Brunch fever is sweeping the UK, with venues across the land finally cottoning onto the fact that a late-morning-rolling-into-the-afternoon meal is currently the hottest dining experience to offer.
He recently worked with Grey Goose to create a drinks menu for its new brunch programme, accompanying foodie Anna Barnett’s menu, which was showcased to different trade and consumer audiences.
While the food centred around French toast and a huge variety of toppings, which were split into the separate flavour groups of sweet, bitter, sour, salty and umami.
On the drinks side, Berger created five riffs of the Grey Goose Le Grand Fizz, one for each flavour profile, in a panoply of colours. Imbibe caught up with him about his work on the project.
Tell us how you got involved in this brunch project.
'The Ned and Grey Goose are great partners. This project came up, and it was a chance to play around with flavour profiles that customers might not be exposed to. It’s a great opportunity to educate people.'
So how did you go about creating your menu?
'Anna and I started working on it when we were in Cognac creating a canapés and cocktail menu. It went down well, and we just expanded on that. The main thing was to use familiar ingredients so people were used to them, and then play with the flavour profile and exaggerate it.
'All the drinks are based around Le Grand Fizz; I wanted to stay true to that drink in a sense, but playing with the different flavour profiles and different depths.'
How did it go down with the consumers?
'The drinks went down really well with the consumers. It’s all about education and explaining things to customers, such as about umami. People confuse that [flavour profile] with salt, so we explain the difference and showcase ingredients and what flavour profile they come under.
'The popularity of each drink was quite evenly split – Bitter (Grey Goose Orange, Martini Bitter, grapefruit, lemon, raspberry and tonic) started off strong, then Sweet (Grey Goose Citron, Lanique rose, watermelon, lime, honey and soda) came up, then Salty (Grey Goose Original, Rinquinquin Peche, lemon, turmeric, smoked salt and soda).
'After people had a couple of drinks they got a bit more adventurous, trying the drinks that had things they’re not used to having in cocktails, such as the turmeric and smoked salt in Salty.
'When people started trying the Umami drink (Grey Goose Poire, cherry, lime, miso, soda, marjoram) they really liked that one. They were initially a bit scared because they weren’t familiar with the flavours.'
All of the drinks were very vivid, different colours. Was that deliberate?
'I had that in the back of my mind. It was more the idea to make sure they looked different, so when you looked at the drink you could relate that to the flavour profile. For instance, green is associated with sour flavours anyway, because of limes.'
How big is the brunch trend in the on-trade, and what is the future of brunch drinks?
'I definitely think brunch is an area of focus at the moment, for restaurants especially I think you’re getting to see a lot more brunch-style drinks. Cocktails that are fresh, vibrant and healthy will be a big part of this – the health movement isn’t going to go anywhere either.
'The Bloody Mary is going to be around forever, but I think it’s nice to have other options that are fresher. When you’ve got a spritzed drink that has depth of flavour but it’s still light, that can work really well.'