Thirty-two percent of consumers say their restaurant visits are impacted by seasonality (Technomic) and there’s no better time of year than the winter holidays for celebrating and connecting with friends and family through food and libations. Family recipes are passed down from generation to generation and holiday cocktails and desserts are rooted in tradition.
The key is to take these traditions and create something new, reminding consumers of the flavors from their childhood, while simultaneously enjoying something fresh and innovative. As the holidays approach, prepare to dazzle diners with innovative ways to highlight traditional warm spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cardamom and mace, creating special flavor profiles that will inspire customers to choose your establishment as their celebration destination.
Spice It Up
The use of baking spices is trending drinks, whether cocktails or coffee. They are certainly coveted for holiday libations since their complex flavors enhance the bold notes of liqueurs and spirits. Eggnog, for example, creamy and steeped in cinnamon and nutmeg, is still considered the most traditional holiday cocktail and, over time, has spun off into dozens of variations.
Eggnog was born in Britain where it was called “posset” and made with sherry. The northern U.S. chose to use cognac or rum, while the southern U.S. leaned toward bourbon. In Germany, eggnog is mixed with beer and Puerto Rico incorporates coconut milk.
Continue to refresh this timeless cocktail with flavor twists such as pistachio, salted caramel, cashew, amaretto, apricot, or even peanut butter. Vanilla and allspice complement rum while mace (nutmeg’s cousin) can add a more subtle sweet flavor. Ask your Maines Territory Manager for more information on our Katy’s Kitchen collection of spices to find the combination you’re looking for. The trick is blending spices without being too overpowering.
Mulled wine is another classic wintry cocktail that dates back centuries. Red wine, combined with spices like cinnamon and cloves, fruit, brandy, and sugar is warm, aromatic, and perfect for the holidays. Like eggnog, mulled wine has a varied heritage. Irish mulled wine focuses on green spices such as coriander and cardamom, while Swedish mulled wine, called “glogg,” is stronger— spiked with vodka and bourbon and emphasizing more spices than fruit. Transform this tried and true classic by creating a winter white mulled wine. Add cognac or white port to white wine, spice it up with ginger and nutmeg, and warm your customers throughout the winter months.
Fresh is Best
As always, fresh ingredients, in-house purées, and craft syrups put your cocktails a step above the competition. Concoct fresh ginger simple syrup and use it in place of ginger ale. Create beautiful, ruby colored holiday drinks by stirring ginger syrup with vodka, cranberry juice, and a lime twist, or add pomegranate juice to amaretto and ginger syrup with a rosemary garnish. Use other traditional spices to make simple syrups as well. Cardamom simple syrup pairs well with scotch, fresh lemon, and a splash of soda. Cinnamon simple syrup will warm anyone on a cold winter’s night when mixed with Kahlua and vodka, or embrace the spritz trend and add cinnamon syrup to aperol, orange juice, and sparkling wine. Pear is another holiday favorite that blends well with baking spices. Create pear purée infused with nutmeg and allspice for a welcoming addition to anything with bourbon, brandy, or cognac.
Whether refining a classic or inventing something new, operators face the challenge of discovering what has never been done before while reintroducing consumers to their favorite holiday flavors. Not only do they face this challenge in the bar, but on the dessert menu as well. Customers are more likely to splurge on sweets over the holidays and often seek flavors that remind them of their past. Keep your seat occupied and provoke nostalgia with internation, innovative spins on the classics.
A beloved holiday dessert from Israel, the sufganiyot offers warm and crispy sweetness in a traditionally jam-filled deep-fried donut. Donuts with “non-traditional fillings” is one of the hottest trends in 2018 according to the National Restaurant Association. Meet the demand for this trend and refresh this classic dessert by updating the filling with local or regional fruits and spices. For example, operators in the Midwest or Northeast can fill sufganiyot with spiced apple pear jam using local fruit combined with Katy’s Kitchen allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. For a Southern flavor, create a sufganiyot with fresh peach filling tinged with mace or tempt guests with lemon-caramel ginger filled sufganiyot. Even better, marry the flavors of Hanukkah and Christmas with a gingerbread sufganiyot filled with eggnog cream. With a fascination for global flavors and new takes on traditional sweets, consumers are sure to embrace and appreciate the update to this simple dessert.
Semifreddo and Budino, two simple-to-make Italian desserts, are versatile and offer plenty of ways to add a holiday spin to your dessert menu. Easy enough to make without an ice cream machine, semifreddo is a frozen mousse you can prepare in small batches, allowing the opportunity to experiment with new flavors or create holiday specials. Keep it traditional and go for classic flavors like vanilla, chocolate, stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings), or caramel— then spike it with your favorite holiday spices. Add some culture to your dessert using unique spins on semifreddo, such as a British inspired Christmas pudding semifreddo made with dried fruits, almonds, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Create a Mexican horchata semifreddo with basmati rice, almond extract, tequila reposado, and cinnamon sticks, or try an Indian-inspired pistachio-cardamom semifreddo. Use your cocktail menu for inspiration, creating holiday semifreddos based on top selling beverages. For example, a brewpub or bistro can construct a rich dark ale semifreddo studded with spice-candied nuts.
Another beverage inspired dessert is a Mexican hot chocolate budino. Infuse this creamy custard with latin flair using cinnamon and ancho chile atop a dark chocolate-coffee based pudding and garnish with a sugar cookie and cinnamon-spiced whipped cream. For an Asian spin, create a budino layered with ginger-coconut milk and mango-cardamom pudding, topped with candied ginger and fresh mango. Or, simply highlight classic Italian budinos such as Meyer lemon-anise and cardamom or chestnut-honey with mace. These flavors can be used to create a rich background for other elements in thoughtfully curated desserts.
Seasonal holiday cocktails and desserts are anticipated and treasure by diners and operators alike, adding to the comfort, joy, and celebration that the holidays bring. Be inspired by the culture, history, and flavors centered on this joyous season and create something simply unforgettable.