If you thought tasting menus belonged exclusively to fancy restaurants, you haven’t been hitting America’s bars lately. A growing number of them are giving their cocktail lists the course-by-course treatment, matching drinks with food from the kitchen or vice-versa or allowing the cocktails to star on their own. The idea can seem daunting for a bartender or beverage director, but with a little bit of direction, you too can make a properly executed cocktail tasting menu happen at your bar. These four tips can get you on your way.


Being able to customize on the go is an essential component of tasting menus. “Since the goal of The Bamboo Room is to offer guests a curated experience, there isn’t a standard breakdown for the cocktail tasting menu,” says Kevin Beary, the beverage director of the 22-seat bar-within-a-bar inside Three Dots and a Dash.

“We start by asking guests a series of questions such as, ‘Do you often drink Tiki drinks, and ‘Are you a fan of rum?’ as well as finding out whether they opt for stronger or more tropical drinks or if they prefer bitter or sweet and so forth,” says Beary. “We use those responses to customize three to four courses of cocktails depending on how adventurous each guest is feeling.”


Bartenders serving tasting menus often encounter familiar issues, including customers who aren’t sure of what to expect from the experience, as well as customers who really aren’t sure of what they enjoy in a drink or how to ask for it. “I think most often they just don’t know what to expect,” says Beary. “Our goal is to serve you four cocktails you absolutely love. That being said, the challenge is to figure out what an absolute stranger would consider a cocktail they like.”

Creating the proper rapport between guests and bartenders helps you deliver a positive, memorable experience. “We want them to be open to trying new things but reassured that they will be presented in cocktails they will enjoy,” says Beary. “We also establish right at the beginning that it’s OK to tell us you don’t like something. All of this lets us build trust with the guest.”