Despite having crept onto the hipster bar scene more than a few years ago, it’s only now that craft bottled cocktails are starting to hit the market commercially.
So what’s the deal with pre-batched bottled cocktails? There’s a number of great advantages for any size venue, from the home bar to a multi-level club:
Speed of Service — Pre-batched cocktails are incredibly quick to serve, whether you go for a serve in the bottle or poured over ice. A good mojito can take a reasonable bartender on average anywhere from 40–60s to make whereas a pre-batched Mojito can be served in 4–6s. All the time is saved in preparation which can be carried out during slack periods of service or outside of opening hours.
Consistent Quality — In busy bars mistakes can happen, that’s a fact of life. Maybe a ‘day-dot’ (date of expiry sticker) falls off the lime juice and no-one checks that it’s turned super sour. Sometimes ingredients can be under- (or over) poured, maybe the new bartender hasn’t learnt their recipes yet. All of this can lead to inconsistency in your cocktail serves and dissatisfaction for your patrons. With pre-batching to a careful recipe there’s no problem with inconsistency as all the serves are prepared together by the same hand.
Menu Variety — With often limited space on the bar or on serving stations a venue can be limited in the variety of different ingredients they can use on a menu. Some ingredients need to be used within a day or so but are often used infrequently, for example, fresh coconut cream. When batching your bottled cocktails you can use an array of different ingredients you wouldn’t necessarily be able to keep on the bar. This allows venues, especially smaller ones, to add some breadth to their cocktail offering very easily.
Cocktail Development/Testing — Having lots of nice colourful bottles in the fridge is a great way of engaging your regulars in craft cocktails as well as testing the local market. Bottles disappearing from the fridge shelf is a very visual way of telling you what flavours are working locally, which can help you to form your next cocktail menu. You can even take suggestions from some of your patrons for new flavours and easily involve them in the process (as well as boosting sales).
Unique Selling Point — It’s unlikely that many of your competitors will be looking at pre-batched, craft cocktails so it could be a unique way of differentiating yourself from other venues in the area.
How is it done?
It might be as simple as making a large vat of a simple cocktail and decanting it into some swing-top bottles. On the other hand there could be barrel infusions that take weeks to mature before bottling. Whichever way you go, there are a few simples rules and words of advice to follow:
- Try to avoid dairy-based cocktails (milk and eggs). These don’t always store well and are generally better served fresh, unless you can pasteurise.
- Fresh fruit is an excellent ingredient to use but will reduce the shelf-life of the cocktail so you’ll need to plan more carefully what you may use on a typical weekend.
- You can decide whether or not to serve the cocktails “as is” in the bottles or poured over ice. Given that most classic cocktails are shaken or stirred over ice if you choose the former option you’ll need to add a little water to the mix to compensate.
- Swing-top bottles of around 250ml are generally a good option. Of course you can use smaller bottles if you’re looking at cocktails like an Old Fashioned or Manhattan. For Carbonated Cocktails you can use a crown-top bottle with a capping machine.
There are many professional outfits now producing pre-batched cocktails such as these from Canon. (www.thespiritsbusiness.com)
What else can I try?
Basically just about anything you currently serve (while maintaining the golden rules above) can be batched, bottled and sold. Generally high alcohol serves will last longer but there are other methods you can use.
We’ll soon be writing an article about Sous-Vide cocktails, making a Mojito that works perfectly as a batched bottled cocktail with no mint or fruit in the serve! Keep your eyes peeled for the recipe!