Beverages: Punches and sodas

Published in FSD Update

Operators boost beverage sales with housemade specialty drinks.

A selection of Stanford’s mocktails.

At the Carson Long Military Academy, a client of Flik Independent School Dining, in New Bloomfield, Pa., chef manager Joe Wiles has to feed growing boys three meals a day, seven days a week, so he’s always looking for a great thirst quencher. Housemade sodas and punches were the perfect fit. “Not only are they a great vehicle for fresh produce and herbs, but cadets are like trout—they’re attracted to shiny, pretty colors,” says Wiles, who recommends using clear containers to display the drinks. “It’s a strict environment here, so I’m looking for ways to perk up their day.”

Wiles isn’t alone. Kahlil Wells, general manager of Lakeside Dining Hall at Stanford University, in California, opted for housemade mocktails to spruce up special events. The stations did so well that the team now hosts “Happy Hours” in the dining hall, where students can mix non-alcoholic drinks at a table with shakers, fresh fruit, herbs and juices, creating a party atmosphere that encourages lingering. “Mocktail service is being requested by adult groups wanting to host receptions on campus without alcohol, while maintaining that cocktail party vibe.”

Some best-sellers include Key Lime Pie, made with vanilla syrup, pineapple juice, fresh lime and whipped cream, and a Passion Fruit Mojito made with infused syrup muddled with mint and ginger ale. “The flair and drama of cocktail shakers, having the drink made fresh to order and the delicious recipes combine to make the station an eye catcher, conversation starter and mood setter,” Wells says.

Prepping points

How can you jump on the housemade beverage bandwagon? Fortunately, there is minimal prep involved, mostly washing and chopping the ingredients. Because the mocktails are made by the students, there is no manual labor involved for Wells. The same goes for Wiles, who makes his drinks in five-gallon batches and lets the students serve themselves. “Punches are like salad dressing—they taste better the next day after they’ve had time to macerate together and really infuse the liquid,” Wiles says.

Fresh and seasonal ingredients are paramount, says Treff Baker, executive chef with Bon Appétit Management Co. at The Docket, a new restaurant at the Saint Louis University School of Law. Baker serves several varieties of housemade sodas, like Strawberry-Basil, Blueberry-Mint and Orange-Ginger, all made to order. “Combine the freshest ingredients possible with a good muddler and your favorite sparkling water, allowing the ingredients to speak for themselves, and you’re sure to get a delicious drink,” Baker says.