Chipotle recently teamed up with master sommelier Richard Betts to come up with a streamlined beverage program that would complement the food menu while hewing close to the burrito chain's "food with integrity" mission. The new beverage roster, which comprises cocktails, beer and non-alcoholic drinks, debuts this week at just one Chipotle in the entire country: the fast-casual outpost at Sixth Avenue and Broadway.
"Steve [Ells, Chipotle founder] and I started talking about it a couple of years ago," Betts explains. "How do we offer beverages with integrity?" Betts, who is also a winemaker and mezcal producer, came up with a new margarita formulation, a sangria, a new draft beer and several soft drink options that incorporate lower-impact packaging and healthier, organic ingredients.
Betts started with the margarita. While Chipotle has offered a margarita since the first store opened more than twenty years ago, the new cocktail is a frozen concoction made with only Sombra mezcal from Oaxaca (Bett's own label); Astral tequila; agave syrup; ice; and the juice of lemons and limes. There's a distinct smoky note in the margarita imparted by the mezcal, which Betts says pairs well with Chipotle's flavorful burrito fillings. For the sangria, he selected Eppa Sangria, from a certified-organic California company that currently provides a bottled product but will soon be delivering Sangria in kegs to help reduce waste.
Chipotle also teamed up with Oskar Blues for its new beer: a draft version of Oskar Blues Beerito — a Vienna Mexican lager that was just rolled out by the Lyons brewery earlier this month. (In fact, if you're an avid beer hunter, Beerito is already pouring at this Chipotle, a full week ahead of the Oskar Blues launch party.) Betts also explains that Chipotle had previously offered several bottled beers, but the new program instead includes only Modelo Especial in cans (which have a longer recycling lifespan than bottles).
For non-alcoholic beverages, there's a new watermelon agua fresca inspired by Betts's childhood in southern Arizona, a hibiscus tea based on Mexican jamaica — only with added rooibos tea and lemongrass — and a new iced tea formulation from In Pursuit of Tea, a company that works directly with tea growers in India. New fountain drinks include Coke Life (sweetened with stevia extract and cane sugar instead of corn syrup) and Blue Sky sodas (which is partially owned by Coca-Cola). This is the first time either Coke Life or the Blue Sky brand have been available anywhere in a fountain version, according to Chipotle.
Izze sodas and Evolution Fresh juices round out the alcohol-free roster.
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Betts notes that there were several considerations when choosing the products and ingredients for the new lineup, including reducing the use of glass containers, selecting organic ingredients, finding alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup, positively affecting agricultural practices by suppliers and wasting less.
The Sixth and Broadway Chipotle was chosen because of its central location close to both businesses and neighborhoods, and because of its expansive patio, which is perfect for refreshing beverages on sunny days. Chipotle states that there is no set timeline for rolling out the beverage program into the rest of Denver and beyond, but that they will assess the program as a test before determining the next steps.