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The Secret Ingredient for Staying Popular & Profitable | FoodPower is a restaurant consulting firm that coaches industry leaders to leverage strengths, create concepts, refine menus & identify opportunities to increase revenue & capatalize on the changes in today's dining out patterns.

Soda or Cocktail?  Remember when that was a simple question with an even simpler answer, and with only a few basic choices?  Not today!
Wayne Curtis, a cocktail columnist, author and blogger has coined a whole new language to include:  "startenders, culinary cocktailia and haute ice."  Nothing is simple. The Cornell School of Hotel Administration has a Beverage major and the mixologists/startenders/cicerones (beer experts), now have to know how the spirits are made, then design and formulate winners that sell for a big price.
Chefs in the kitchen now share their walk-in with the culinary cocktailia searching for fruits, vegetables and herbs - even bacon for the bourbon.  We used to say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas - not these days.  Tomatoes and poblano chilies are soaked for their essence, roasted beets romance the Vodka, even black truffles get in the act with Cognac.
The photo above is from Michel Richard's Central at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas
and includes Caipirihna from Brazil with muddled grapes & basil; Bubbleberry with Champagne, ginger and mint; Sangrias with strawberries, blueberries and Elderflower liqueur; even the Lemonade joins the culinary collection with added intrigue. 
ICE CUBES.  Please - how last year.   Cubes are out - handchipped is in - not to mention spherical for slower melting, and flaming with ice soaked in Chartreuse and lit on fire.   But, smoking is the biggest rage.  I'm thinkin' it goes with the Pig Craze.
Some smoked ice is made by melting ice in a smoker and then refreezing it to accent the flavors especially of whiskey.  My favorite is the smoking gun.  I first saw it at The Bazaar when Jose Andres used it to smoke salmon to order.   Now smoked ice is popular with mixologists from coast to coast. 
Local to FoodPower, my good friends at Haven Gastropub in Old Towne Orange and Pasadena, California, have a mesmerizing list of specialty cocktails featuring orange foam, Earl Grey-infused gin, cinnamon syrup, and - you guessed it - smoked ice.
And, it's not only the ice.  At Craftbar in Manhattan, the Beverage Director is smoking the Campari; in Chicago I read the bourbon gets a cherrywood treatment;
and in DC the mezcal is pumped with cassia-bark fumes.  The fun with a smoking gun is that the smoke can be trapped under a dome, a glass, or any vessel and then transfered to the designated beverage.  Perhaps the intense flavor of smoke will eliminate the need for tobacco.  Just hopin'.
Lest you think this is just for whiskey, in SoHo, Sam Mason smoked vanilla ice cream to add to his root beer float.   
Natural Energy from green coffee extract.  Yup...that's right.  Starbucks has reinvented itself with their latest breakthrough in coffee. All coffee starts as a green bean, which when roasted (darkest - Italian, dark - French, medium - American), it produces bold coffee flavors.  But now, Starbucks is using an innovative process to pull the natural caffeine out of the 100% arabica beans before they are roasted.  This creates what they are calling "green coffee extract" or an unroasted essence - no coffee flavor, which when added with fruit flavors creates a natural energy drink
now being called Starbucks Refreshers.
I like that it comes in cans and Via powders, that can add a delicious fruit flavor to my bottled water.  We love this RETHINKING and REINVENTING.
 The SODA POP STOP in LA sells more than 500 sodas

One of the top 10 tourist stops in LA is this family owned and operated Italian grocery store, Galco's Soda Pop Stop, that is more than 100 years old.  Today they carry the largest collection of sodas, new and vintage, and offer them to collectors and the curious on the web as well as in the store.  Maybe you saw John Nese on PBS or the Food Channel talking about his amazing collection. 
Last week my daughter visited with friends and bought a variety case of the most unusual to share with the family on vacation.  I tasted one less-than-spectacular bottle that made my tongue blue and another refreshing Mr. Q Cumber.  
John started his quest in the 50s and now combines his love of history and trivia-handles, sodas, beers, ales, egg creams, high energy, diet, imports, sugar formulas, kosher, classics and odd balls.  You name it - they've got it!
This past year, the National Restaurant Association held its invitational for amateur and professional mixologists to compete for the "Star of the Bar" title and win the cash prize of $5,000 at the 2012 International Wine, Spirits and Beer (IWSB) Event.

"IWSB’s Star of the Bar competition presented a wonderful opportunity for the country’s top mixologists to throw show off their skills, where they can craft the most inventive, marketable and modern cocktail for this year,” said the NRA Show 2012’s convention chair Jack Crawford.

We've marked it as a must-see competition next year!