It might not make a lot of sense to teetotalers or light drinkers, but people get excited about their favorite brands of alcohol. Restaurants can leverage their customers’ love of spirits to ignite sales with whiskey-infused foods, alcohol-related merchandise and aged-on-the-premises spirits. More restaurants are creating dishes that other restaurants can’t offer by infusing foods and beverage with proprietary spirits, craft beers and barrel-aged bourbons.

Customers love to share their experiences, and restaurant and bar visits are major events for sharing because they involve showing off people clothes, dining choices, dates and circle of friends. Sharing your plain martini, Manhattan or cheesecake just doesn’t deliver the same punch as a cocktail made with whipped lightning and edible ice cubes or an alcohol-infused cupcake with a playful message on top.

Alcohol-Infused Foods that Require IDs

Your competitors can’t compete when you barrel-age your own bourbon and age your beef in-house to create signature steaks, chops, and dishes with bourbon-marinated beef. Your topping choices will be truly staggering when you offer booze-infused pizzas or drunken nachos with an alcohol-infused cheese sauce. Cooking with alcohol lends itself well to the following dishes:

  • Sticking a can of beer in a chicken
  • Adding bourbon, wine or beer to a barbecue sauce
  • Marinating meats in various spirits and herbs
  • Using liqueurs to finish sauces
  • Garnishing foods with edible flowers infused with spirits
  • Infusing chilis in tequila for a double punch
  • Delivering brandied accompaniments with meat and vegetarian main courses
  • Flavoring vodkas with fresh herbs, flowers or berries, especially from restaurant gardens

Talented chefs can image thousands of ways to use alcohol-infused foods and infused spirits on restaurant menus. Try serving a pulled pork barbecue slider infused with bourbon or a margarita quesadilla. The possibilities for flavorings and creative names generate almost as much fun as eating these creations. Chefs have always used wine in cooking, but spirits and artisanal beers offer a broader canvas for creativity.

Cocktails and Desserts

Molecular mixology offers some astonishing ideas for serving alcohol-infused foods and beverages in the same glass. Your restaurant will attract a lot of attention if you serve something that’s unique, edible and alcoholic. You can create textured cocktails with spherification to encapsulate bubbles that burst in the mouth or sculpt alcohol-infused gels into pearls or other shapes. Bartenders can create aromatic foams or suspend fruits in different levels of cocktails to create a truly signature statement.


Alcohol-infused desserts and candies include classic rum balls, bourbon cupcakes, poached fruit flavored with alcohol, rum cakes, Black Forest cakes with kirsch, flavored baked goods and cakes and candies that surround alcohol-infused whipped creams or pockets of pure booze. Flavored desserts include brandied dishes, bourbon-infused milkshakes, spiked specialties like doughnuts and cheesecakes flavored with boozy berries. And don’t forget the traditional dishes that contain alcohol like Bananas Foster and tiramisu.

Alcohol-Related Merchandise Stirs Up Impulse Buys

Using signature wines, artisanal beers and proprietary spirits as the hook, restaurants can sell an astonishing range of merchandise from t-shirts to customized cocktail mixing sets. You can screen a spirits-related logo on jackets, caps, aprons, cups, steins, mugs and even crystal clear wine glasses or champagne flutes. If you have a local small-batch brewery, distillery or winery nearby, you have a natural choice for marketing merchandise to your customers and taking advantage of local pride.

Few products deliver the impact that promoting favored wines, beers and spirits generate. Your customers will spend more for custom alcohol-infused foods, signature beverages, house-aged spirits, local beers and wines and merchandise that features a favorite spirit or relate to alcohol consumption and enjoying nightlife in your town or city.