Add a seasonal
twist with branded alcohol
Branded alcohol in food adds a seasonal twist to a menu, whether it appears in a light summer mousse or traditional mince pies and alcohol creams at Christmas. The addition of a well-known, international alcohol brand to a dish creates a point of difference, offers a reassurance of quality to the customer and a chance for greater profit to the caterer
The use of branded alcohol in food is growing as consumers seek out ever more innovative and indulgent dishes. It has numerous benefits such as adding quality, credibility and a premium positioning as well as being able to preserve, tenderise, enhance flavour, extend shelf life and provide a unique point of difference. Above all, branded alcohol can transform a mainstream dish into something special for which you can charge more.
John Meyer, managing director of Beam Global’s culinary alcohol subsidiary, explains: “The use of a high-profile, well-known alcohol brand can add not only value to food dishes, but also interest and inspiration to a menu. International, top quality alcohol brands are instantly recognisable and deliver a quality flavour and positioning for which the consumer is willing to pay extra.
“For a small financial outlay caterers can charge a premium for the end product resulting in greatly enhanced profit margins. For example, to add a three per cent dose of Harveys Bristol Cream Sherry to a 125g portion of trifle costs around two pence per portion and allows the caterer to leverage a premium price due to the quality cues and positioning associated with the brand.”
When applying alcohol to food always use a higher strength or liqueur extract of the brand. Culinary versions are available at up to 60% ABV compared with the standard drinking format at 40%. Extracts are important because they retain the alcohol flavour in a concentrated format and are more economical and efficient to use, ensuring that the volume of liquid in a recipe is kept to a minimum.
Alcohol lends itself perfectly for use in desserts where high fat components such as cream and chocolate are excellent flavour carriers. Alcohol can be delivered most effectively via a layer or ‘pocket’ within a larger host product and should be applied to the most co-operative ingredient to carry it. Sponge bases can be soaked in alcohol and covered with a barrier such as jam or gel to prevent evaporation. Fruits may be layered with alcohol custards and topped with cream, while fruit compote may be steeped in alcohol and topped with a cream layer. Care should be taken to avoid alcohol migrating from one layer to another – a cream layer, for example, will absorb alcohol thereby dispersing alcohol throughout the product and diluting the overall effect.
In the case of ice cream, freezing may inhibit the alcohol flavour delivery and require a higher dosage. It may also take longer to freeze down fully. An encased ice cream product such as a bombe is an effective way of delivering alcohol flavour. Sorbets require the maximum dose of alcohol because the main component is water, which dilutes the flavour.
Chocolate is a highly versatile host product with a high fat content that effectively delivers the characteristics of any alcohol brand. However, the higher the percentage of cocoa solids in a chocolate dessert, the weaker the overall alcohol delivery. For example, to deliver flavour effectively in a chocolate mousse with 70 per cent cocoa solids, you will require a higher percentage extract than one used in a dessert with lower percentage cocoa solids. In addition, milk chocolate is preferable when using alcohol because dark chocolate has too strong a flavour and white chocolate can be too sweet.
For cakes and baked products, to avoid alcohol evaporation, alcohol should be injected post-bake and left to mature. When making fruit bakes, dried fruit should be soaked in alcohol overnight first, while for sponge-based cakes alcohol is best applied to the filling, which preferably contains a high fat carrier. A high dosage level of alcohol is recommended to ensure an effective flavour delivery throughout the whole cake.
Alcohol can be applied to savoury products but heat processing should be avoided whenever possible. Soups, patés, dips, marinades, sauces and the like are all good flavour carriers and best results are achieved when a smaller ‘hit’ of alcohol – for example in a sauce or marinade – accompanies a larger host product such as meat or fish. Alcohol will perform more efficiently if the carrying partner contains a high fat element such as cream, butter, cheese or crème fraiche. Meat, poultry and fish can be marinated in alcohol to tenderise them prior to cooking.
- Add value to a finished dish by highlighting the alcohol brand either on the plate, spoon or fork
- Always use the official brand logo on the menu to convey the prestigious values of the alcohol brand and justify a higher price
- Match the alcohol brand to your customer profile
- Ensure your staff have tasted the dish and can talk knowledgeably about the quality of flavour of the branded alcohol
- Explore cross-promotional opportunities with the drinking alcohol brand
- Use a higher strength ‘extract’ of the alcohol brand. This is a concentrated format that delivers a better flavour and keeps the amount of liquid in a recipe to a minimum
- Avoid heat processing to prevent evaporation. If essential, apply alcohol at the last minute
- Don’t forget: the stronger the delivery of alcohol, the more premium the perception of the dish and consequently the opportunity to charge a premium price.
If you want to try out these recipes, your local Bestway or Batleys store stocks all the necessary alcohol brands.