylesbury Duck Vodka, triple sec, pomegranate purée, homemade sweet and sour, fresh orange juice, and pomegranate seeds) and the Ginger Crush (muddled ginger and orange, Fords Gin, vanilla bean simple syrup, Cointreau, and blood orange soda, garnished with fresh basil). The latest LTO is Lemonade Crush, made with house-made lemonade, Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Cointreau, spicy mango purée, and house-made sweet and sour, garnished with a raspberry, a lemon slice, and a sprig of rosemary. [Editor’s note: If you’re in the area, act quickly – today is the last day Lemonade Crush will officially be available unless it makes it to the regular menu.]
Adding these drinks to the everyday menu “means our menu is regularly updating and improving, keeping regular customers trying new drinks and coming back for more,” David explains. And even if a beverage doesn’t make the cut, “we keep the recipe card behind the counter after it's gone. Customers can always order an old special they loved.”
It’s important that the cocktails be somewhat seasonal, to keep excitement humming. For the holidays, the bar featured the Peppermint Bark and a Cranberry Moscow Mule, and photographed them with a festive background. “For the summer we’ll do more citrusy, lighter things,” Davis says.
Bar manager Kevin Adams creates most of the LTO drinks, “but we accept attempts from any restaurant staff member that wants to make one,” and she helps tweak the recipe until it's perfect, Davis says. “We feel it keeps the staff involved and excited about the cocktail menu, and if someone's drink is the feature, they're very proud of it and are happy to push it.” It also keeps creativity high, she adds.
Davis has also started shooting videos to take advantage of Facebook’s new live feed option and to promote the LTO drinks. The social media site’s algorithms mean videos are delivered to the feed of more followers than a regular post. When Adams mixed up the latest LTO along with the Pomegranate Martini and the Ginger Crush in an 11-minute video, impressions more than doubled when compared to that of a regular post.
Davis plans to run more videos, alternating cocktail videos with those featuring the wines and the tasting room. “We’ll keep them between 10 and 15 minutes [in length] because we’ve found the longer a video is, the more it’s watched,” she says. The winery’s even invested in a lapel clip microphone to improve the videos, which are shot using a smartphone. “We’re hoping to get a lot of engagement and interest out of these,” Davis says.
Cranberry Moscow Mule
- 1.5 oz Aylesbury Duck Vodka
- 0.5 oz Cointreau
- 2 oz House-made sweet and sour
- 3 oz 100% pure cranberry juice
- Cock & Bull Ginger Beer
- Garnish: fresh cranberries, 1 lime slice
Place everything but the ginger beer in a cup, then top it off with ginger beer.
Garnish with floating cranberries and a slice of lime.