When it comes to your bar program, managing costs will ultimately be the primary driver to its success. Because maintaining a quality program while managing costs becomes a balancing act, we recommend looking closely at your cocktail offerings to determine where cost-effective highballs can fit in.
What are highballs, anyway?
“Highball” is a word used to describe a broad category of mixed drinks made with a base spirit and topped with a sparkling mixer. Popular examples include Gin & Tonic, Rum & Coke, Whiskey Ginger, Scotch & Soda (as well as the increasingly popular Japanese Whisky Highball), Seven & Seven, and Vodka Tonic.
Your customers are already ordering highballs
Depending on the vibe and expectations of your establishment, when a customer walks in they may not necessarily be thinking that they want to consume a high-proof, multi-ingredient cocktail. They might simply be seeking to enjoy a refreshing drink and catch up with friends in a casual fashion. If this sounds like your customer base, then elaborate, high-proof cocktails don’t meet your customers’ needs as much as a refreshing, lower-proof cocktail that they’re already somewhat familiar with. Enter: the highball.
Highballs are what your customers are most familiar with and what they’ll ask for most often when ordering off your main menu. It's likely that your experience has also made you a believer in this simple drink formula. Highballs are fun and easy to make and can be modified to highlight your spirits and - if you so choose - be a little more unique, especially when using a premium tonic or other mixer. With a bit of cleverness and intention, highballs can match the quality of every other drink on your menu.
Fitting highballs into your bar program
The growing custom of pre-meal or aperitivo-style cocktails are an ideal way to introduce your customers to highballs. More broadly, highballs are the perfect fit for happy hour drink specials because of their low cost and high profit margins.
Highballs are an opportunity to highlight casual, lower-proof cocktails in a space and time when a consumer may be more likely to order a beer, wine, or inexpensive rail cocktail. A powerful highball program will not only please your customers but your bean counter, as well.
The economic benefits to serving highballs
GMs, take note: highballs are the most "called" off-menu cocktails in America. Your customers are making a statement when they opt to order highballs over pricier, more elaborate cocktails. Why not capitalize on their demand by offering them quality, craft highballs that will please their pocketbooks and yours.
Build your margins with cost-effective high quality ingredients and charge a couple bucks more for the drinks your customers are already ordering. Instead of 18-20% pour costs, cut them down to 13-15% and allow room in your bar program for your bartenders to flex their creativity with higher-pour cost cocktails.
The key to menu-worthy highball success is your ability to sell your customers on something special. If the mixers used in their favorite highballs are of premium quality, those mixers can be featured on your menu just like the spirits, bitters, and vermouths in any of your other menu cocktails, thus commanding a higher price point.
Make this your most profitable year yet
The Covid-19 pandemic hit bars and restaurants especially hard, but Top Note believes that the future is bright and by implementing highball programming in your establishment, your business can bounce back better than ever before.
Try these simple steps to adding highballs to your bar program:
- Review your call drinks to determine what your customers are already ordering. Consult your staff about whether there are gaps in your highball offerings that could be easily filled with Top Note mixers.
- Determine what drinks you can make based on what your customers want to drink. For instance, if soda drinks are common calls at your establishment, it’s likely that your customers desire low-calorie low- to mid-proof cocktails that won’t weigh them down. However, Vodka Sodas are rarely found on bar menus because the mixer isn’t worth highlighting. By mixing with a quality Club Soda, a $6 rail drink can be transformed into a $10-$12 craft cocktail made with premium vodka and a mixer to match. Similarly, if you’re pouring a lot of Moscow Mules, consider elevating your recipe with a higher-quality Ginger Beer and watch your customers marvel at the difference it makes in their experience.
- Consider adding non-alcoholic cocktails to your bar program. We always suggest one great highball and one fantastic non-alcoholic cocktail be added to menus to even out pour costs and allow your customers the selection they're seeking. By featuring quality non-alcoholic cocktails on your menu, you have the opportunity to expand your customer base and create room for higher-pour cost cocktails on the rest of your menu.
For more information on Top Note Sparkling Mixers, head to our Industry Home Page, curated just for bars, restaurants, cafes and distributors.
Head to our Recipes Page for tons of classic cocktails, Top Note originals, and recipes by fantastic bartenders, distillers and brand ambassadors across the country.