A spirited sip or fragrant smoke can give members and guests a big finish to a great dinner—and good reasons to linger a little longer.
Six months ago, if someone had asked either Zach Tyson, Assistant General Manager of Hillcrest Country Club in Lincoln, Neb., or the club’s Beverage Manager, Dustin Fuhrman, if after-dinner cordials were making a comeback, they would have answered with a resounding “no.”
|SUMMING IT UP
• Cordials are making a comeback.
• Dessert and after-dinner drink pairings can be created to keep diners lingering longer and increase check averages.
• Offer both vintage and contemporary coffee drinks.
• Acknowledge cigar smokers with special events.
Now, though, as a growing number of members are, as Tyson describes, “making a night of it” at the club instead of leaving right after their meals, the number of requests for Drambuie, Sambucca, Benedictine and other specialty drinks has been increasing as well.
As a result, on any given night four cordials are now usually highlighted on Hillcrest’s dinner menu, and the selections rotate every two months.
Fuhrman likes to get creative with his drinks, coming up with combinations such as a peppermint martini with white chocolate liqueur, which has become one of the club’s most popular selections. When a member named Rex Schultze asked for a coffee martini, Fuhrman not only made one up, he dubbed it the “Rex-presso.” It is made with coffee or espresso and Kahlua coffee liqueur, and topped with coffee beans.
“[Mr. Schultze] is always telling his friends to order this drink, so he is constantly promoting it,” Fuhrman notes.
Port wines are also becoming more popular at Hillcrest, Tyson notes. They have become so prevalent as the post-dinner beverage of choice, in fact, that Tyson, Fuhrman and some of the club’s members are putting together a dessert and port-tasting event for next fall.
Cordials are also making a comeback at The Country Club at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, Ariz. While there’s an ever-growing array of new products to try, members usually stick to the familiar standards such as Kahlua, Bailey’s, Frangelico and Amaretto, says Mike Sharp, the club’s Director of Food and Beverage.
“Tea’d Up” for Success
Every Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. is tea time at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa. And a lavish experience it is, according to Matthew Koons, the resort’s Assistant Director of Food and Beverage.
On an average weekend, the property averages 10 to 15 reservations for each high-tea serving. During the holiday season between Christmas and New Year, high tea is offered daily and the reservation average is between 25 and 30—and there is almost always a wait list, Koons reports. The tea is priced between $15 and $20.
“We go all-out with a traditional high tea, offering between 15 to 20 varieties such as whites, oolongs, black teas and herbals,” Koons says. “Champagne is also available.”
Tea is so special at Nemacolin that it is served in the property’s own elegantly decorated Tea Lounge. One of the resort’s fine-dining restaurants, Lautrec, provides finger sandwiches, petit desserts and requisite scones. Other unique offerings during the tea service include chicken liver paté and roasted pepper crepes with garlic crème cheese.
Although 70% of the tea guests are women, “it is not so frilly that men do not enjoy it,” Koons points out.
“It’s both a unique cultural and social experience,” he notes.
Sharp also puts the focus on cordials by offering pairing selections on the club’s dessert menu. Special pricing sweetens the deal, he notes. Dessert alone costs $8, but when paired with a cordial or specialty cocktail, it is only $4 more (the drinks alone are usually priced at an average of between $8 and $12).
But, Sharp points out, it’s more about the experience than just the price. “With the pairings, we try to encourage our members to try something new,” he says. “Forty to fifty percent of the time, members will order the pairing, rather than just the dessert alone.”
One especially popular “something new”—a sweet signature “Ranch Martini” made with chocolate vodka, Bailey’s Irish Cream, espresso and topped with foam, with the DC Ranch logo stenciled in cinnamon—has become a big seller for the club.
Attractions All Their Own
At Lautrec, the fine-dining restaurant at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pa., guests are offered a five-course, prix fixe dessert-tasting menu that can be ordered with a meal or on its own. To complement the desserts, reports Matthew Koons, Assistant Director of Food and Beverage, the menu includes cordial, wine and specialty cocktail pairings. The tasting, with accompanying drinks, costs $80 per person.
“We recommend the pairing as the best way to enjoy the dessert selections,” says Koons. “Some guests eat dinner in one of our other restaurants and just come here to have the dessert pairings.”
Spirited coffee drinks also always have a place on the menu at two of Nemacolin’s more casual restaurants, Autumn and The Tavern. One unusual creation offered at Autumn this winter is a Pumpkin Chata Coffee, made with pumpkin-spice liqueur and RumChata. At The Tavern, the current menu features the Amaretto Café, made with vodka and hot coffee.
Vintage-style coffee—and tea—drinks are also favored by members of The Country Club at DC Ranch. Most popular is the “B-52,” a drink with vodka, Kahlua and Bailey’s, and the Keoke, made with Tia Maria coffee brandy and coffee. Tea drinks include a lemongrass tea with a dash of Chambord and an Earl Grey tea, infused with bourbon, that is served cold.
If You’ve Got ‘Em, They’ll Smoke ‘Em
Cigars provide another cue for members and guests to stick around, sit back and relax.
Cigar aficionados visiting Nemacolin have their own bar where they can savor their smokes while sipping fine cordials, bourbons, scotches, cognacs and other spirits. Among the cordials recently available at the bar are Grand Marnier labels ranging from 100-year for $45 to Quintessence for $150.
As a way to say thank-you to members who dine there—and give a hint of how delicious a spirited beverage would be after a great meal—Adam Hurt, the resident chocolatier at Hillcrest Country Club in Lincoln, Neb., creates liquor-infused chocolate candies each month that are presented with the dinner check.
For February, for example, the treats (pictured above) were dark-chocolate coffee ganache and white-chocolate Kahlua ganache inside a dark chocolate shell.
The Roaring Twenties speakeasy-style room, which has indoor seating for 25 to 30 guests as well as bar seating, has a state-of-the-art filtration system. An open-air patio provides additional seating in warm weather.
“I have worked in other cigar bars, and this is the most popular one I’ve ever seen,” says Koons. “It’s almost always at capacity.”
Adjacent to the Cigar Bar, which has been a Nemacolin amenity since 1997, is a shop that sells an extensive array of premium smokes.
“Many avid smokers travel with their own cigars,” Koons notes. “But the shop gives them a chance to try something different. Our cigar shop staff is trained to make recommendations.”
A city ordinance in Lincoln, Neb., prohibits smoking in restaurants, so to make Hillcrest Country Club’s cigar fans happy, the club sectioned off a poolside patio area where the club can hold special cigar-centric events. For one such event, the club brought in a cigar company, so members could try and buy new varieties.
The Country Club at DC Ranch hosts a cigar dinner once a year or upon request. Sharp is in the process of developing a new program of events, one of which will be a pairing with rare Pappy Van Winkle bourbons that he has been collecting.
“For these dinners, we usually have a turnout of about 30 to 40 members,” he says. “To make it appealing to a wider base of the membership, we position these events as scotch dinners with cigar pairings, rather than just as cigar dinners.”
To determine which spirits should be served for these events, DC Ranch’s chef will sit down with Sharp and/or the sommelier, to identify complementary tasting notes with the food. The cigar purveyor will also be asked to identify the tasting notes of the smokes that will be featured.
And during some golf tournaments at DC Ranch, a vendor partner will come out to roll cigars for the members.