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Are modern cocktail menus too long?

There is more interest in the world’s cocktail industry than ever before, but are consumers bored of flicking through scroll-like menus?

Is short always sweet when creating cocktail menus?

At the same time as bartenders increase their skills and experimentation, consumers are becoming more curious about cocktails, and have a wide repertoire of drinks for a single night.

As such, some establishments choose to offer a wide variety of cocktails, all listed within encyclopedic tomes. Others opt to refine their focus with shorter menus which they claim allows greater attention to detail.

The trend for paring down cocktail menus is taking its cue from the most in-vogue eateries. Is it allowing for precision pours, or confining the customer?

Here, The Ivy Chelsea Garden’s assistant bar manager Sotiris Sakkas goes head to head with Greg Sanderson, general manager of Eau de Vie , to debate the issue.

Who do you agree with? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

Sotiris Sakkas – assistant bar manager, The Ivy Chelsea Garden, London

Sotirios-Sakkas‘If the list is short, each drink can be created with the attention to detail it needs’

There are many benefits to having a shorter cocktail menu. In London, for example, you usually have very limited space for your stock, which can be a big issue if you have an extensive cocktail list requiring dozens of ingredients.

A shorter menu also makes it easier for the team to follow it; they can memorise the recipe and description easier, which can result in less waste, higher sales and definitely help with how efficiently and quickly the staff perform.

A list of just 10 cocktails can often be more than enough. If the list is short, each drink can be created with the attention to detail it needs. I often find that in venues with extensive menus, the drinks aren’t quite so elegant and the presentation is lacking. The menu I’ve been designing for The Ivy Market Grill in Chelsea contains just 10 cocktails, but I am confident everyone will be able to find something to suit them.

Even as a bartender, I have found myself looking for a quarter of an hour or more at a massive cocktail list trying to decide what I want. My point is that if you offer too much choice, it slows guests down as they can often be overwhelmed by the drinks on choice. Plus, we as humans always have this idea that there is something better out there, and often too much choice can result in this and a prolonged perusal of the menu. As a result this can impact the company’s sales and the guest’s overall experience.

Additionally, when it comes to cocktail descriptions, these should be kept short, but cover the flavours, how the drink is served, and a small story behind the cocktail if the concept requires it. But you must keep it minimal and be absolutely clear about what it is you are offering.

Menus play such a vital role in every establishment. Of course there are those who come to a bar already knowing what they want. But great menu that’s kept short and approachable can penetrate someone’s thoughts and ideas and inspire them to try something new.

Greg Sanderson – general manager, Eau de Vie, Australia

Greg-Sanderson‘Having a list of 44 drinks works well for us, as guests turn up expecting a wide selection’

At Eau de Vie a long cocktail menu is really important. People come specifically for our cocktails, so having a list of 44 drinks works well for us as guests turn up expecting a wide selection.

Our menu comprises cocktails you won’t be able to find anywhere else, so by having such a comprehensive and extensive offering, we’re encouraging people to come back the next weekend to try ones they didn’t get round to.

As such, we don’t carry any classic cocktails such as an Old Fashioned on our menu, but of course if a customer requests one we can certainly make it for them.

Our sister venue in Sydney is an exception to the rule, as liquor licensing has put a ban on ordering any cocktails that are not on a list after 12am in certain areas.

One thing is essential though – whether your cocktail menu is short or long you must ensure it is well balanced. It is imperative to make sure the menu encompasses long, short, sour, sweet, weak and strong drinks. Flavour diversity is a must as well.

As our drinks are so unique and there are a lot of options for consumers to browse before they make their selection, the design of the menu is also key.

Too many times I have walked into bars around the world and the cocktail list has been written by bartenders for bartenders.

I like the ingredients to be obvious to whoever’s reading but I also like to sell the drink as well – nothing over the top, but a few lines making it pop out to the right drinker.

After all, we are in the business of selling drinks and that is what we should remember.

But if cocktails generate 20% of your beverage sales, you probably don’t need to have 50 variations on the list. It’s important to consider the impact cocktail sales have on your business and create your menu accordingly.

There is a correct sized menu for each individual venue and for us it just so happens that a longer menu is extremely advantageous.

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