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Summer is the perfect time to revisit your restaurant menu design and come up with new ways to delight guests. The best place to start? The summer drink menu. Whether you serve locals or tourists, a brand-new beverage lineup can be just the thing you need to boost business in the summer months.
What is the value of a seasonal drink menu?
Your restaurant patrons grow accustomed to your regular beverage list over time; a seasonal drink menu shakes things up, keeping diners engaged and eager to return. This is a particularly effective strategy in the summer — slower schedules and a vacation mindset mean diners are often looking for reasons to relax with friends.
A seasonal menu is also an opportunity to experiment with new flavors and summer drink recipes. Celebrate the sunshine by integrating berries and fresh fruits; when they’re in season, they’re more delicious and cost-effective.
How to create a great summer drink menu
As a restaurant operator, you know a new menu item impacts many aspects of the business. To make sure the new summer drink list works for your customers, your staff and the bottom line, use these tips:
- Use ingredients that are in season. Look for ingredients that are in season in your region — because they don’t need to be shipped as far, they’re often more affordable. If you can find fruits or herbs that are unique to your area, it’s a great way to add a local twist to your summer drink menu.
- Add menu items that complement your drinks (or vice versa). Many restaurant customers like to enjoy cocktails with food. Give them plenty of options by including dishes that complement your summer menu. Start with light, fresh options, such as salads, grilled vegetables and food flavored with fresh herbs. If your menu is already packed with summery ingredients, you can choose drinks that pair beautifully with the food.
- Offer nonalcoholic beverages and mocktails. Demand for nonalcoholic drinks is on the rise; in one study, 52% of respondents reported choosing alcohol-free options. A few delicious, beautifully presented mocktails can meet this need while maintaining a celebratory feeling.
- Keep a smaller, limited menu. A small summer drink menu achieves a few important goals: It creates a sense of exclusivity, helps customers choose, and makes life easier for bartenders. Fewer drinks also support your menu engineering process by reducing ingredients and allowing easier inventory management.
- Offer alcohol delivery. If state and city laws allow, offer beverage delivery for your new drinks. Delivery customers will love the opportunity to order a refreshing summer cocktail, and your average order value will rise.
The 15 best drinks for the summer season
Looking for inspiration for your summer drinks menu? Use these classic and modern cocktail recipes as is, or add your own creative spin to help your restaurant stand out.
1. Fresh berry lemonade
Berry lemonade is the perfect summer cocktail for restaurants — you can prepare the fruit component in advance and mix up a big batch every morning. Whip up a sweet syrup by simmering fresh fruit, water and sugar, and store it in the fridge. To prepare the lemonade, simply mix the fruit syrup with water, lemon juice and simple syrup. Use any fruits you have on hand with this recipe; strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are especially delicious.
2. Watermelon fresca
There’s nothing quite so refreshing as cold watermelon on a summer day. To recreate that experience in drink form, blend watermelon, lime juice and agave syrup. When a customer orders a drink, serve this blend over ice with club soda and a hint of lime. Make sure to store the watermelon juice in the refrigerator for best results.
3. Gin basil smash
Summer drinks aren’t all about fruit; fresh herbs can also add a bright, fresh flavor to a beverage recipe. The gin basil smash cocktail has just four ingredients: basil, gin, lemon juice and simple syrup. Smash the basil leaves lightly in the bottom of a cocktail shaker, add the other ingredients, and shake. Garnish the drink with another basil leaf for good measure.
4. Mexican mule
Customers who love the classic Moscow Mule recipe will adore this version. Instead of vodka, it uses tequila. The other ingredients — ginger beer and lime juice — stay the same, making this cold drink a cost-effective option if you already have Moscow Mules on the menu. Serve the mix over ice with a lime wedge for a cold, satisfying summer treat.
5. Strawberry daiquiri
With their bright red color and sweet flavor, strawberry daiquiris look as good as they taste. Don’t use a recipe that calls for a premade mix; make your own with fresh strawberries, simple syrup, rum, and lime juice. You can blend this mix with ice for a frozen daiquiri or prepare it in a cocktail shaker and strain. Add a few strawberry slices for a fun garnish.
6. Watermelon martini
If your restaurant is known for its martini selection, switch things up for the summer with a watermelon version. Muddle mint and fresh watermelon and shake them with vodka and orange liqueur. For a sweeter version, add a splash of simple syrup. A tiny watermelon triangle or a fresh mint leaf makes the perfect garnish.
7. Mango margarita
Mango is a classic margarita ingredient for summer; it’s sweet and slightly tangy and adds a stunning orange color. To make mango margaritas, add the fruit to tequila, orange liqueur, lime juice and simple syrup to create a rich, well-rounded flavor. Use frozen mango for a blended drink, or use fresh fruit for the shaken version.
8. Paloma cocktail
When customers are looking for a refreshing drink on summer days, the Paloma’s bold grapefruit notes fit the bill. This recipe is extremely easy to prepare — mix tequila with grapefruit juice, lime juice, soda water, and simple syrup. Make sure to salt the rim for the perfect finishing touch.
9. Tequila sunrise
Just as its name suggests, this tequila cocktail recipe features the brilliant red, orange and yellow of a summer sunrise. The magic is in the preparation; mix tequila and orange juice in a glass with ice. Pour grenadine into the mix, but don’t stir. As the syrup moves to the bottom, it creates the drink’s signature color gradient.
10. Raspberry mojito
Pink and bubbly, the raspberry mojito brings a fresh, fruity twist to a classic cocktail. Muddle mint leaves and fresh raspberries and shake with lime juice, rum and simple syrup. Pour the mixture through a strainer and add sparkling water. To dress up the drink, add a lime wedge, fresh raspberries and a mint leaf.
11. Ginger spritz
If you spend time on social media, you know spritzes are the official drink of the summer. Delight customers with a ginger version, which features lime juice and ginger beer or club soda mixed with ginger simple syrup. From there, you can get creative with the recipe — add ginger-infused vodka, sparkling wine or champagne. When it comes to the garnish, add crystallized ginger skewers for an elegant effect or a lime wedge for a pop of color.
12. Pina colada
With its creamy texture and sweet, fruity flavor, the pina colada is a classic summer drink. Preparation is quick and easy, so you can make it in big batches. Blend rum, pineapple juice and cream of coconut with ice. Add frozen pineapple for more flavor, and squeeze in lime juice for extra depth. Top with a dollop of whipped cream. This drink is delicious without the rum, too, so it’s a good addition to a nonalcoholic menu.
13. Chile-lime pineapple soda
A little spicy and a little sweet, this drink is the perfect option for an upscale bistro. Mix lime juice, pineapple juice, sugar and dried chiles, and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for several hours. Strain the mix over ice, add club soda and top with a light sprinkling of chile flakes for color.
14. Peach-Aperol spritz
Aperol spritz is a popular drink in Italy. Unlike other summer cocktails, it’s not at all sweet. The recipe is simple: mix sparkling white wine, Aperol and club soda, and pour into a glass with frozen peach slices and ice for a fruity cocktail.
This vintage cocktail, which was popular in the 1950s, is a simple addition to your seasonal drink menu. Use a cocktail shaker to mix gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Serve it in a classic coupe for an elegant touch.
Grow your business this summer with Grubhub
Once your summer drink menu is ready to go, Grubhub can help you get the word out. When your restaurant is listed on Grubhub Marketplace, it’s easy to get in front of local diners — users can search by dish or cuisine, and you can reach more people with the built-in loyalty and promotion tools.
If you’re ready to expand your business this summer, join Grubhub today.