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Increase your profit margin with this signature drinks makeover

Editorial consulting by the Culinary Institute of America

The holiday season is upon us and as revelers slog through their shopping lists, they’re also looking for full-service restaurants and bars with unique and delicious cocktails and mocktails. Adult beverages are powerful tools for restaurants, providing a compelling reason to walk through the door, as well as high profit margins. The National Restaurant Association 2017 Culinary Forecast puts regional signature cocktails, culinary cocktails, and craft/artisan spirits in the five top alcoholic beverage trends.

If you’re looking for ways to supercharge your restaurant’s cocktail menu, you should be seeking out unique ingredients that add flavor, color, and excitement. Wild Blueberries deliver all three, and even a few more: high nutritional value and real foods appeal.

There are four easy ways to add Wild Blueberries to your beverage menu, and each adds distinct color, flavor, and texture options.

  1. Wild Blueberry Juice can be purchased ready-to-use or you can repurpose the juice from thawed frozen Wild Blueberries.
  2. A more concentrated juice can be made by plumping dried Wild Blueberries in warm water, rum, fortified wine, or even vinegar for trendy shrubs and switchells. Simply strain the berries off and add them to a compote, salsa, sauce, or salad for accent.
  3. Frozen Wild Blueberries can also be added whole to beverages. The easiest way to add them to a cocktail is to…add them to a cocktail. It’s as easy as that.
  4. Using a muddler, you can crush frozen Wild Blueberries in the bottom of a mixing glass before adding the other ingredients to create a great fruit-inclusive cocktail. Knowing that Wild Blueberries have an affinity for mint makes me want to drop a few fresh mint leaves in there as well—the muddler will take care of those, too. (Note – while you should mash the Wild Blueberries pretty well, the mint only needs moderate pressure to release its aromatic oils. Mashing the mint brings out vegetal notes). Clear spirits such as Gin and Silver Rum work better with these flavors.

So, in the interest of a festive holiday season (and your restaurant’s profit margin), here are a few cocktails to try.

Splurge Sidecar
2 oz Cognac (or other grape brandy)
1 oz Wild Blueberry syrup
1 oz Fresh Lemon juice
1 sprig of fresh mint

Wild Blueberry Syrup 
To make a Wild Blueberry syrup, take one cup each of Wild Blueberries, sugar and water, and simmer in a saucepan for fifteen minutes. After it cools, pour it through a strainer in to a bowl, and press the berries with the back of a ladle or wooden spoon to extract most of the liquid. Don’t mash too hard or you’ll make the syrup cloudy. This syrup will keep, refrigerated, for three or four weeks. If you want it to keep longer, add a tablespoon of vodka.

Add all liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Cover and shake it like someone who owes you money. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or rocks glass filled with ice. Hold the mint sprig in the palm of one hand and slap it with the other to release the aromatic oils. Garnish your drink with it.

Wimbledon Overhead Smash
2 oz Gin
1 oz Fresh lime juice
1 oz Simple syrup
About a dozen frozen Wild Blueberries
3-4 fresh mint leaves

Place Wild Blueberries and simple syrup in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. Muddle well with the flat end of the muddler. Add the mint leaves and press them firmly with the muddler. Add the rest of the ingredients, and enough ice to come over the top of the liquids. Close the shaker and shake it like you mean it. Strain the cocktail into a chilled martini glass, or a rocks glass filled with fresh ice. One option is to use another, finer strainer to ‘double strain’ the drink to keep blueberry and mint solids out, resulting in a more ‘refined’ cocktail. I’m not that refined so I usually don’t bother with that when I’m doing it for myself.

Happy holidays!

Watch the Eat Wild Video and hear what leading Chefs have to say about Wild foods and the Real Food movement.

About the Author

John Fischer

John Fischer

Professor of Hospitality and Service Management, CIA

John Fischer is Professor of Hospitality and Service Management at The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY., where he teaches the college’s Wine, Beverage and Hospitality Management specialization.

Mr. Fischer is the author At Your Service: A Hands-On Guide to the Professional Dining Room (John Wiley & Sons, 2005) and co-author of Bistros and Brasseries (Lebhar-Friedman, 2008) and Cheese (Kitchen Pro Series) (Delmar Cengage Learning 2010).

A 1988 CIA graduate, Mr. Fischer completed his externship field experience cooking at Le Bernardin in New York City. He was general manager of Morrell Wine Bar & Café, Cellar Master at Rainbow!, manager and wine director at Fresco by Scotto, wine and floor manager at Manhattan Ocean Club, wine director and beverage manager at Campagna and Hudson River Club, and maître d’ and wine director at Mondrian. A Certified Hospitality Educator (C.H.E.), Mr. Fischer holds a Master’s of Science degree in Educational Technology from Walden University and is a 1981 graduate of Swarthmore College.