“Would you like to sample our salmon infused vodka?”

“No thank you, I’ll stick with the salmon entrée the chef has spent considerable time perfecting for the dinner special menu.”

It seems we have a troubling trend in the bar industry. It’s called pushing the limits of creativity a bit too far in the creation of our special cocktail menus. Salmon infused vodka sounds, well, rather fishy. However, the vodka represents just the tip of the weird iceberg when it comes to specialty drinks.

What is next: using real tobacco in the fermentation of wine or cutting the back yard and infusing the grass into a bottle of single malt scotch?

How to make special cocktails that sell, without getting too weird, is an art form the most accomplished bartenders have mastered.

Let’s see how to make tasty cocktails that utilise ingredients that make sense.

Ingredient Ratio is Important

Delicious specialty cocktails follow a certain formula that ultimately deliver a balanced flavour sensation. Although you do not have to be an aerodynamic engineer at Boeing to create a well-balanced drink, you do need to remember the ratio 1:1:3. The ratio goes one part alcohol, one part flavouring agent and three parts a low calorie topper. If you are counting calories, remember higher proof liquors produce higher calorie counts.

All Natural Juices

It might make financial sense to be frugal when developing a specialty cocktail menu. However, cutting financial corners typically leads to presenting guests with inferior drinks. Stick with the time tested principle of using only 100 % real fruit juice. Yes, if it says it on the label, then it has passed regulatory scrutiny.

Whole Fruit is the Real Deal

Why anyone tried to make salmon infused vodka when there are seemingly countless fresh fruit options, would confound the most groundbreaking mixologists. Adding whole fruits to special libations enhances the flavour profile of the drinks. Some fresh whole fruits to include in specialty cocktails are berries, bananas, and pomegranate. If fruit is already used for infusing a liquor, then you can bet it works great as a separate ingredient in a specialty drink.

Fresh Herbs Provide Balance

If an herb is good enough to make it into a basket for a televised cooking show, you can rest assured as a talented mixologist that the herb is a good option to add in a specialty cocktail. By fresh herbs, we mean the ones that you can grow and sell legally in the country where you live. Medicinal marijuana does not qualify as a fresh herb until the day we see marijuana infused tequila.

Use Unsweetened Flavoured Seltzers

Deciding on the right topper ingredient for a specialty cocktail can cause plenty of hair pulling. Many bartenders opt to take the easy way out by using artificially flavoured sodas. Finish your specialty cocktails with unsweetened, naturally flavoured seltzers to put smiles on the guest’s faces sitting at the bar.

Combine Fresh Fruits and Fresh Herbs

Raise the flavour bar of your specialty drinks by combining the robust flavours of fresh fruits and fresh herbs. Here are some flavour combinations you can try that will make you forget you ever heard about salmon infused vodka:

  • Lemon and Rosemary
  • Blackberry and Rosemary
  • Lime and Mint (Think of a Mojito)
  • Strawberry and Basil Watermelon and Basil
  • Citrus and Lavender
  • Cucumber and Lime and Basil
  • Lemon and honey and Thyme

Use Simple Syrup Made in House

Simple syrup can be a delectable addition to the right specialty cocktails, but only if you make the one to one ratio of water and boiled down sugar in house. You can also create a unique twist to a simple syrup by combining 100% real fruit juice and a touch of pure stevia to sweeten a special drink.

Weird Cocktails From Around the World

cocktail on fire

As a bartender trying to make a big splash in the industry, you might try to jazz up the special cocktail menu by adding, let’s say, bizarre ingredients. If you are devising a special cocktail menu, you should probably avoid these weird concoctions.


Served at a diner operating in Germany, the Coquetier is served in an eggshell for a ‘crack me up’ kind of specialty cocktail. The primary ingredients of rum, chocolate, and cinnamon sound delicious, but not mixed expertly together and served in an egg shell.


The name alone should make you want to wince. How does the bartender make such a specialty cocktail? Does he or she forgo a shaker or a mixing spoon and instead, mix the drink by using the big toe? Supposedly, the addition of a real, amputated toe is the finishing touch for the drink. They say you have to drink a Sourtoe quickly. You probably have to be bombed out of your mind to drink it as well.

Gunpowder Plot

We were not joking about tobacco fermented wine. It might not be a reality yet, but another weird specialty drink that is infused with gunpowder flavours has made the specialty cocktail menu of at least one Sydney (Australia) watering hole.

“Ah darling, the finish has a hint of a Colt 45 shell, as well as a strong aftertaste of shotgun powder.”

Do you want to learn more about cocktail making? Make sure to check out our bartender courses!