How to Write a Cocktail Menu

How to Write a Cocktail Menu

James Sandrini 20th October 2017

Your drinks are amazing! So why isn’t everyone and their mother noticing this? WHY AREN’T YOU FAMOUS YET?

Writing anything is hard (this is my third draft and I’m…11 words in). Writing a menu that celebrates all the time and effort that has been thrown into preparing a list of drinks that people will a. pay for and b. other bartenders won’t laugh at, is particularly challenging. No wonder that cocktail menu template you nabbed off Google looks so appealing.

But hey, we’re here to help.

Intros are Fine, But Keep Them Brief

A little background on the bar, the team or the concept is fun. Line after line of chat that makes you sound important or covers the long history of zzzzzz…you get the point. Treat the opening of the menu like you were introducing the bar and the drinks list to a new guest in person, because you basically are:

– A hello and welcome

– Here’s what makes our bar a bit different

– This is the drinks list. We make tasty drinks. If you don’t see something you like, you can, ya know, talk to us and that.

– Order. Drink. Repeat.

And maybe a picture. Or a map. Or something. (Yeah so we just searched ‘cocktail menu template’ and found this. And now I want a drink).

Keep a Few Ingredients to Yourself

This isn’t a recipe book. Words like ‘sugar’ and ‘syrup’ sound uncomfortably sweet to most punters, largely because they don’t know that you’re using them in small measures or to balance other ingredients. Terms like ‘bitter’ or ‘Amaro’ are perfectly accurate, but that 7.5ml that you wash the glass out with doesn’t have to be shared if the rest of the line-up explains the resulting flavour.

Basically, we’re very good at discerning what three or four flavours might taste like. And we are pretty useless at figuring out what 11 ingredients will do to us. Help us out and keep it simple.

Tell a Story

Tell me who invented it. Or where. Or why. Share the legacy of the name or who first drank it. No, please don’t write an essay on it (see above) but give me enough to take my imagination to a time and place when this drink was *magic*.

If you want to be a bit clever, do that with the entire menu: Work from sour-to-sweet; dry-to-rich; light-to-heavy; classic-to-modern-oh-you-get-the-point.

Split the Menu into a Few, Helpful Sections

If you were chatting to a guest and they asked you what to drink, I’m hoping you wouldn’t talk through a list of 20 drinks before drawing breath and then staring blankly at them. HOPEFULLY, you would ask for a few tips (sweet vs. sour etc.) and then recommend one or offer a choice of a couple.

What you’re doing here is smart; you’re taking a bit of information, using your skill and knowledge to then recommend what that guest would like and closing the deal then and there. Congrats.

Now do this on the menu. Split out the drinks into bite-size segments with a few drinks in each, give them an explanative title and you just made your guests (and therefore your) job a whole lot easier.

Use Pictures

Picture. Thousand words. You get the drill.

Essentially, we’re all a bit more prone to read something that looks digestible and is matched with an image. And, because we’re now a nation of skim readers, you can just about ensure that even the least attentive guest smells what you’re cooking with the use of a few visual aids.

Don’t take dodgy iPhone 4 pictures obviously. Use illustrations or icons, maybe a pattern. Something good.