There are certain classics that any drinks menu simply must include, of course. But the world of drinks – with and without alcohol – has so much more to offer than the standard beer or a boring shot. Especially when you look at the options from abroad. Looking for inspiration?
January: detox or party on
Our stomachs are still full from the holiday treats and our heads are still buzzing from the chatter of relatives (and the New Year’s champagne). There are 2 options: detox or party on. Option 1: detoxification, as in getting poisons out of your system. This sits nicely with our New Year’s resolutions. The best detox drinks contain ingredients that promote digestion and flush out the system. Mixing the superfood that is celery, for example, with ginger and lime or lemon is an excellent way to kick off the year. The alternative? Option 2: keep the party going! To finish off the last remaining bottles after New Year’s Eve, a French 75 is a good choice: just blend gin, champagne and lemon juice – that’s it. Salut!
February: the royal treatment
Party-lovers around the world are gearing up for Carnival. There’s no better place to look for inspiration for our drinks menu than South America, the Mardi Gras stronghold. As this month’s tip, how about an api – a typical drink from the highlands of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina – for a change? Made of a purple variety of corn that gives them their characteristic colour, apis are usually served hot (which is perfect for the dreary February weather). But there is also a cold version. Apart from the purple corn, this drink also contains milled yellow corn, sugar, cinnamon sticks and cloves.
March: spring has sprung
In Japan, cherry blossoms symbolise beauty and renewal. The cherry blossom festivals held there in March are a way to say goodbye to the winter cold. Drinks menus can be adapted accordingly, with specialities like cherry blossom ale and spring beer. On the more experimental side, there’s sakura sake. It can be made at home by marinating cherry blossoms in sake (an alcoholic drink made of rice and water). A cocktail-menu idea: blend 4 cl Batida de Coco, 4 cl cherry juice and 10 cl champagne or prosecco, and add crushed ice and physalis. Voilà: a cherry cocktail. An alcohol-free menu could include sakura tea made from cherry blossoms.
April: just fooling around
Is alcohol a must? Of course not! If you’re out with friends and want to have a little April Fool’s Day laugh, start by knocking back a few ‘shots’. And then a few more. As the rest of the group starts to wonder how you’re still on your chair, it’s time to let them in on the secret. April fool: there’s no alcohol in here at all! Nowadays, many types of alcohol-free alternatives to spirits are available, from gin to herbal elixirs. Or, as an aperitif, try the martini or hibiscus varieties. By the way, they can’t officially be billed as ‘schnapps’ because they don’t contain any alcohol.
May: time for an underappreciated classic
A ‘holiday’ that very few people are likely to have heard of is Mint Julep Day, which officially takes place on 30 May each year in the US. Presumably, the eponymous drink is also hard to find on international menus. It’s time to change that! After all, even James Bond got to sample this bourbon-based cocktail in Goldfinger. A mint julep is made by mixing 7.5 cl bourbon, 1.5 cl simple syrup, 6-8 mint leaves and a few sprigs of mint as a garnish. The glass is then filled with crushed ice. The strength and flavour of the julep vary with the choice of bourbon.
June: a pick-me-up for lazy summer days
The days are finally long and plates are full. Time for a cocktail that’s made with espresso to perk you up on a lazy summer day. How about an espresso beton? In the Czech Republic, where this drink was invented, it’s made by mixing Becherovka, an herbal liqueur from Karlovy Vary, with tonic and espresso. Directions: pour 40 ml herbal liqueur into a glass of ice and add 100 ml tonic. Stir gently and pour a cold espresso over.
July: never a sour note
To continue the cocktail theme: in Peru, the fourth Sunday in July is ‘Día Nacional del Pisco’. On this day, Peruvians in the wine-growing regions celebrate various traditions in honour of pisco and pisco sour. An excellent reason to put a pisco sour on this month’s menu. Whether this drink originated in Peru or Chile is a matter of debate. In any case, the basic ingredient is pisco, a liquor made from grapes that is named after the town of Pisco in Peru. The ingredients: 60 ml pisco, 30 ml lime juice, 20 ml simple syrup, half an egg white, 3 dashes of Angostura bitters and, of course, ice. Shake the pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white and ice cubes vigorously in a cocktail shaker, and then strain into a glass. Garnish with a few dashes of bitters and the lime.
