The mojito has introduced an array of muddled fruits and herbs to cocktail menus. The traditional Cuban cocktail became popular in the U.S. in the 1980s, and it has recently seen a revival in popularity. According to Mintel Menu Insights, mojitos have seen a 60% growth on the cocktail menu between January and December 2006. The drink has become another offering that serves fresh ingredients up in a different way on menus.

Mojitos are classically prepared with rum, sugar, soda water and freshly muddled mint and lime.  However, new flavors are emerging within this category. Mintel finds popular and emerging flavors of mojitos now include: mango, raspberry, pomegranate, pineapple, basil, watermelon, Mandarin orange, ginger, desert pear and passion fruit. Janos Restaurant prepares one of its mojitos with mint muddled in mango puree with Cruzan mango rum and another mojito with basil syrup and leaves, pineapple juice and Cruzan light rum.

Thanks to the increased popularity of the mojito on the menu, the new buzzword for cocktails is “muddled.” Mixologists are branching out and serving other muddled fresh fruit in popular cocktails. Hawthorne Lane serves a Blood Orange Cosmo prepared with fresh blood oranges muddled with lime, shaken with house infused vodka and cranberry, and served straight up. Dylan Prime uses freshly muddled red grapes in its Grape Crush mixed with Bacardi vanilla rum and a splash of Parfait Amour. Along with fresh flavor and bright color, whole fruits provide cocktails with small doses of important vitamins such as vitamin C and photochemicals such as anthocyanin.

Fashionably Fresh

There is no doubt about it: fresh is in! The popularity of freshness on the menu is apparent, with Mintel Menu Insights reporting a 21% increase in “fresh ingredient” claims over the past two years.

Mintel cites tomato, fruit (unspecified), lettuce, mushrooms and greens to be the top five ingredients claimed to be fresh. However, because of an increased consumer demand for fresh ingredients on the menu, restaurants can serve an array of fresh, organic and local produce without hesitation. Some independent restaurants such as Janos Restaurant even go as far as to grow the restaurant’s produce in gardens on their own grounds. 

Fresh fruits and vegetables are not the only fresh ingredients on the menu. Good Times Restaurants Inc. made the conversion from frozen Coleman all-natural beef patties to an all-natural fresh product. Under the premise of “Fresh Never Frozen,” Good Times continues to increase the variety of fresh ingredients used to meet consumer needs. Other restaurants—such as Baja Fresh—base their menus and restaurant concepts around being the freshest. Baja Fresh’s slogan says it all: “It’s About Flavor, It’s About Fresh and...It’s About Time!” Seasons 52 restaurant was created on the basis of fresh ingredients. Seasons 52 “Celebrates living well through seasonally inspired healthier dining 52 weeks a year.” Fresh will continue to be a key factor in menu and restaurant concept development in upcoming years.