Note: Figures referenced in this report come from a recent BevSpot report on cocktail profitability.
Bartending and menu creating are inherently creative endeavors -- that can be said without a doubt. But, the key to crafting a perfect menu is in balancing that innovation with a business-forward approach. Profitable cocktails are going to keep the lights on, and enable you to create more of your ‘off the wall’ options. So with all of that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 10 super profitable cocktails that can help balance the books and keep the train on the tracks.
Before we get into the list, we need to define exactly what metrics were used to determine the profitability of the cocktails. We started with the pour cost of each drink, with 18-24% being an industry-reported ‘average’. Many consider a 20% pour cost to be a reasonably ambitious per-drink target. Now, we know that there are a million variables involved here. If your bar is bringing a steady profit at a 24% pour cost, we’re not going to argue. But, for the purposes of finding objectively and inherently profitable cocktails, we’re using the industry-standard 18% pour cost as a ‘baseline’. All of the drinks you’ll find listed here are going to keep you well under that figure, often by more than a couple of percentage points.
There’s no surprise here. Old Fashioned's have been an industry standard for decades and decades, and not just because people love drinking them. They’re simple to make and very economical to feature. Not only do they offer a very low pour cost, but Old Fashioned's are typically an extremely high-selling drink. Of all the drinks on our list, the Old Fashioned is a veritable piggy bank for bars to keep on the menu.
A signature of many profitable cocktails is the ‘liquor mixed with fruit juice and syrup’. This allows for the booze in the drink to get away without being top-shelf, which singlehandedly eliminates a huge chunk of the drink’s pour cost. With the cocktail’s sweeter components taking near-center stage, you can skip the top-shelf liquor. With most of the Whiskey Sour’s components being very inexpensive, it’s no surprise that this one made our list.
This might be a surprise to some of you. But, the Moscow Mule is the runaway hit of our list. With a staggeringly low 9.4% pour cost, and a price tag that can comfortably be pushed into the $11.00+ range, the Moscow Mule is a fantastically profitable drink to serve. The ginger beer takes center-stage, allowing you to skimp pretty heavily on the quality of Vodka. Anything around Svedka or Absolut grade will make a perfectly fine Moscow Mule. As well, it’s an easy make for your bartenders, featuring only 3 ingredients. Not only should you definitely consider working a Moscow Mule into your menu, but you should try to prominently feature it right at the top, or through extra signage.
Being overwhelmingly made of spirit, it may be surprising to find the margarita on this list. But, the ‘traditional’ margarita recipe of tequila and lime juice is perhaps the least-common variety of the drink offered. Between flavors and recipe variants, there’s a lot of (profitable) room to play in the margarita, and that drives this drink’s average pour cost down significantly. While the traditional margarita isn’t an extremely profitable drink, we can look to the ‘margarita family’ for some very high per-drink margins. Strawberry, lychee, and lemonade margaritas are all some great ways to include non-spirit ingredients and drive up the drink’s profit margin.
Much to the chagrin of many bartenders, the mojito is an inherently profitable drink. Some bartenders have even likened the drink to a disease within a bar: not only are they incredibly time-consuming to make, but they also tend to attract lots of eyes. Once a casual drinker sees a mojito, they want a mojito. Some establishments even have put a stop to the drink altogether, refusing to serve them entirely. But, the fact remains -- mojitos are cheap to make, even including the extra bit of labor they create. As well, mojitos can comfortably be priced in the $12-$14 range, creating a very hefty profit margin.
The Tom Collins is a perfect example of ‘passable spirt + water + sugar + cheap juice’. The recipe is simple to create, and the drink can easily be slotted in at a ‘premium’ price. Besides being cheap to make, the Tom Collins can present a blank-enough canvas to allow for some creative riffs on the drink. While going too off-book can drive up the pour cost, a traditional Tom Collins is a great way to make some serious cash (without much work).
The daiquiri has a spot on just about any menu, as far as we’re concerned. Aside from its under-14% pour cost, daiquiris require very little work from the bartender. They’re a shaken, three-ingredient cocktail that don’t need a special glass or anything too wild when it comes to garnishing. While it’s difficult to ask more than $12 for a daiquiri, the low pour cost makes this a very profitable drink.
Just the simplicity of this drink makes its brunch popularity well-deserved. A bartender can churn out dozens of mimosas in a couple minutes’ time, with the per-drink cost often hovering right around $1.15. In terms of unit cost and pour cost, it’s one of the cheapest and most cost-effective options for a bar to include on their menus. We wouldn’t go so far as to call it ‘underrated’ -- its status as a money-making brunch powerhouse is undeniably well deserved.
The Paloma is a hugely underrated moneymaker. Comprised mostly of grapefruit soda, the drink offers a staggeringly low 10.4% pour cost and can comfortably be priced in the $10-$12 region. Between its low cost and high mass-appeal, we could definitely see the Paloma being a major up-and-comer in the summer of 2020.
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