Cheers March 2013

Cheers is dedicated to delivering hospitality professionals the information, insights and data necessary to drive their beverage business by covering trends and innovations in operations, merchandising, service and training.

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Skinny Sipping The low-down on low-cal cocktails By Kelly A. Magyarics uests with an eye on their health (and their reflections in the mirror) are demanding low-calorie liquid options at restaurants and bars. So-called "skinny cocktails" strive to give patrons the flavor and experience of conventional libations, with a fraction of the calories and sugar. While you can't really consider them health drinks, these sips are less guilty alternatives to help cocktail-loving customers stay on track with their fitness and weight goals. "We have seen a huge demand for skinny cocktails, which have increased our specialty cocktail sales by 15%," says Henry Michaud, vice president of food and beverage for Columbia Sussex. The private hotel company, based in Crestview Hills, KY, owns and operates 42 full-service hotels and resorts under eight brands, including Marriott, Westin and Doubletree. Skinny libations account for 35% of frozen drinks sold poolside; within a recent six-week promotion, Columbia Sussex sold more than 3,000. The company currently features 10 lowercalorie signature cocktails, such as the Pomegranate Mojito (126 calories), which mixes Cruzan light rum and Hiram Walker pomegranate liqueur with muddled fresh mint and lime. The skinny drinks, which are priced from $8 to $10, range from 95 to 183 calories. Columbia Sussex promotes them through menu inserts listing ingredients and caloric content, Michaud notes. Sweet and sour, Margarita and simple syrup-based cocktails often lend themselves to low-calorie versions, since lowercalorie sweeteners can be substituted, he adds. The Antioxidant Martini, a popular skinny cocktail at Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill. 46 | MARCH 2013 LESS WAIST, MORE TASTE Ken Lennox, director of quality beverage for the 750 locations of Maryville, TN-based Ruby Tuesday, shares the casual chain's process for creating its lower-calorie libations. "The first step was coming up with great tasting drinks," he says. "After that we reduced calories, and decided we needed 150 calories to offer well-balanced and flavorful cocktails."

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