August: every dog has its day
International Dog Day is on 26 August. Want to go all out? Put a ‘Hondenbier’, a beef-flavoured beer, on the menu. Yes, that’s a thing. But it’s designed for the dogs themselves, not their owners (although the human members of the party are also welcome to try a sip). Finally, some hooch for your pooch!
September: use your coconut!
There’s an official day for almost everything. Even for coconuts, which fans celebrate every year on 2 September: World Coconut Day. Thinking about cocktails again? Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a good old pina colada. But health-conscious people looking for an alternative to a creamy cocktail will also find plenty to love about this fruit. Coconut water is considered rich in minerals and is said to offer various health benefits. The positive impacts, however, have yet to be documented. The water does not taste of coconut. It is found in young, unripe coconuts and should not be confused with coconut milk.
October: pumpkin season!
Squash and pumpkin suddenly pop up on menus everywhere – so why not the drinks menu, too? Pumpkin spice lattes are a classic, of course. But there are plenty more creative options to try. Autumn is definitely in the air with pumpkin secco, made by mixing oven-roasted, pureed Hokkaido – also known as red kuri or onion squash – with some sugar and vanilla, and topping it up with prosecco. Or rustle up a pumpkin martini with 40 ml vodka, 1 tbsp cream, 1 tbsp pumpkin puree, 1 tbsp maple syrup and a pinch of cinnamon. For a simple mocktail, combine orange juice, pumpkin puree, rooibos tea, maple syrup, a vanilla pod, pumpkin spice and pomegranate seeds into an alcohol-free pumpkin punch (go to the recipe).
November: a ‘live’ drink on the Day of the Dead
Each year at the beginning of November, Mexicans celebrate ‘Día de los Muertos’, or Day of the Dead. The glass they raise to the dear departed might contain pulque, the Mexican national drink that looks like milk but is 8% alcohol. It is made from the fermented milky sap of the agave plant. Fun fact: when it is freshly made, it cannot be bottled right away. This is due to its ongoing fermentation; pulque is a ‘live’ drink. Depending on what stage the process is in, it keeps on fermenting, both in the stomach after it has been consumed and in the cans it is sometimes packaged in. That makes it difficult to export. Nowadays, however, this drink is also available outside Mexico. If you can’t find it, mescal and tequila are also part of the ‘Día de los Muertos’ tradition.
December: a winter twist on summer classics
A frosty caipirinha on a summer day? Delicious. But when the frost is nipping at your nose – not so much. How about a warm caipirinha, a hot gin toddy or a ‘hot hugo’? These winter reinterpretations mostly use the same ingredients as the summer standards. Only the caipirinha (made from cachaça, brown sugar and lime juice) is topped up with hot water rather than ice. And adding fresh-brewed black tea to a mojito turns it into an instant winter treat. For a delicious hot gin toddy, mix apple juice, orange juice, cinnamon, cloves and anise – and gin, of course. A ‘hot hugo’ consists of a blend of white wine and elderflower syrup. There’s one thing winter cocktails have in common with the traditional mulled wine: the ingredients should be warmed, but never brought to the boil.
Own-brand spirits at METRO
METRO offers a comprehensive range of spirits, from own brands with over 100 locally or internationally sourced items to various trader's brands in sectors from basic to ultra-premium. Own brands score points for their broad product portfolio and a very good price-performance ratio. It is true that alcohol-free and low-alcohol products that suit a healthy lifestyle and support sustainability and regionality are in vogue. Nevertheless: ‘The biggest trend that we notice in the sector is towards higher quality,’ says Antonio Fernández-Oviedo, Head of Sourcing for the Beverages sector at Global Food Sourcing at METRO AG. ‘You could call it “premiumisation” where, also in own brands, there is search for unique origins, production traditions, niche flavours. Spiced rums are growing, so we just launched one, a blend from Guyana and Jamaica. Vodka is becoming more and more premium, which is why we also launched a 5 times distilled vodka.’ METRO’s own-brand spirits range includes gin, whiskey, rum and vodka in various price categories, as well as sambuca, limoncello, vermouth and several more. For commercial customers, METRO offers larger formats, such as 1-litre bottles, alongside the standard size (70 cl). ‘At the same time,’ Fernández-Oviedo explains, ‘the growth of mixability and professional bar-tending is leading to requests for new creativity, taste and fantasy options. Pink gin, for example, is one of these trends, and it is also reflected in our own brands.’