The Secret of a Good Signature Drink

A lot of restaurants offer drinks. What makes you different? Is it the fact that you have a wine list filled with $200+ bottles? Is it that you offer 458 types of craft beer… or that all your drinks are straight from Japan? These key differentiators make your restaurant stand out, but unless you show off your differences, your customers will never know what you have to offer. What you need is a signature drink.

What makes a good signature drink?

Good signature drinks are your customers’ gateway purchase, leading them to trust your food and beverages, and to therefore order more and more. One restaurant, Jinja Bar & Bistro, offers a killer Zombie that packs a massive punch.  I was introduced to the Zombie by a friend who tried it and loved it. Soon, my friends and I visited Jinja once a month, or whenever we wanted a single, delicious, and powerful drink. After just a few months of enjoying my Zombies, I took the time to finally look at the rest of the menu. It was packed with vintage cocktails I had always read about but had never tried (for instance, the Singapore Sling). Since the Zombie was such a great signature drink, I knew that the other drinks I ordered would also be stars.

When you’re creating your signature drink, you’ll want to follow a few steps:

  1. Do your research. Investigate what the other restaurants in your area are offering as their signature drinks (or laugh at them if they do not have a signature drink). When you see something that looks interesting, take notes—but do not try to copy it. Your signature drink needs to be entirely unique.
  2. Consider the rest of your menu. If your restaurant is known for its wine list, offering a vintage cocktail like the Zombie is not going to convince your customers to venture into high-priced wines. In that case, consider offering a wine sparkler signature drink, or maybe create a food / wine dessert pairing that is attractively priced.
  3. Price it right. Your signature drink should not be your cheapest drink. Remember, this is a drink that you’ll be carefully crafting, and one that will be ordered again and again. If you’re spending the time to make it incredible, you should earn a good profit for your troubles. Price your drink in the middle of your standard prices, and your guests will happily try out both the cheaper and the more expensive drinks on your menu.

Put your drink to work for you

Here’s another story about a signature drink. Coyote Café has an incredible drink list (and they have delicious food, too), but one of their drinks stands out whenever I think about signature drinks. It’s called the Sleeping Dragon and it features liquid-nitrogen-cooled absinthe, some fire, and a sprig of rosemary. I can’t tell you any more than that, because I haven’t ordered it. I’m not actually brave enough or rich enough. Drinks with fire scare me.

What I have done is ordered many other drinks off of the Coyote Café menu in an attempt to “work my way up” to the Sleeping Dragon. I’ve also told everyone I know (including you) about this drink. If you’re in Santa Fe, NM, perhaps you’ll go out this weekend to try the Sleeping Dragon. You should. It’s awesome.

Did you see what I did there? I advertised two restaurants, Jinja and Coyote Café, just by mentioning their signature drinks. If your drinks are good enough, they’ll do your inbound marketing for you.

Tonight as you make the rounds of your restaurant, pay attention to what drinks are being ordered and think about how you could make those drinks better. Talk to your bartenders for ideas. Talk to your customers. Put a contest on Facebook or Twitter for the best cocktail idea. Then, once you’ve tried them all out and found the perfect signature drink, bask in the glow of success. You will have mastered the secret of the signature drink.

Photo licensed by gfpeck