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Serving Up World Class Cocktails, World Cup Style

Take advantage of this major opportunity to increase beverage sales during the World Cup. Here’s some great ideas.

Thursday, June 19, 2014
Francine Cohen
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They can call it futbol, football, footie, or soccer and cloak themselves in their home country’s colors or embrace the bright yellow, green and blue of World Cup host country Brazil’s flag – but hotel guests (and staff) everywhere are gaga for this month-long international match up that comes around once every four years and inspires national pride on the pitch and off.

While for the avid soccer fan it may seem as if the world stands still when their team is playing, the truth is that life keeps on moving and with it the travel and hotel business. The World Cup is one of those singular sporting events that brings the world together with billions glued to televisions (versus the millions that tune in for events like the Super Bowl and the Kentucky Derby) and fortunately, for the hotel industry, they have to stay somewhere. And they need to watch somewhere too; which is where hotel bars spring into action, capturing an attentive audience that is prone to stay for hours…and spend.

All styles of resorts and hotels share one thing every four years – the ability to show the game and concoct internationally themed cocktails that boost F&B revenue during World Cup. This is true even for traditionalists like New York City’s Waldorf=Astoria which sits firmly on Park Avenue in all its elegant and civilized glory, but admits to now and again turning tradition and quiet civility on its head.

The Waldorf’s Executive Chef David Garcelon notes, “Though we do not typically feature televisions, we do make exceptions for major sporting events such as the Super Bowl and US Open. As the World Cup has become a global phenomenon, and we cater to an international clientele, we know our guests would enjoy being able to have the games available for viewing. We will be featuring Frank Caiafa's specially crafted World Cup cocktail along with a special item on the Peacock Alley menu - Brazilian Banana and Black Bean Empanadas."

Caiafa’s signature game cocktail “World Cup” features Avua Cachaça Amburana, an artisanal aged Cachaça that rests in barrels made from the indigenous South American wood, Amburana. In addition to featuring Cachaça as the base spirit Caifa turned to other teams in the competition for inspiration for this drink which also includes Sauternes and Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur.

He says, “Since Brazil is hosting the games this year, using their national spirit, Cachaça, was an easy call. Also, I tried to bring together as many countries into it as possible while I incorporated unique and wide ranging components which would result in a refreshing and memorable summertime cocktail. For the summer especially – sauternes pairs well with the Amburana, and I think the grapefruit juice helps that along.”

There’s likely some grapefruit juice being squeezed at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, where games are shown in the lobby bar of the hotel (Bar Su), the pool side bar (Splash) and Rivals restaurant (which features 32 HD TVs throughout the restaurant). The hotel knew it was important to both guests and staff that the games be on. Ricardo Assuncao, Director of Restaurants and Bars, comments, “We do see an increase in traffic in our restaurants and bars during sporting events. Currently with the NBA finals and the Miami heat looking for a third championship win, traffic in the Rivals restaurant has increased significantly both from internal and external guests.”

He continues, “At the Westin Diplomat many of our guests are international, many from South America & Europe and soccer is the most watched widely viewed sporting event in the world. This is a competition that takes place every four years so a lot of momentum is built up. Also, we have a multi-cultural staff in our hotel and many friendly competitions amongst the staff.”

The staff at the Westin Diplomat aren’t the only ones getting into the spirit of the games. On Virgin Gorda at the Biras Creek Resort, televisions are set up in an open air lounge and specialty drinks inspired by Latin American flavors that include rum and sparkling wine are served alongside complimentary snacks. General Manager Craig Stolzenfels, shares, “Our team is closely watching the games and we are running a friendly competition with brackets (no money is involved!).”

Across the world, at the The Rome Cavalieri Waldorf=Astoria Hotels & Resorts, they normally compete with the Pope for audience attention, as they are the closest luxury hotel to the Vatican City, but soccer fever has taken over and they are fairly certain plenty of attention will be paid to the maxi screens set up for great game watching and all eyes will also be on the whole line of cocktails which has been created especially for this sporting event. The hotel’s head bartender plans to position a copy of the brand new World Cup menu prominently on the tables of the different bars and venues across the property.

A property like the Westin Diplomat, which opens up multiple venues for World Cup viewing, knows that at every turn they want to capture the hearts, minds, taste buds, and wallets of both their guests and their liquor brand partners. Shani Hayes, Lead Bartender, has a menu of World Cup related drinks that are tied directly to Brazil.

Hayes explains how they came up with the specialty menu featuring six international cocktails, “[The drinks are] made with Brazilian Acai berries with a twist to best represent each country’s palate. The chef will also pair a featured food item based on the team’s country’s food culture. The consensus was to use a spirit made predominately out of Acai berries. Acai is also considered a Superfoods fruit which ties in to the Westins core values “Eat Well.” In this case drink well.”

Getting the Acai spirit, in this case Veev, into the well and onto the menu so guests take note is all about a partnership as Hayes comments, “We believe the more knowledge we have the easier a product is to sell. We have partnered with Veev Spirit, which is made predominately with Acai berries from Brazil and super premium Idaho winter wheat. Additionally, sustainability is extremely important to us and Veev certainly met these criteria by being a carbon neutral spirit. Veev spirit is supporting Rivals Waterfront Restaurant by providing an education seminar, all printed collateral, world cup branded glassware and staff incentive prizes. It going to be a fun two weeks.”

The fun doesn’t have to end after the games do. Hayes notes, “Big sporting events often draw more guests in; we have added value to our guests by offering happy hours special at the beginning and end of our restaurant hours. This has helped turn many external guests into repeat customers.”

Caiafa knows that the seemingly out-of-place-in-Peacock Alley television sets at the Waldorf initially may draw in customers but it’s the tasty and timely cachaça drinks, and fellow fans, that keep them coming back. He concludes, “It’s a different crowd when you build a crowd that gets into the game - the full room on a regular evening is a full room with little groups, but when they are all there for a reason the room takes on a different vibe. You can spot the televisions from the lobby and so, even if you have a passing interest in the games all of the sudden, because of its proximity, it is compelling. They are pleasantly surprised that we have the television as they were planning on going elsewhere; but they are happy to stay. And then they come back for the next one because they know you’re there.”

Try these recipes to get you started:

World Cup
By Frank Caiafa (Waldorf=Astoria New York)
1.5 oz. Avua ‘Amburana’ Cachaca
1.5 oz. Sauternes
.75 oz. Freshly squeezed Grapefruit Juice
.25 oz. Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
2 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters

Add all ingredients to mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Strain into freshly iced Old Fashioned glass. Brandied Cherry for garnish.

Biras Creek Resort

O Árbitro (The Referee)
1 oz. of Bacardi Rum
Lemongrass bush tea
Brown sugar
Dash of Midori liquor
1 oz of Pineapple juice
Carbonated with 1 oz. of sparkling wine
(Cocktail’s color and garnish reflect colors of Brazilian flag)

Francine Cohen    Francine Cohen
Associate Editor
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Francine Cohen is hotelinteractive.com’s editor. She covers the notable people, news and trends that make the hospitality world so vibrant. Recent guest judge appearances at the Cape May Food & Wine Festival Iron Chef competition and Saborea Culinary Festival in Puerto Rico have led to ongoing speaking engagements. ...
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