It's original, it's authentic and it identifies who you are. Just like your scrawl on the bottom of the cheque, a signature cocktail can set you apart from everybody else.
Not only that, a good signature cocktail is brilliant for nailing the style of your bar, for showing how far your skills can reach and for wow-ing the customer even further.
Get a signature cocktail right and it can speak volumes. But how do you go about making one or even deciding what your signature cocktail should be?
What's Your Style?
Step one is often deciding what you want your drink to represent. Just like a piece of art or the tune of a song – what is the message that you’re trying to evoke? It's important here to give some consideration to your setting and customer base.
This means knowing what cocktail will suit the style of your bar and what will attract the kind of customers you want to get in the door. A shaken, pink, vodka-based cocktail in a martini glass is going to convey a completely different message than a stirred bourbon-based mixture in a cut glass.
Once you have a basic concept for your cocktail, it's time to work on the ingredients. Scott Baird of the Bon Vivants tells Bev Spot that balance is everything; “all flavours are completely irrelevant if a drink is out of balance”.
Balance Your Flavours
In order to create balance you need to divide the drink up into four components or flavours:
- Acidity or bitterness – aromatic bitters or citrus and fruits (citric, tartaric or malic acids)
- Sweetness - sugar syrup or liqueurs
- Strong – your booze!
- Soft – ice, water or mixers
In the same vein of striking balance you should also keep things simple – don’t be overly complex and introduce too many flavours. Joel Lee Kulp, the head bartender and co-owner of Williamsburg bars Grand Ferry Tavern and The Richardson says that "we always need to remember that the greatest of all cocktails have three ingredients — the Negroni, Old Fashioned and Manhattan — and are all variations on the same theme." he told Tales of the Cocktail.
It’s probably also worth remembering that accurate pouring and measuring goes hand-in-hand with balance and harmony of flavours. The right bar tools can ensure incorrect pouring and measuring doesn't upset your perfect balance.
Cocktails are about the overall experience, from the moment the drink is made to the last sip the customer takes. So, it’s good to put some thought into those finishing touches – your signature cocktail must have a theme and style from start to finish.
“First we judge a cocktail with our eyes and second is with our nose. You bring the glass to your nose and naturally you just take a breath.”
Adding those extra (but essential!) touches means having a handy set of tools - for zesting lemons, peeling oranges etc. And don't forget the right type of ice for a distinctive finishing touch! Maybe your signature cocktail has an ice shape that says something about your bar? Or maybe you use smoke or flame in it's preparation to give a memorable point of difference?
Finally, don’t scrimp on your glassware for presenting your signature cocktail – you want it to show taste and style, and to match the theme of your cocktail. Picking the right glassware really can make your signature cocktail look and taste much better, seriously.
Signature cocktails might seem daunting but if you approach it step-by-step, and without over-complicating things you should end up with an excellent result that you’ll have to hold yourself back from drinking each time you serve it!