Pour a tall glass of peach iced tea, add a scoop of peach sorbet (or peach Schnapps, if it’s 5:00pm somewhere), and throw in a slice of fresh peach for good measure: August is National Peach Month! This beloved flavor is a classic addition to foods, drinks and desserts and has been a proven popular flavor with all ages since Ronald Regan dedicated a month to celebrating it in 1982. While the proven favorite flavor combinations and dishes remain the key driver for peach flavor, there has also been innovations in elevating the sweet, instantly recognizable flavor into new dishes and menu items.
In the beverage segment, peach flavors are prevalent in both non-alcoholic and adult beverages, making it a versatile fruit for all ages. Across the board, the top drinks for peach are fruit smoothie, iced tea, and juice. Peach iced tea is undeniably an iconic summer treat and a top flavor for iced teas whether packaged or made fresh in a restaurant year round. Its wide appeal makes it easy to find at quick service and midscale restaurants, especially, that cater to many different palates, in the form of peach lemonade and peach iced/hot tea or combined with other classics like strawberry and raspberry.
Operators who cater to a Millennial and Gen Z taste profile, get a little more adventurous and bring in flavor combinations that fit with what’s new and trending, like adding pomegranate or passion fruit, peach bubble tea, sparkling peach water, and peach flavored slushies with ice and soda.
Along with Millennial tastes, peach is also prevalent in alcoholic beverages and a mainstay in carafes of mimosas for brunch or margaritas during a night out. With the rise of canned cocktails, seltzers, and hard iced teas this summer, classic fruit flavors – like lime, lemonade, strawberry, and peach – are the most common since they pair so well with warmer weather.
Peachy Keen Cake Topper
Coming in under top segments for peach, behind beverages is desserts where the luxurious taste and juices make for the perfect topper to any pastry or cake. Peach flavor has long been a comforting taste for absorbent shortcakes and upside-down cakes, while also a staple topper in fruit cobbler desserts and pies. As sorbet rises in popularity, chefs are also playing with flavor combinations for the delicate icy treat. At Koffeteria in Houston, Pastry Chef Vanarin Kuch created a boldly flavored white peach ginger beer sorbet that fits perfectly with consumers trending towards the classic flavors they love but wanting a healthy twist, like ginger or other ingredients associated with functional benefits.
And while peaches shine in desserts, they are also often found in breakfast items that may as well be desserts, too. As a classic flavor, peach is often found from casual dining to higher-end or trending establishments. Items span from peach as a topping on a stack of pancakes or thick Belgium waffles with cream to enveloped inside a delicate crepe. It’s the go-to flavor to add recognizable comfort and sweet decadence to a cakey treat no matter the time of day.
While we’ve established peach as a ubiquitous and classic flavor, especially loved by those seeking out a refreshing summer treat, one place it has been a staple to use in ways other than sweet tea is the South. Two of the top states for growing peaches are South Carolina and Georgia and their influence on local states’ cuisine has been prevalent for years.
On Austin’s Odd Duck’s menu, peach comes into play in a big way from the kitchen to the bar. They serve porkchops with a side of peaches; peach hot sauce; a cocktail with a peachy play on a Campari spritz, combining Campari, vodka, peach and lemon; and for dessert, a peach upside-down cake with pistachio-ginger crumble. Atlanta Pastry Chef Jennifer Yee steeps peach leaves with cream to add an almond extract like flavor to ice cream.
Peach is a classic, loved flavor that is perfect on its own, but there’s always room for improvement or enhancement. Innovative flavor combinations are being led by chef-driven restaurants catering to a more adventurous palate. Some of the fastest growing ingredients being paired with peach fall within savory dishes, like brisket, basil, thyme, curry sauce, lamb, and white meat.
There is also a rise within our “Opposites Attract” trend by pairing peach with cheese, like burrata and cheddar, in fun, unexpected ways that go beyond the cheese plate. Ice & Vice in NYC once offered a peach and cheddar crisp frozen yogurt that had frozen crunchy bits of cheddar cheese incorporated into a peach base, giving the sweet peach a perfect balance of sharp salty cheddar. Mi Tea, also in NYC, has a menu dedicated to “cheese covered” teas, one being peach oolong topped with a cream-based cheese whipped foam that combines for flavorful and creamy mouthfeel.
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Last image courtesy of Instagram (@oddduckaustin).