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Restaurant chains refocus on beverages

Several restaurant chains have recently reworked their beverage programs in an attempt to renew customer interest in their drinks. These high-margin thirst-quenchers can help boost check averages and reinforce a brand’s image.

Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse is playing on its New Orleans heritage with a new cocktail menu it has introduced to its 130 restaurants.

“Staying true to our heritage, we are launching a vintage-inspired cocktail program with a focus on fresh juices and high quality ingredients that have a foundation in the classics with a Ruth’s Chris twist,” beverage director Helen Mackey said.

Among the new drinks are:

• The Broad Street Hurricane, a variation on the classic cocktail that was invented in the Crescent City, usually made with light and dark rum, passion fruit juice and/or grenadine, plus citrus. Ruth’s Chris’ version is updated with pomegranate juice, as well as lemon juice, lime juice and passion fruit juice.

• The French Quarter 75 is a take on the French 75, a Champagne cocktail usually made with gin, sugar and lemon. This version adds elderflower liqueur.

• The Moscow Mule is typically made with vodka and ginger beer. Ruth’s Chris uses ginger liqueur, lime juice, ginger ale, candied ginger and a lime twist.

• The Derby Peach Tea is Ruth’s Chris original, made with bourbon, peach purée, iced tea, lemon juice and mint leaves.

• The Manhattan East Side, derived from the Manhattan and Whiskey Sour, has bourbon, ginger liqueur, housemade lemon sour, gourmet preserved cherries and some of the cherry juice.

Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar has also launched a new cocktail list at its 64 restaurants.

“Our goal is to do for cocktails what Fleming’s has done for wines by the glass,” Fleming’s director of wine Maeve Pesquera said. “To give our guests the opportunity to explore something new and different that pairs nicely with one of our small plates or entrées and contributes to a memorable experience.”

The new menu is divided into three categories

Retro Chic is updated classics, such as a Sidecar made with Earl Grey tea and elderflower liqueur, and the Sailor Daiquiri, made with rum, pineapple juice and lemon juice.

Modern Martinis is mostly vodka-based drinks in cocktail glasses, although the section also features the Ginger Teqini, which is a Margarita variation made with añejo tequila and ginger liqueur; and the Tropical Martini, which is coconut rum, dark rum, cranberry juice and pineapple juice.

Couture Cocktails are Fleming’s originals. Among them is the Farmer’s Daughter, made with boutique vodka, muddled strawberries, basil, lemon juice and cranberry juice; L’Orange Sparkler, made with orange vodka, orange liqueur, raspberry liqueur, muddled raspberries and pineapple juice, topped with sparkling wine; and The Brazilian, made with cachaça, muddled strawberries and lime juice.

Buffalo Wings & Rings, a 52-unit sports bar chain, isn’t introducing new drinks, but is using its existing beer lineup to promote new menu items by suggesting food-and-beer pairings.

• The Barbeque Chicken Quesadilla, a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with grilled chicken, cilantro, red onions, Cheddar Jack cheese and barbecue sauce, and served with ranch dressing, is paired with Budweiser.

• The Thai Chili Chicken Wings, highlighting the chain’s newest sauce, is paired with Landshark, a Caribbean-style lager.

• The Chicken and Black Bean Egg Roll, black beans, chicken and cheese served with sweet Thai Chili sauce, is paired with Hoegaarden, a wheat beer.

Roasted Garlic Chicken Wings are paired with Shock Top, a Belgian-style wheat ale.

• The new Big Pepper Burger, topped with grilled jalapeño, banana and red peppers; fire-roasted tomato salsa; and melted pepper Jack cheese, is suggested with Becks.

Philly Steak, garlic-seasoned sirloin with onions, peppers and cheese sauce, is paired with Stella Artois.

Red Robin also added six new adult beverages to its menu, including a new line of skinny cocktails, sangria and a spiked milkshake.

• The Skinny Absolutely Absolut Freckled Lemonade, made with light lemonade, is the latest version of the chain’s signature freckled lemonade.

• The Skinny Stoli Raspberry Lemonade is raspberry flavored vodka with light lemonade and sugar-free raspberry flavoring.

• The Sweet & Skinny Spiked Tea is a skinny tea-flavored vodka with light lemonade, a lemon wedge and mint.

• The Pomme Peach Sangria is red wine, peach and pomegranate flavors, lime, orange and cherry.

• The Italian Sangria is sparkling white wine, orange, lemon, apple and amaretto, garnished with a cherry.

• The Spiked Grasshopper Shake is Red Robin’s Mint Brownie Shake, spiked with vodka.

Editor's note: Red Robin's Skinny Absolutely Absolute Freckled Lemonade and Sweet & Skinny Spiked Tea are made with light lemonade.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary

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