Starsky & Hutch Cocktail Menu Design – a case study.
A week or so ago I was asked to come up with a short menu for the stars of the classic tv show Starsky & Hutch. They’d booked out one of our venue’s function rooms and wanted some custom cocktails themed around the show. So, our Starsky & Hutch Cocktail Menu was born!
Custom Cocktail Menus – Where to Start?
I’ve never been a big Starsky & Hutch fan, I saw bits in my childhood, but luckily my Dad watched them all. I reached out for help and he sent me the below:
Show about two detectives transferred to the fictional Bay City, Southern California to work together.
David Soul played Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson, from Duluth (Duluth Vermouth?), a denim wearing intellectual. Soul went on to have chart hits including “Silver Lady”.
Paul Michael Glazer played Starsky, (wore thick woollen cardigans!), transferred from Brooklyn.
Informant was Huggy Bear, a jive-talkin’ conman and eventual night club owner, played by Antonio Fargas (night clubs mentioned in series were Huggy Bear’s and The Pits).
The car was almost as famous, being a red/white Gran Torino, nicknamed the Striped Tomato. Always involved car chases with sharp turns. (A sharp chaser?). Their radio call sign was ‘Zebra Three‘
So we have a little information about what the show is about and some potential cocktail names (underlined). That’s a good start, and we can work from that.
Creating a balanced menu
Its important that a menu appeals to a decent range of people, so I like to have a nice mix of drinks. Some served straight up while others are on the rocks. Some shaken, some stirred, and a nice range of base spirits. So we’ll start with a basic list of base spirits and tick these off as we go. We need 4-6 drinks, so we’ll go with:
That covers the basics. I’ve put them in probably the order of popularity here in the UK too, so if we go for 4 drinks, it will be the first 4 spirits unless there’s a compelling drink with one of the others to consider.
Paring names and drinks
Take a look at the potential names for drinks and the spirits you have, are there any easy matches to make? The Silver Lady immediately sounds like a Gin drink to me (like a silver fizz for example), so pencil that in.
I also thought of the Bay Breeze (Vodka, Cranberry & Pineapple Juices) when I saw Bay City, so that’s another possibility. This stage is mainly to find low hanging fruit and nice easy wins.
Consider Service Practicality
The bar was hired out for the event is small and not generally used for extensive cocktail service. The room is more often used as a small gig venue for live music, so I don’t want to create anything too complex. Also, as its a one off event, its best to limit the products used to those which we already stock. That way we won’t be left with dead stock after the event or be in danger of running out of anything key on the night.
The menu also needs to be set up for speed as there’s normally only one bartender on the bar we’re using, so we’ll probably avoid stirred down drinks or muddled drinks. That leaves us shaken and built drinks, nice and simple. We’re not a blender kind of place! Also I don’t want the bartenders needing to dry and wet shake, so we’ll forget about egg whites too. That means we need to do a twist on the Silver Fizz mentioned earlier.
Starsky & Hutch Cocktail Recipes
So here we go with what I came up with for the event. Everything is simple, maximum of four ingredients, nothing home made. There are only two bottles that wouldn’t be on a normal speed rail, and 6 bottles of liquor in total to make the whole menu. Each drink is a twist on something recognisable, so the guests aren’t intimidated to try these drinks they’ve not heard of before.
Named for David Soul’s chart hit of the same name, we started with a Silver Fizz, and replaced the egg white with elderflower cordial. Elderflower is an easy match for most gins, and works perfectly with the Bombay Sapphire that we pour.
- 2oz (6oml) Bombay Sapphire Gin
- 1oz (30ml) Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1oz (30ml) Elderflower Cordial
- Fill with Soda
Shaken with ice and served over cubes in a collins glass with a lime wedge. Super simple, this drink ends up being more of an Elderflower collins than a Silver Fizz where it started, but its easy drinking and on trend.
The radio call sign of the Starsky & Hutch team, Zebra Three is our twist on a bourbon smash, with a hint of vanilla brought by Liquor 43. The vanilla flavour makes the drink more approachable than the classic and opens more guests up to trying a whiskey drink.
- 1½oz (45ml) Jim Beam White Label Bourbon
- ½oz (15ml) Liquor 43
- ½oz (15ml) Lemon Juice
- 6-8 Fresh Mint Leaves
Clap the mint to release the oils, then shake with the other ingredients and strain over crushed ice in a rocks glass. I only single strain these as I quite like the mint fragments visually. The Liquor 43 balances out the citrus tartness nicely as it’s pretty sweet.
While I was tempted to go down the Cocci Torino route with this, I eventually decided to go with a cross between the Cosmopolitan and the French Martini, again for mass appeal and a little variation in the appearance of drinks. Straight up and a blush red colour, this stood out from the crowd nicely.
- 1½oz (45ml) Finlandia Vodka
- ½oz (15ml) Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur
- ½oz (15ml) Fresh Lemon Juice
- 1½oz (45ml) Cranberry Juice
Shaken and double strained into a chilled coupe glass with an orange twist (not flamed, as that ruins the flavour for me). Looks nice and sophisticated for those wanting the cocktail party vibe.
Bay City Mule
I liked the crime connotations of the word mule in here and it also helps to inform the drink’s recipe. If made with Goslings Black Seal this would be very close to the Dark ‘n’ Stormy that we featured recently. This way, we used Appleton’s Jamaican rum as our base which works great with the spice of the ginger beer.
- 2oz (60ml) Appleton Estate VX Rum
- ½oz (15ml) Fresh Lime Juice
- 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
- ½ Can of Old Jamaica Ginger Beer
While a lot of bartenders put Moscow Mules in their “Overrated Drinks” category, the Appleton Rum brings much more flavour and is a worthy addition.
So, what do you think of the Starksy & Hutch Cocktail Menu we came up with? Let us know what drinks you would have added if you were throwing this party!