Ryan Magarian Dares You To Go Naked With Your Cocktail Menu

by Geoffrey Kleinman

How much information are you giving your customer on your cocktail menu? The answer to that might deeply impact your customer's confidence in ordering drinks, their focus in your bar, and the likelihood of your drinks finding a new life beyond the four walls of your bar.

Ryan Magarian, owner of the beverage consulting business Liquid Relations and part owner of Oven and Shaker in Portland, Oregon, believes that you should go completely 'naked' on the menu. On the Oven and Shaker menu, Magarian not only lists the ingredients in his drinks but the precise proportions for how they are made.

“When you have the audacity to 'run naked through the streets,' so to speak, and put all your cards on the table, it improves guest confidence in us to create and recreate our cocktails,” explains Magarian. It's easy to forget that the average consumer doesn't necessarily have a deep education in spirits and mixology, so giving them a greater depth of information helps them venture beyond their safe and known drinks, like the vodka soda or lemon drop, into new territory and perhaps to your signature cocktails.

Beyond building consumer confidence, clearly disclosing what goes into signature cocktails enables the cocktails to have a life beyond the bar menu. “That is what you want, as a chef, as an artisan, you want people to recreate you work. Whoever created the Manhattan or the Negroni would be stoked that people are still ordering that today. I want my recipes out there.”

“To me it is the greatest compliment when a guest asks for a cocktail recipe,” comments Tony Abou-Ganim, The Modern Mixologist. By putting the entire cocktail recipe out there on the menu, it increases the likelihood that others will make your drinks. Also, ironically, showing your hand and listing the cocktail recipes can help customers focus more on the experience of your bar than just what you put in the glass.

“You aren't going to Nobu to get his recipes, you're going for an experience. Putting the cocktail recipes on the menu diffuses this idea that you are going specifically for signature drinks. We put so much time and effort into the environment of this bar and restaurant that I want you to come for the experience flat out. I want the food, the cocktails, the beer, and wine to be an accent. I want it to be an environment driven experience rather than a product driven experience, but with the best possible products,” says Magarian.

Pernod Ricard Global Brand Ambassador Simon Ford echoes this sentiment, “People go to bars for a lot of reasons and the drinks are just one of them. If they are able to get the drink they like, that is a bonus.”

Perhaps that's what makes Ryan Magarian's Naked Cocktail Menu so significant. By treating cocktail recipes not as intellectual property but as a conduit to providing an experience for the customer, he shifts the focus from the drinks to something much bigger. “There’s so much innovation happening just with regards to cocktail recipes. One of my passions is looking to the greater space of cocktails: menus, menu formats, training, service engagement, thinking what are other places we can elevate the cocktail experience besides just trying to come up with a crazy new recipe.”

Watch an complete interview with Ryan Magarian (link: http://youtu.be/rUCQa0HyTQs), who talks in-depth about building his cocktail menu and the philosophy behind the Naked Cocktail Menu.

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