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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lemon and club soda; and Pretty in Pop (106 calories), with Voli light vodka, cranberry and lime juices, muddled cucumbers and club soda. SKINNY MIXING For smooth, efficient drink making during busy times, The Melting Pot relies on mixers from Finest Call, which Brown says are easy to use and give great results. Columbia Sussex also uses the brand's mixers in its 103calorie Strawberry Limeade (Absolut vodka, lime and Finest Call Strawberry Purée) and its 149-calorie Long Island Iced Tea (with Seagram's gin, Smirnoff vodka, Cruzan light rum, Cuervo Especial tequila, Hiram Walker triple sec and Finest Call Sweet and Sour Lite). Finest Call offers three flavors in its Lite collection: Sweet and Sour, Margarita and Bar Syrup, with natural juices and Sucralose. A bevy of other low-calorie mixers help operators quickly produce high-quality, skinny drinks. For instance, Powell & Mahoney now offers a Low-Cal Margarita Mixer with 25 calories per serving, made with pear, lemon and lime juices, agave and natural flavors. And Monin offers 17 sugar-free flavors, including pomegranate, mango and blackberry. THE WELL-DESIGNED Skinny Sip No matter the calorie count, a great cocktail is all about balance. Cocktail consultant Tad Carducci of Tippling Bros. suggests operators first look at the alcohol content of a drink. "While mixes, sodas and sugary or creamy liqueurs are certainly culprits, the base spirit generally accounts for well over 100 calories," he says. "Think about offering smaller portion sizes, or lightening the spirit pour in certain cocktails." Carducci also advises selecting a high-quality low-calorie mixer. "The good ones have been created and formulated to offer lots of balance of flavor and mouth feel, while utilizing natural ingredients." He believes wine-based cocktails and sours work well when tweaked as skinny sips, as do refreshing, effervescent long drinks like collinses, fizzes and rickeys. Just make sure all elements—spirit, acid, fruit (if applicable) and sweetener are in check, Carducci says. "Our guests should not have to sacrifice their experiences in order to watch their waistlines." 48 | MARCH 2013 Skinny drink menus from The Melting Pot, above left, and Columbia Sussex, right. "Health and wellness is still high on consumer radar for 2013, and fresh juice and sugar-free syrups make 'skinny' beverages appealing to the growing number of consumers who want a high-flavor, low-calorie beverage," notes Lisa Ash, Monin's beverage innovation director. As with other drink categories, staff training is key to marketing and selling skinny sips. Michaud of Columbia Sussex notes that bartenders and servers must be able to articulate the differences between a full-calorie cocktail and its lowercalorie counterpart. Staff should also be prepared to share the reasoning behind ingredient selections and how they affect the calorie breakdown. LIGHTER BITES Guests who order skinny drinks naturally tend to gravitate towards healthier or lower-calorie food options. So offering companion light dishes to enjoy alongside corresponding drinks is a win-win for patrons and operators. The Melting Pot's Skinny Dipping menu offers three courses of fondue for fewer than 700 calories. And Columbia Sussex's Skinny Bites complement its low-cal libations: Guests can choose options such as an Herb-Crusted Chicken Sandwich (297 calories) or a Marinated Vegetable Sandwich (245 calories), all served with a small salad. The menu also offers a low-calorie wine, beer and cocktail selection, each less than 100 calories. Skinny cocktails can seem a numbers game: the lower the calories, the more enticing to guests counting them. But in the end it's about flavor and quality. As Ruby Tuesday's Lennox puts it, "what we ended up with were drinks that we were proud to have listed on our menu, regardless of their calorie count." Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer and wine educator in the Washington, D.C. area. She can be reached through her website, and on Twitter @kmagyarics.

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