HB ON THE SCENE: InterContinental’s Worldly Classics Cocktail Program Pairs Old With New

NEW YORK—The cocktail menu at a luxury property has to provide guests with a taste of where they are as well as where they’ve been. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts’ guests are global travelers, and they want to experience part of the globe in a cocktail, but there also needs to be an added twist.

“A couple of years ago, we did research and we understood that our guest is truly a global traveler,” said Jason Moskal, VP of lifestyle brands at IHG, during a press event at InterContinental New York Times Square, a 607-room property located near the Theater District, Times Square and the Hudson River. “They usually visit us on multiple continents, and what we learned was while the first couple of days they loved to experience the local culture through F&B, after a few days, they like to go back to what they know as their local culture. What we realized with the Worldly Classics cocktail menu is that this is an opportunity to not only make classic cocktails new around the world but, again, to put the InterContinental twist and perspective on it.”

Indonesian Nu Fashioned

Indonesian Nu Fashioned

The brand created the program in partnership with world–renowned mixologist Angus Winchester, who was on hand to demonstrate how to concoct each cocktail and provide the story behind each one. “They gave me a ring, and I was slightly cynical—like, yeah, yeah, yeah, okay,” said the British-born bartender who’s been behind the bar for nearly 30 years. “Then when they started to explain it, and then when they sent me through some of the research about what they think an InterContinental guest is—I was like, ‘Okay, this resonates with me.'”

He was also impressed by the fact the brand had plans to train its bartenders with videos and equip them properly. “It will make the bartenders stand a little bit straighter behind the bar,” Winchester explained. It took him about five to six months to fully develop the cocktails (the recipes), the stories associated with them, the histories behind each of them and the rationales for using one ingredient instead of another in a particular drink.

InterContinental began developing the menu with him at the beginning of this year. Before working with him, the brand compiled a list of 25 world–renowned cocktails. From there, InterContinental narrowed the list down to regions where the brand is represented. The brand then reduced the list further.

“Each one of the cocktails is also inspired by a hotel specifically in that culture locally, and then we said these were the right 11 because we felt like it was representative of everything from Europe, Latin America, the Americas, Australia—it provided the depth and breadth of what InterContinental is, along with cocktails that people knew around the world,” Moskal said.

Examples of the cocktails to be served include Brazilian Smash, the caipirinha inspired by the InterContinental Sao Paulo Hotel; French Moto, the sidecar inspired by the InterContinental Paris le Grand Hotel; Hong Kong Mule, the Moscow Mule inspired by the InterContinental Hong Kong Hotel; and Indonesian Nu Fashioned, the old fashioned inspired by the InterContinental Bali Resort.

French Moto

French Moto

Each property in the Americas will offer the Worldly Classics cocktail program in addition to a local classics menu. “The local bartenders [are the ones who]help put together what the local culture is uniquely known for,” he said. “The idea behind the overall drink offering is to balance the worldly with the local.”

Recently launched in the Americas, the Worldly Classics program is expected to be at properties in this  region starting January 2018. InterContinental rolled out the menu in Europe earlier this year, and the feedback from guests has been positive.

“The feedback so far from the guests has been fantastic,” Moskal said. “Again, it’s the combination of the product, the cocktail, as well as the experience, because, as Angus said, it’s really the storytelling. It’s not just, here’s the Brazilian Smash, but what inspired it? What is it?”

Moskal continued: “You always talk about your bar experience based on the bartender and the conversation in addition to a great cocktail. That’s why it’s so important to have both of those working together.”