Set Yourself Up for Holiday Season Success


The largest selling season of the year is finally here. To help get your account stocked up and prepared for the influx of customers, we asked Breakthru Beverage Colorado’s beverage development experts what they suggest on- and off-premise customers do to make the most of this holiday selling season.

Mike Henderson, Breakthru Beverage Colorado Beverage Development Manager


Get Down with Low ABV Drinks

One thing I think that is going to be potentially big this fall and winter will be more lower ABV cocktails made with lower proof spirits, like amari and vermouths. Low ABV is a big trend in the cocktail world right now as responsible drinking is becoming more and more of a topic of conversation. Those of us that are in the business and out there three or four times a week, we don't want to be drinking super high ABV things all the time. And finding drinks that are low ABV, that allow us to have two or three versus maybe just one is something that's becoming more and more attractive.

So, I think getting some things on the menus that are lower ABV based, amaro based cocktails, or vermouth based cocktails. Things as simple as just an inverted Manhattan with instead of two parts bourbon and one part vermouth, switch that up and you do two parts vermouth to one part bourbon. I think drinks like that will be a big trend and something I certainly am looking for when I'm out.

There’s Something about Sherry

Sherry is definitely gaining some headway in the on- premise. It's a little bit of a tricky ingredient to work with but when you get it right, it works great. One of the nice things about sherry is it usually has a good dose of acid in it. So, working it into a stirred cocktail is a really nice move because it gives you a vehicle to introduce acid into a stirred drink that maybe eats the balance of some of the sweetness out. Take the Manhattan for instance; splitting the vermouth with half sherry half vermouth is a nice way to sneak in a little acid there and get it drier without having to resort to something that is maybe not a good option like a straight up acid from a lemon or lime.

Sherry on the rocks also makes for a completely fine cocktail with a dash of bitters. You've got a low ABV drink that's got tons of structure and character and little effort and super low ABV. Sherry rocks with a dash of bitters and a lemon zest. Call it a day.

Don’t Go Overboard with the Seasonal Menus

I think the idea of seasonal cocktail menus is great. Especially if you can tie seasonal ingredients that are either in bounty or the kitchen is using into your beverage program. One word of advice I would stress is to not completely overhaul your menu and make it solely focused on the current season. Switching your entire menu over to all brown spirits and having all stirred cocktails and getting away from a balanced menu, can be a misstep.

 Just because it is winter doesn't mean that a.) There aren't nice days out there and b.) That somebody doesn't just want a daiquiri in January. There are plenty of opportunities. There is a tendency to take seasonal changes too far when you but accounts need to keep in mind that they’re still serving a very wide category of drinkers that like all different styles. Sometimes a mojito in Colorado on a nice sunny January day is an okay thing, as is an old fashioned in August. 


(Real) Flavored Vodkas and RTDs

I am loving these all-natural fruit vodkas. They’re not just flavored with some laboratory extract, but instead they actually have these natural flavors in there. And man, they're good. It's hard to make that argument in an on-premise account to bring something like this in when they have access to fresh grapefruit juice and good vodka, but in the off-premise, these all-natural fruit vodkas make a ton of sense and are a much better solution to the every-flavor-under-the-sun vodka line extensions from a decade ago.

There’s also been a sudden influx of really great RTDs hitting the shelves. I’ve been impressed by all of the ones we carry. I found them to be very balanced and great right out of the can. They all kept the ingredient list short and simple and the packaging clean.


Sam Heider, Breakthru Beverage Colorado Fine Wine Development Manager


Bring Out the Big Reds

This is the time of year we're starting to dig into more of those Bordeaux's that were just released from the previous vintage. We're looking at, obviously, all of our domestic, “blue chip” Cabernets, such as single vineyards and more awarded vintages.

Now is the time to also start showcasing more southern hemisphere wines. We’ll start talking more about wines from Argentina, more Carmenere and Cabernets out of Chile and showcasing some of the wines of Australia too. Australia's one of the warmer climates in the world, and so their wines tend to be a little higher octane, a little bit more broad on the palate. The single vineyard Shiraz's from Barossa Valley is always a good go-to at this time of year.

