A cool drink in your hand on Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas can offer much more than a stereotypical cocktail.
Most people think of a pina colada, rum and coke, or margarita when you envision themselves on a cruise ship. While Royal Caribbean still offers those staples, they wanted to give passengers more choices and opportunities to find a new favorite.
Read more: Icon of the Seas restaurant and dining guide
Alexandra Palmeri is Royal Caribbean's Corporate Manager of Beverage Operations, and she helped come up with 13 new bar menus just for Icon of the Seas.
To put that in perspective, when Wonder of the Seas launched, there was only one new bar menu.
The process is methodical, but also quite fun, "We go venue by venue to start, because you really have to hone in and think about what your experience wants to be on each menu."
As an example, the Rye and Bean is a coffee-based bar, so Alex and her team started off with 20-25 drinks that they tasted and whittled it down to the ten that made the final menu.
"And then what we did afterwards was took a step back and made everything together. So every single cocktail with every single menu, all the menus created, so you look at it visually and say, okay, we really have a full variety across the entire ship."
How do they come up with a new drink?
It's not easy to come up with a new cocktail that will be just as good as traditional favorites.
Drink menus need to balance what's popular versus what the team thinks will bring something different to make it all stand out.
Alex thinks the theme of the bar plays a big role in choosing which drinks work for that venue, "For example, Hideaway Bar is an outside, adults-only venue. We wanted to lean more into champagne based cocktails."
"Every cocktail on that menu has some bubbles in it and something that's easy to drink. You're sitting by the pool, you want to lounge all day. So low ABV really played a huge part into it."
Essentially, the location of the guest factors into the drink menu that the Food & Beverage team concocts so that it fits the vibe.
In creating new drinks, the process is very much based on trial and error. There's a panel at Royal Caribbean headquarters that sample the new drinks, "for some of these drinks, the first time we've tried them, they were a home run."
Other drinks take longer to get just right. In the case of the "Oh Mai Gawd" cocktail from The Hideaway neighborhood, Alex recalls it took the team 20 times before it was good, "sometimes it really takes that much to really get a perfect cocktail, but that's what's needed. It really makes sure you have holistically what's going to work for everybody."
You might also be wondering how the team chooses one liquor over another, and Alex said it's based on balancing taste and cost, "If we like the way it tastes in both separate ones, we'll see what the cost looks like and then make a decision from there."
Speaking of champagne, Royal Caribbean added a new champagne window on Icon of the Seas that leans into the increased popularity of the bubbly stuff.
Bubbles is located in the Central Park neighborhood, and it only serves champagne. Alex calls it a fun concept, "You want to go grab a glass of champagne as you're walking through Central Park. It really creates kind of a whole experience."
In thinking about Bubbles, her team came up with a drink called, "Garden Breeze", and Alex compares it to a passion fruit mojito.
Beyond the pina colada
With 13 new bar menus, there's going to be lots of new drinks to try on Icon of the Seas, and I was curious which drinks Alex recommended to try for someone who wants to branch out.
One trend Royal Caribbean is leaning into is bitters, and as a result, you'll find more bitter than sweet drinks to try.
Ed Eiswirth, Royal Caribbean Director of Beverage Operations, recommends the Jazzy Sass cocktail from Lou's Jazz 'n Blues as something different.
Alex liked many of the coffee drinks from the Rye & Bean bar in the Aquadome.
Zero proof drinks
One other trend that Royal Caribbean has embraced is the zero proof menu, which features drinks without any alcohol in them.
There's an entire bar in Surfside that features drinks that kids can enjoy too, and it's not just deconstructed alcoholic beverages.
"When you start with alcohol and you start to deconstruct it, it becomes a lot more challenging to create a non-alcoholic mocktail. So we started from the mocktail perspective and then built it built it up that way," Alex explained.