As chefs and barkeeps look to shake things up, many are introducing to their menus hybrid drinks that deliver all the sweet indulgence of dessert and the fun and fermentation of a craft cocktail.
“Dessert is already an excuse for indulgence, so why not go a step further by adding booze as an exclamation point to the end of the dinner chapter,” said John Walter, lead bartender at Outlier in Seattle.
In May, Walter added to Outlier’s menu the Ube-By (pronounced ‘Ooh baby’).
This bright purple drink, colored by the ube (oobay), is inspired by executive chef Anthony Sinsay’s Ube and Toast dessert. The cocktail is made with Pierre Ferrand Cognac, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, crème de cacao and ube, all shaken with an egg to give it a froth reminiscent of a milkshake. It’s served in a delicate teacup with a sliver of the ube as garnish.
General manager Brian McFarland said the Ube-By has received a great response so far, and has been among the restaurant’s top three sellers.
“Guests enjoy the presentation,” McFarland said. “It’s an easy upsell for the servers.”
Newly added to the menu at 16-Bit Bar and Arcade, an ’80s and ’90s themed bar and arcade with locations in Ind., N.C., Ohio and Tenn., is the Stay Puft cocktail. Inspired by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, a fictional character from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, the drink is made with caramel vodka, whipped cream vodka, cinnamon schnapps and marshmallow cream. It’s garnished with a large marshmallow.
“People are simply tired of the status quo, whether it be the bar they choose or the dessert they order,” said Kyle Kennedy, operations manager of Rise Brands, the company behind 16-Bit Bar. “The Stay Puft cocktail is appealing because our fanbase knows the backstory, which is fun for us and the brand.”
At Feroce Ristorante inside the Moxy Chelsea Hotel in New York City, guests can have the Sgroppino prepared tableside. This Venetian-born item is made with Italian True vodka, Prosecco and lemon sorbet from Italy’s Amalfi coast.
“We want to source the best Italian ingredients in order to transport our guests to the magical sensation of being in Italy,” said Pietro Caldarelli, Feroce’s beverage director. “Guests love to drink this ‘dessert’ because it is refreshing, it is light and it helps digestion.”
Added to the menu when the restaurant opened last spring, Caldarelli says has been a “crowd pleaser” so far.
At 44 & King in Myrtle Beach, S.C., guests can order the 1957, a hearty twist on the classic chocolate Martini. It’s made with Dixie Vodka, espresso, chocolate and banana nut syrups, almond milk and whipped cream.
“I think people like to drink this as dessert because in addition to satisfying that after-dinner sweet-tooth, you also get the benefit of the Dixie Southern Vodka,” said Richard Sterling, 44 & King bartender.
The vodka distillery is based in Charleston, S.C.
The dessert martini was one of the first drinks Sterling created for 44 & King, which opened in April.
Similarly, at Mission Taco Joint, a West Coast-style street food concept with six locations in St. Louis and Kansas City, offers the Tres Chocolate, a drinkable dessert with a kick. Made with Tres Agaves Single Barrel Añejo tequila, crème de cacao, Pierre Ferrand dry Curaçao, Abuelita chocolate (Mexican-style, with cinnamon), and Xocolatl bitters, the drink is more than just “another chocolate martini,” said Kyle Harlan, who heads up Mission’s beverage program.
The recently opened branch of Bubbleology in New York City includes the stateside debut of the United Kingdom-based brand’s Boozy Bubble Tea collection. The bar infuses their classic bubble teas with vodka, gin, bourbon, and rum.
Among the most dessert-like boozy bubble teas will be the Peanut Loaded Freak, made with jasmine tea, bourbon, caramel, peanut butter, vanilla, milk and tapioca pearls, or boba. It’s topped with layers of whipped cream, caramel, mini peanut butter cups and chocolate pocky sticks. Another Bubbleology option is the City of Dreams Float, made with strawberry gelato, rosé cider and lychee boba.
“With the addition of alcoholic bubble tea, we have now further pushed the boundaries of the dessert drink category,” Bubbleology founder and CEO Assad Khan said.
Also making dessert tea with a hint of booze is the Silver Lining Diner, an upscale diner from chef Eric Miller in Southampton, N.Y., which is serving the Kombucha Float. Similar to a classic root beer float, it gets a tart kick from the slightly fermented, sweetened tea.