CHICAGO – Independent Insights, a new Technomic study, focuses on 100 independent restaurants located throughout the US. It uncovered these restaurants are preparing dishes using cola or other beverages as a primary ingredient. Coffee, tea, beer, soda and spirits are all being featured on independent restaurant menus in various manners.

Such beverages are contributing spicy, sweet, tart and savory flavors to dishes.

“Chefs have long been using flavored drinks in various preparation methods, but the way beverages are being used on today's independent menus is helping to redefine the boundaries between comfort food and gourmet cuisine,” said Laura McGuire, editorial manager. “Using soda or beer as part of the preparation adds casualness to the dish, even when the proteins or other ingredients are uncommon. These independent restaurants are revisiting comfort food and putting contemporary twists on old themes.”

Meat menu items featuring beverages as ingredients include Sweet Tea Brined Pork Chop with creamed corn and apricot cardamom chutney from Benjy’s in Houston, Texas; Pepsi-braised Pork Belly from Second Empire in Raleigh, NC; and Aztec Duck, pan-seared coffee and ancho chile-rubbed duck breast, served with chipotle bacon cheese grits, sautéed spinach and fig demi-glace from The Fort in Denver, Colo.