Clubs are expanding beverage programs to include a more thoughtful variety of alcohol-free options.
As members and guests seek refreshing, flavorful and more healthful alternatives to stay hydrated, functional beverages, including sports drinks, flavored waters, juices, coffees and mocktails, are stirring up the beverage menus at club and resort properties.
“A lot of research goes into planning what types of drinks we offer members across the property,” says Elisha Cicerone, who recently left her position with Chevy Chase (Md.) Club as Assistant General Manager/Food & Beverage Director, to take on a new role as General Manager/COO of Charlotte (N.C.) City Club.
“Something that might be appropriate at the pool or skating rink is not necessarily going to be as popular in the dining room, at the fitness center or on the golf course,” Cicerone adds. “It’s important to consider what segment of your membership you’re trying to satisfy with your product mix, as well as shelf life, ease and speed of service, and price point.”
Form Follows Function
For members using Chevy Chase’s fitness center as well as most of the club’s outdoor amenities, including the pool and golf course, Cicerone says hydrating beverages that maximize flavor and minimize calories have been popular. Sparkling waters, low-calorie sports drinks and pressed juices sell well in those venues, too.
“Chevy Chase members gravitate toward exotic flavors, such as dragonfruit and açaí, in flavored waters and sports drinks,” she explains. “They also enjoy the line of organic, cold-pressed, high-pressure fruit and vegetable juices and wellness shots, because they’re quick and healthy.”
The juices, while popular, tend to have a higher price point and shorter shelf life, Cicerone notes, so Chevy Chase also makes an effort to cross-utilize them in its cocktail program, to minimize waste.
At Commonwealth National Golf Club in Horsham, Pa., flavored waters are also trending.
“With flavored waters, it’s all about finding the most flavorful product with the least amount of calories and fake sugars,” says Patrice Hewski, Beverage Manager and Sommelier.
Hot Haute Hot
Colder weather brings with it a desire to sip more robust, steamy beverages like hot chocolate and specialty coffees.
At Chevy Chase Club’s full-size ice-skating rink, a dedicated hot cocoa machine runs nearly non-stop during business hours. “Hot chocolate is the number-one-selling beverage at the rink,” says Cicerone, noting that the club uses a simple, push-button hot chocolate dispenser.
A close second to the hot cocoa is Chevy’s cold-brew coffee, which is sourced locally and, like the juices, is cross-utilized in cocktails to minimize waste and create exciting new options on the cocktail menu.
Giving Dry a Try
At Commonwealth National GC, Hewski is especially keen on developing the club’s mocktail menu with creative ingredients and flavors.
“I think one thing to have come out of the pandemic is the realization that life is not all about burning yourself out and compensating for your stress with alcohol,” says Hewski. “Many of our members are looking to achieve a more balanced lifestyle, and mocktails are really taking off.”
In line with this trend, the Commonwealth National team is incorporating immunity-boosting, fresh-pressed juices that are combined with activated charcoal, aloe vera, tea, and other detoxing agents into bases for beverages with low- or no-alcohol mixers.
“For example, we use ginger quite frequently,” says Hewski. “Not only does the potent flavor replace the need for sugar, its antioxidant compounds play a role in reducing swelling and aiding in pain management, which is an important concern for many of our golfers.”
The team at Chevy Chase often uses the club’s expansive chef’s garden to bring the freshest seasonal flavors, such as mint and aronia berries, to its mocktails.
“Mint season runs from Derby Day to Labor Day,” says Cicerone. “On Derby Day, we go out and harvest a big batch of mint to use in juleps and several other mint mocktails. We also try to use these ingredients to make homemade syrups, which are super-easy to cross-utilize between cocktails and mocktails.”
Homemade syrups are also boosting beverage sales at Commonwealth National, says Hewski.
“We have an amazing bartender who has a passion for making simple syrups,” she says. “She’s currently working on a lavender syrup and a honey-ginger syrup that we’ll use in weekend beverage specials—and beyond.”