Menu Matching focus: Working the back bar

Related tags Courvoisier Port wine

While spirits and liqueurs are generally regarded as pre- or post-dinner drinks, pubs and their customers may be missing a trick by not serving up...

While spirits and liqueurs are generally regarded as pre- or post-dinner drinks, pubs and their customers may be missing a trick by not serving up choices from the back-bar with the menu.

Gordon Ramsay revealed recently he had driven sales over the summer by serving long gin & tonics over ice along with meals at his East London pub the Narrow, part of his link-up with the Gordon's brand.

Other spirits companies also believe pubs should recognise the profit potential of matching the menu to more than wine and beer. Cognac, for example, is traditionally seen as an after-dinner drink but there are certain brands that work really well alongside desserts.

Jeanette Edwards, marketing controller for Beam Global UK, says: "Courvoisier VSOP offers a perfectly balanced blend of delicate flavours that can complement sweet dishes. The aroma is subtle with undertones of vanilla and grilled almond, making it particularly good teamed with chocolate desserts."

By suggesting Courvoisier as an accompaniment to desserts, pubs may generate an additional, high-profit sale - a 70cl bottle of VSOP cognac delivers 82 per cent more profit than most VS alternatives.

"A simple suggestion to try Courvoisier, either verbally or via a menu or blackboard, can be enough to influence customers to try a new drink to enjoy with their dessert," says Jeanette.

Port is also used on a fairly limited basis by most pubs. It's a natural match for cheeses, but it is also an excellent accompaniment to other foods. Janice Moorfield, Cockburn's brand manager, suggests pubs 'wow' customers this Christmas with a few more unusual port and food matching suggestions.

The mellow flavour of Cockburn's Special Reserve, for example, is versatile enough to combine wonderfully with starters such as smoked ham or a paté or foie gras.

"Why not suggest to customers that they try it with duck courses such as crispy duck with spring onion and plum sauce?" says Janice. "If your chef's speciality is game dishes, try Special Reserve served with venison."

Port works well with chocolate desserts, such as a chocolate soufflé or tart, or any desserts which use fruits of the forest. It also goes particularly well with blue cheeses such as stilton, roquefort and gorgonzola.

With the buffet season upon us, when it comes to snacks and canapés white port goes well served on the rocks or mixed with tonic, paired with salted almonds, cheese and hams - a genuine Portuguese match. White port is also a good combination with smoked fish, especially salmon.

Chilled tawny ports match perfectly with olives and salted almonds, and work excellently when paired with a melon starter.

Favourite pub desserts such as apple crumble, crème bruleé or almond tart "have to be tried with a tawny port such as Cockburn's Fine Tawny or the dry, light, 10-year-old tawny," insists Janice.

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