Is Your Spring Drink Menu Too Cold? Too Hot? Or Just Right?

Spring is officially here – and with it comes that warm breeze that you’re probably feeling right about now…

Wait. What I meant to say was, “Brrrr! Someone close that door!”

Actually, spring weather, as we all know, is extremely unpredictable. Given that fact, it’s hard to know just what your patrons will be craving most as it starts getting warmer. (Er, that is, a little warmer. Occasionally warmer?) Well, regardless of how you might best describe spring, to be realistic, it’s probably best to have a wide range of drinks available from which your patrons may choose.

The Hottest in Refreshing

Ginger cocktails are a great place to start (those containing the zing of real ginger or ginger beer, that is– not ginger ale, which is mostly just sweet and fizzy). Ginger cocktails are, on the one hand, cool and refreshing, served on ice, often with lemon or lime; at the same time, they also carry with them the spice and heat of the exotic ginger root itself. The Moscow mule is a great example: start with ice (that cooling element), and add 1 ounce lime juice, 2 ounces of vodka (a bit of warmth); then fill the glass up the rest of the way with the zesty, hot ginger beer, garnishing the drink with a fresh, spring-inspired lime wedge. Alternatively, try a mint-ginger caipiroska (3 slices of fresh ginger,  1 1/2 teaspoons superfine sugar, about  5 sprigs of cool mint, and 4 ounces of vodka, all crushed together with ice).  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with cheering the approaching summer onward with something more fruity, either – in which case, nothing says, “it still feels a bit wintry, but I feel hopeful” quite like a red-wine-based sangria.

Some Still Like it Hot

But about that ice…it’s definitely not for everyone right now, so let’s keep everyone’s options open by not getting too carried away with that whole “cold and refreshing” thing just yet. After all, it’s so easy to suddenly find oneself under-dressed when the weather promises warmth but is constantly changing – especially if it’s a night out on the town when comfort is largely being sacrificed for the sake of style. Nope, that ice isn’t helping one bit – and it’s not helping, either, that everyone’s feeling overly-optimistic about how warm it’s supposed to be and won’t stop propping the door open.

The solution? While a cinnamon-infused spiked cider may have autumn written all over it, a hot toddy, on the other hand, need not summon images of pumpkins and gourds and colorful fall leaves. Still others may think of this as strictly a winter drink, but the truth is, nothing saves the day any time there’s a chill in the air better than this mixture of 2 tablespoons bourbon, 1 tablespoon honey, 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, and 1/4 cup boiling-hot water. (Some of us are still freezing over here, thank you very much!)

Whining is Bad, but Wine is Always Great

Last but not least, you’re obviously going to want to have plenty of wine in stock regardless of the weather, but just be prepared that this may be when more patrons start ordering a cold glass of Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, etc. (with those still craving something more warming sticking with the Malbec, Chianti, Cabernet, Merlot, Burgundy, and so on). Taking that desire for something warming for “the insides” just a touch farther, consider this: in the evening – as the temperature cools a bit below what’s comfortable – is the perfect time when many of us begin to imagine that a loyal St. Bernard has traveled across the entire expanse of winter to come to our rescue, wearing a collar around his neck that bears that classic small barrel of brandy. Of course, this could always take the form of whiskey, too – but why not take this opportunity to offer a fortified wine such as port instead? (They’re not just for dessert, you know).

Keep in mind, too, that for patrons who love their beer, having a bar menu that includes a hot bowl of chili or soup could make the difference between their willingness to order a nice, cold pint, on the one hand – and grimacing over the prospect of ordering something like an Irish coffee just to get warm (or just heading home!) on the other. Having a ready supply and variety of both ice-cold and piping hot comforts available to your patrons during seasons when the weather is notoriously indecisive will help ensure that what you’re offering, in the words of Goldilocks, is neither too hot nor too cold, but, rather, “just right.”

Josh Saunders