If you’re considering adding batching to your cocktail program, (or trying to persuade Management to do so) here are a few things to keep in mind:
Benefits of Pre-Batching
There are a lot of great reasons to consider a program like this, perhaps the biggest being the time savings involved.
Batching takes away the possibility of different bartenders making your cocktails differently. Once you make the master batch, you will have the same cocktail throughout the entire batch.
Faster Rate of Service
When you get this style of beverage program up and running, you can pump out a lot more cocktails in a shorter amount of time. This is especially powerful as the biggest profit center in a bar or restaurant is typically with the spirits. So if serving cocktails more quickly means your customers choose cocktails instead of beer or wine, this will be very beneficial for your margins.
Ability to Work Ahead
For traditional “a la minute” cocktails, there’s only so much you can do in advance. With batched drinks you are investing the time before customers walk in the door.
Don’t discount the presentation for batched drinks. While you could certainly just pour your cocktail into a glass and serve it, there is a lot more you can do to add to the customer’s experience. With bottled cocktails, you can get creative on the label on the bottle and make it look truly custom for your establishment. You also “buy” time for a more impressive garnish if the drink itself is pre-batched.
Just as your recipes will be more consistent, your Cost of Goods Sold will be more consistent as well. Even using jiggers behind the bar can still allow for major differences between pours, especially when you’re busy. Batching out cocktails can help to stabilize the product cost for the cocktails that are pre-batched.
Drawbacks of Pre-Batching
Of course, it’s not all roses and butterflies – there are definitely challenges that come with this type of program as well.
Depending on the type of batching you’re doing (barrel aged, bottled, kegged, etc.) getting a pre-batched program up and running can take some investment in the form of equipment and labor costs. Batching containers, bottles, label design, printing and an increase in potential product can add up quick.
Once your drink is batched, where will it be stored? Does it need to be kept in a refrigerator, and is there room? This might not be a concern for everyone, but here in San Francisco, every inch of a restaurant is precious – and this can be a real deal-breaker.
Part of the allure of a craft cocktail bar is watching the drink being made. If you’re simply uncapping a bottled drink and setting it down in front of the customer, the customer may perceive it as a “cheaper” or less “craft-y” experience, and may be disappointed. Be careful to align your batching program with the culture of your bar to prevent disappointment.
Due to antiquated liquor laws, (especially in the USA), pre-batching can actually be against the law. Check with your local laws and, if necessary, consult a lawyer. In many places this is very much a “gray area”, so you might have to make a decision about how much risk you’re willing to take on.
Once you’ve reviewed the “Pros” and “cons” and decided to move forward with your batched cocktail program, here are a few more things to keep in mind:
- Juice should be added last minute (NOT included in the batch). Juice can begin to oxidize pretty quickly (especially grapefruit and orange juice) and turn bitter. The same thing happens to lime juice and can ruin pre-batched cocktails if not served quickly.
- Similarly with Bitters: Add bitters a la minute. If bitters are added to large pre-batched cocktails, the bitters can “bloom” essentially decreasing their intensity. Make sure to add bitters as a last step.
- Consider Scale: Some recipes don’t scale correctly and will take some adjustment
- Play with it: You have a lot more flexibility with a batched recipe than you do with a single serving cocktail. Since there is more volume that you are working with, you have the ability to fine tune the recipes which would be difficult to do with a single serving cocktail.
- Managing Dilution: You don’t have to make every individual cocktail and monitor dilution, you can add water to your batch to give you the water that you would get from dilution. By the way – if you keep the pre-batched cocktails in the fridge or freezer, you will get much less dilution when you add the drink to the ice. Be sure to adjust accordingly.
- You don’t have to batch the whole cocktail. If you don’t want to go with all of your signature cocktails in a pre-batched format, you can pre-batch the spirits that go into the drink. For example, imagine a Long Island where you marry all of the spirits together so you only have to touch one liquor bottle – this is a huge time saver, but still gives the guest the “show” they may be expecting.
I think that pre-batching is one of the smartest things you can do if you run a craft bar program, especially if you are busy. It addresses some of the major concerns that bar owners face: Time, money and consistency. This is why we are seeing a huge increase in cocktails on tap, barrel aged cocktails and bottled cocktails in our industry.