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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When Ruby Tuesday launched its "Fit & Trim" promotion two years ago, management saw sales increase in that subcategory. What's more, Lennox says, subsequent sales of corresponding "regular" versions of the drinks did not decrease. The line includes the Skinny Patron Margarita, with Patron Silver tequila, lemon and lime juices, Minute Maid light lemonade and agave nectar, with a kosher salt rimmer. The Skinny Pink Lemonade combines VeeV Açai spirit, pomegranate, lemon juice and agave nectar, shaken with ice and topped with Minute Maid light lemonade. Prices for each range from $5 to $8. A freshly squeezed lemon or lime garnish adds vibrant acidity and authentic bite to a low-calorie cocktail, Lennox says. Using either Splenda or agave keeps drink calories in check. He notes that even though agave is higher in calories than simple syrup, bartenders can use significantly less of it to get the effect. Deborah Topcik of Z'Tejas Southwestern Grill agrees. "We have chosen to have a couple more calories by using agave and natural sweeteners like fruit, instead of using artificial sweeteners. It makes a difference," says Topcik, director of marketing for the 11-location, casual Southwestern chain based in Scottsdale, AZ. Eschewing artificial sweeteners for natural ones only adds a few calories, but majorly boosts flavor—a welcome trade off, she adds. (Another thing to keep in mind: A study released in February reports that cocktails made with diet mixers can increase the drinker's rate of intoxication.) Z'Tejas has had skinny cocktails on its menus for more than three years. It now boasts seven "Naturally Skinny" selections with 250 calories or less. The Skinny Margarita is most popular, with Cabo Wabo Reposado tequila, triple sec, lime juice, Herradura agave nectar and soda water. It's also the chain's fifth best-selling drink of all time. The second most-popular skinny drink is the Antioxidant Martini, made with Bacardi Dragon Berry rum, lemon juice, Herradura agave nectar, fresh blackberries and blueberries, topped with Wild Berry Fomz, a fruit-infused foam flavoring. All of Z'Tejas' Naturally Skinny drinks are priced at $8.50. SKINNY STAR POWER The Melting Pot, a 141-unit fondue dining experience operated by Tampa, FL-based Front Burner Brands, ran a lowcalorie cocktail promotion last summer. The program was such a hit that the company added two of its most popular drinks to the core beverage menu: The Tangerine Cosmo, which blends Skinnygirl tangerine vodka with Cointreau, cranberry juice and lime, and the Mangolicious, with Voli light vodka, pineapple juice and mango syrup, topped with Luccio sparkling moscato. "These two specialty cocktails have been particular favorites with our guests," says beverage manager Paul Brown. While these two drinks are not technically marketed on the core menu as "light" options, they do list light ingredients from the Skinnygirl and Voli light vodka brands, which clue in guests to The Melting Pot's Skinny Dipping cocktails are made with light spirits including the Skinnygirl and Voli vodka brands. From left, the fondu chain's Fresh Berry Fizz, the Mango Coconut Marteenie, the Crisp Citrus Crush, and the Pretty in Pop. their caloric content, he says. Skinnygirl was launched by former Real Housewives of New York cast member Bethenny Frankel (who sold it to Beam in March 2011), while Voli is owned by singers Pitbull and Fergie. The celebrity tie-ins have helped boost recognition and sales, Brown says. "We were able to utilize their Facebook and personal tweets to engage consumers and create awareness for the cocktails." TY KU, a low-calorie, gluten-free premium sake brand, counts singer/producer CeeLo Green and Patti Stanger, who stars on the Bravo show The Millionaire Matchmaker, among its owners. But name-dropping and low calories do not a great cocktail make. Brown says skinny drinks need to fit the same criteria for success as those in any other beverage category. "For The Melting Pot, that means the drinks need to look great, taste even better, be easy to execute and also work financially," he notes. Brown believes any light, refreshing cocktail that uses fresh fruit or juice can easily be tweaked to a skinny drink. The Melting Pot has expanded its low-calorie liquid options with recently added Skinny Dipping cocktails like the Fresh Berry Fizz (92 calories), made with Voli lemon vodka, blackberries, MARCH 2013 | 47

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