Take Advantage of Upselling Opportunities

This is the time of year people are willing to splurge a little bit more than they would in those summer months. You can have a little bit of play when it comes to bringing on multiple different items from a particular supplier. If you do really well with one of your regular pour wines from a different supplier, don’t just take it off the menu and replace it with a higher-tier version. Instead, just build on to it, because then tableside if the guests are used to drinking the normal, everyday pour, they have the option to upgrade to something a little bit more special, and a bit pricier. It's easy progression for a restaurateur to take advantage of multiple skews of well-known producers on the same list.

Push the Envelope with Pricing

Honestly, pricing is huge. You can start pushing the envelope this time of year. There's always the four pours that you can kind of get away with. I don't want to say, "Get away with," but push the envelope in terms of you can charge. You should be able to do $20 for a glass of Cabernet as long as it has some rareness and accolades to it. You should be able to pour a $20 Chardonnay making sure that it has again that rarity and those accolades to back the name up. And Pinot Noir is not inexpensive to make. It's expensive wine, so don’t be afraid to pour a $20 Pinot Noir.

As a rule of thumb, if you start offering more expensive glasses, you're only going to have your guests buying more expensive choices on your menu. If you always are having glasses between 12 and 16, push the envelope. Have three or four that are $20. You'll be surprised how much more people are willing to do it at the end of the year than they would in the middle of the summer.

Pre-sell Dessert Wines First

While having a dessert wine menu won’t work for all accounts, it will work for quite a few. My suggestion is to have fun with it and to start experimenting with older, vintage ports. The crazy thing is people forgot about vintage port. The best part is, you can still get them at great values. Customers are willing to spend a little more on port flights, especially “Century Flights” of 10, 20, and 30 and 40 year ports. Offer one ounce of each and the fact that you're offering that to your guests, it's an easy sale of what can sometimes be some very hard to sell vintage ports.

Accounts should also consider offering a vintage port for the night. What you do is you sell it like a soufflé cake at the restaurant level. When the service comes up and introduces themselves and said, "Hey, we have a 1985 port that we have decanted. We have eight three-ounce glasses available. Would you like to pre order that as part of your dessert this evening so we can reserve that for you?" You just sold a $30 glass of port and they haven't even started eating food yet.


Smaller Sized Sparkles

Most Champagne in the U.S. is sold between now and New Year's Eve. Having a by-the-glass option of true Champagne should be a must for almost all accounts. However, if the account is worried about the bottle going bad or becoming flat once opened, there are a couple options. A lot of producers offer either 375 ml half bottles of these true Champagnes or 187.5 ml split bottles. It's a perceived value for your guests to have them control that split bottle. They're a little bit more expensive but you're not worrying about having to throw any of your costs away by dumping it down the drain.

I think in terms of the retail side of thing, accounts need to have a display of Champagne in the front of the store or at an end cap. Don't put it in the fine wine room. Just have a good selection of Champagne from marquis houses in easy-to-find locations. Add in a few cases of some lesser known growers right next to those marquis brands and allow your customers to either branch out a bit or perhaps even buy both. Also, don’t overlook the cold box. You should really have a couple different selections in the cold box that people can come in, grab and go and it's already cold. A lot of times people don't plan for the parties.

Look Ahead to 2018

Keep an eye out for the 2015 releases from Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italy. It was not a big vintage, but it was an awesome vintage for the people that made their wines. The 2015 Bordeaux are ridiculous and beautiful. So much fruit. They're delicious. The 2015 red Burgundies are in really small quantities. And then might get a little more expensive, but there's not going to be a lot to buy. When 2015 Burgundies come out, if you're a burgundy collector or a purchaser, you have to pick these up because I would say they're restaurant ready. They don't need time to age. Yes, they will age, but they don't need it.


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