How does one manage the modern-day cocktail menu? We ventured into a popular chain restaurant to check things out. This is how the "pros" look at - and taste! - a cocktail menu… this time at Outback Steakhouse.
The nice thing about this menu is that it’s neatly organized into categories: margaritas, sangrias, martinis, and "tropical concoctions." Each section has a mix of sweet/modern and classic styled cocktails. It took only seconds to ingest the whole thing and make a choice. High marks for design. We snobs appreciate the mix of classic with modern sweet. We tried to take one from each category.
Fresh Fruit Mojito with Strawberry, Sailor Jerry Rum, mint leaves, fresh lime, agave nectar, topped with sod. $6.25
It comes nicely presented, though a little off with the short rocks glass when a mojito should be in a tall glass. You can see the fresh strawberry and mint plus lime rind in the drink, which is a nice touch of authenticity. But the ice is awful! Why are people putting such small chunks of soda fountain ice in these drinks? That kind of thing makes for heavy dilution and is impossible to drink with any class. It smells like strawberries and tastes very nice… perhaps a little light on the rum. But the strawberries and lime are nice together without being overly sweet. (Nice restraint on the soda, by the way.)
Good: crisp fruit taste from the fresh fruit… high marks for that.
Bad: 1.25 ounces of spirit was not enough… particularly when the drink is buried in ice.
Would we order again? Yes… but we’d either tip or just plead for an extra shot of rum.
Top Shelf ‘Rita: Avion Silver tequila with both Grand Marnier and Cointreau; lemon, lime, and orange all on the garnish. $9.25
Again too much ice… come on! After getting over that bit, the mix of citrus is nice because the lime isn’t overwhelming but rather balanced. The tequila is present, which is even better because it’s good tequila. There may be too much orange… if it's out of balance it's in the orange. But it’s nice to see a good tequila well executed in a drink… even if there’s too much damned ice.
The good: refreshing use of citrus without the awful taste of a pre-mix. Nice showcase for the Avion.
The bad: the ice. The drink becomes flavored water in less than two minutes and it’s sad to witness. It forces a person to chug.
Would we order again? Maybe… but only if it were served up. Another half-ounce of tequila would not be amiss.
Mango Peach Poptail: Tito’s vodka, St Germain liqueur with peach, mango, and orange. There’s a tangerine “fruit bar popsicle” included with the drink. $5.75
This was a specific recommendation of the bartender (Morgan). She claimed it was new and “way better than the strawberry.” To us, it looks scary as hell. Sweet and enough extra stuff to bury the St Germain (vodka and St Germain by itself is usually pretty good). And a popsicle is served in it!? This is, by far, our biggest cheerleader moment in a bar, ever. The price is nice, though. Tasting, we should’ve believed the title: it tastes exactly like drinking a glass full of melted mango popsicle. Which is nice if you’re at the beach. If you love mango, then this may be the answer to your dreams. It tastes like a pretty southern belle in a bikini dangling feet in the water from the tailgate of her 4x4 with a 3 foot lift.
The good: we can’t believe we’re typing this but it’s the popsicle garnish… it has a certain, non-hostile, innocent air.
The bad: aside from being pretty damned sweet… could also use a hit of dark rum or some other spirit to give it a kick and a bite. This is turning into a theme of pretty weak and feeble drinks at Outback.
Would we order again? If you’re not a guy or you’re a looking to buy a drink for a girl, then yes. Sort of. Let’s say it’s a metro drink.
Strawberry Smash Tini: muddled strawberries, Skyy strawberry vodka, St Germain, and agave nectar plus unnamed “fruit juices.” $7.00
Here we’re hoping for a nice, restrained martini-styled cocktail. We don’t see a lot of sugar here despite a lot of strawberry flavors. We got a mere sixteen shakes on the drink but maybe that’s okay given all the additives. Really do appreciate all the fresh ingredients. Tasting-oh, no!—it's poisonously sweet. Way, way too sweet! It’s like melted strawberry jam coated in sugar, and drizzled over liquefied strawberry shortcake. The sweet tooth will like this drink… but that'll be the only tooth they have left! Contrast with the popsicle drink, which was astringent by comparison!
The good: it's pink and matches hot pink blouses. That and the fresh strawberries.
The bad: Too sweet and candied. By far! Hard to imagine even the girliest diva on a mission to reclaim lost youth enjoying this one.
Would we order again? Us? No. Not unless we’re seeking an early death by diabetes. But others? There are some among our group who like the sweetness… so you’ve got to know your audience.
Bonus Waitress opinion: I really like that one! It’s sweet and yummy.
Wallaby Darned: the “famous Australian peach bellini.” Peaches, Prosecco, svedka, and Peachtree schnapps. $6.25
It’s famous and it’s even a registered trademark on the menu… so that means we must order! A real Bellini cocktail uses champagne but here the Prosecco stands in with a kick of sweet (peachtree) and alcohol (vodka). This is, we’re told, the most popular drink on the menu (must pair nicely with the Blooming Onion). It showed up frozen out of the blender, which was surprising to us. At least we don’t have to deal with all the damned ice. It smells lovely of fresh peaches. It tastes sweet and again greatly appealing only to the sweet tooths around the bar. Brain freeze and sugar is not a fun combination after you achieve drinking age… doubly so when you’re twice the drinking age. The best thing is it could be drunk outdoors at the beach in 105 degrees… and even then, “you can’t get drunk because you’d get a sugar rush first” as one of our number put it.
The good: the peach aroma. As frozen drinks go, the presentation is a pastel, Easter Bunny savoir… maybe flirting with the far borders of classy.
The bad: more sweet, more ice, more pink… it’s hard to be a respectable adult drinker on this menu. For a signature drink, it's remarkably polarizing.
Would we order again? Only as a virgin drink for a 9 year old.
Bonus Waitress opinion: “Like an adult peach smoothie!”
Absolut Wild Tea Cocktail: Absolut Wild Tea vodka with a citrus juice, iced tea, and “a sprig of fresh mint.” $6.25
We like the looks of this because we’re huge fans of the Wild Tea vodka. This looks like a very understated and refreshing drink on the menu and we were happy to order it. Thankfully, the drink was served in a mason jar (tastefully branded by Outback). After all the martini glasses and oval, feminine rocks glasses this was a great change for the manly men in our group. There actually is a lot of ice in it but it’s harder to tell. It smells gorgeous… just like the vodka. The taste is subdued… but the “citrus juice” concentrate is just too strong. It sours the drink. Far, far better if only a garnish twist had been used instead of the concentrate. (And then we were told it was a full 2 ounces of the concentrate... ouch!) It initially puzzled a number of our group but they ended up accepting it if not enthusing about it. Another something that would go down by the gallon at the pool.
The good: it’s served in a mason jar! That makes everything better. Just please ratchet back the concentrate and the ice… these people use too much damned ice!
The bad: the concentrate and the ice. This would be a far better drink to let the Absolut sing with the tea and let the mint spice it up. The drink was conceptually sound but missed in the final execution.
Would we order again? Probably not without a lot of customized ordering… and certainly not on this menu with the competition surrounding it.
Bonus Waitress opinion: “I describe it like an Arnold Palmer.”