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Bar Management

Product and Presentation — Sell Both the Sizzle and the Steak

June 2, 2010 By: Donna Hood Crecca, Robert Plotkin


Drink-Making in a .08 Universe – Smaller Portions, Lower Concentrations
Today’s DWI laws dictate responsible drink making, and that means concocting cocktails that don’t deliver exorbitant amounts of alcohol. The days of the highly potent Margarita in a fishbowl are over! Traditional cocktails were much smaller than the ones poured today, so if you’re tapping into the retro trend, feel free to reduce total ounces (given, of course, that you’re providing a superior drink and you explain as much to the guest). And, consider that syrups, tinctures and other alcohol-free flavoring agents can take the place of liqueurs – a means of delivering flavor with less alcohol.

Sparkling Mixology – Champagne Cocktails are Classy, Delicious, Profitable
Adding Champagne to a cocktail really takes it up a notch in terms of visual and flavor appeal to the guest, not to mention perceived value. This little splash of luxury elevates the occasion and the drink experience. Something as simple as vodka and pineapple topped with Champagne takes the drink, and the profit margin, considerably upscale.

Think Global Sparklers – Prosecco, Cavas and Others
French bubbly is not your only option. Sparklers from outside the famed Champagne region are less expensive. Look to Italy, Spain, South America, California and beyond for different styles that can really bring something unique to a cocktail. These sparklers also deliver on the bottom line, as they’re less expensive than Champagne, and provide an opportunity for a little guest education about global bubbles.

Recipes for Success – Drink Consistency Counts
Use drink recipes – especially for signature cocktails and popular drinks. Have recipes readily available to all bartenders and insist they follow them. The result is better cost controls and a better guest experience, both of which improve your bottom line. Guests will come back time and again if the Margarita is always as good as they remember.

Muddling – Injecting Cocktail With Fresh Ingredients
Muddling does for a cocktail what high definition does for television. In both instances the result is crisper, more brilliant and, ultimately, yields a more pleasurable experience. The drinks prepared with muddled ingredients are a slice above the rest, typically possessing supple, satiny textured bodies, generous bouquets and palates imbued with enticing, tree-ripened flavors.

Equally beneficial is that the technique effectively expands what products can be incorporated into drink making, a nearly endless selection of ingredients ranging from ginger, cucumbers and peppers to basil, mint and every type of fresh fruit imaginable. Factor in how it enhances production value and you’ll begin to appreciate why muddling has become a significant beverage trend.

Double Straining – Serve Fresh Cocktails With No Floaties
For some time, venerable drinks like the Mojito and Old Fashioned marked the extent of a muddler’s professional range, with the prevailing rationale being that swirling pulp and muddled debris had no place in cocktails. However, today’s top-notch bartenders rendered the status quo passé by outfitting their bars with handled tea strainers. At once, the creative floodgates were thrown open. Mixologists and bar chefs soon began crafting cocktails by muddling fresh products directly in shakers rather than the traditional service glass. Then after vigorously shaking the contents — ice, muddled fruit and all — the bartender pours the frothing cocktail through the fine mesh strainer en route to the chilled glass waiting below. Nary a trace of flotsam makes its way to the finished cocktail.

Gun Control – Bottled Mixers Enhance Quality, Production Quality
The better the ingredients, the better the drink. Despite their higher cost, bottled mixers make crisper, livelier drinks. They’re bottled at the right brix level with high-quality, long-lasting carbonation — two things that can’t be said for mixers dispensed out of on-premise post-mix systems.

Ice Balls – Not All Ice is Created Equally
The nature of the ice used is an important consideration when making cocktails. Its contribution goes beyond lowering the temperature of a cocktail to its proper serving temperature. The relative hardness of ice is an often-overlooked attribute. If ice isn’t hard enough it will melt too quickly and over-dilute the cocktail. Another consideration is the nature of the water used to make ice, the quality of which will affect the taste of the finished drink.

Additionally, the size and shape of the ice you use plays a key role in how a drink will taste. According to Debbi Peek, portfolio mixologist for Bacardi USA, small ice cubes tend to melt faster than larger cubes and therefore more quickly dilute mixed drinks. “Since ice balls are round they melt slowly and won’t over dilute a cocktail. They’re crystal clear and last a long time, leaving the first sip as cold as the last,” she says.

Backbar Management – What to Stock and How to Best Merchandise It
Regardless of the type of beverage operation you’re running, the backbar is your principal and most effective marketing device. Ensure that it has the right product mix and that it best supports your beverage program. In these challenging economic times, it’s important to reduce your inventory levels, which will result in freeing up working capital and lessen your exposure to loss. Distinguish between underperforming products — those that take four months or longer to deplete — and dead stock, which are products that remain on the shelf longer than nine months. Underperforming products have low returns on investment, while dead stock are ultimately financial lost causes.

Local Micro-Distilled Spirits – Small Batch Brands on the Charts With a Bullet
Small distillers are handcrafting some of the finest spirits produced, possibly down the road from your establishment. Highly acclaimed vodkas like Tito’s Handmade, Cold River, Vermont Gold, Hangar One and 45th Parallel are pot-still wonders with the authentic feel of home. In the whiskey arena, distillers such as Tuthilltown in upstate New York, Pritchards in Tennessee, Dry Fly near Spokane, Wash., and Templeton in Iowa are grabbing double golds in the international competition. With the renaissance of the cocktail and the ever-growing interest in high quality spirits, stocking brands like Bluecoat gin and Charbay Rum, Charbay Tequila Blanco and their micro-distilled brethren makes considerable sense.

Sessionability – What the Classics Have and the Rest Don’t
The essential quality that all great cocktails share in common is sessionability. The term is used to describe a drink so engaging that people stick with it throughout the course of a night. Success in this case depends entirely on balancing the drink’s characteristics so they can be appreciated equally. Stray toward any one extreme and you’re headed for trouble: A drink with too much flavor will quickly become overbearing; not enough and it’ll be a lackluster dud. Go for balance and you’ll wind up with more customers staying longer and spending more.

Develop a Signature – Specialty Drinks a Dime a Dozen
Most bars and lounges today sport drink menus loaded with specialty drinks, which is a smart business tactic. But equally sage is working to develop a cocktail so intriguing and universally appealing that it becomes the signature of the house. Ultimately, crafting an amazing cocktail is an exacting science involving drops, dashes and dollops — the combining of dissimilar ingredients so that in the end, the sum becomes more than its parts. Create a popular masterpiece and the world will beat down your front door for a sip. Where else are they going to go to get it?

Sangria – Profit-Laded and Certified Delicious
Americans get cranky when parched. On those summer nights when the A/C isn’t cutting it, there’s nothing more thirst quenching and delicious than Sangria. Best of all, it’s a forgiving concoction, so you can’t make a wrong mix. It’s a classic punch traditionally made with red wine, fresh fruit and a wide assortment of spirits and liqueurs. It’s easily prepared, loaded with profit and a perfect companion for light summer fare.

In Praise of Syrups – Simple, Agave and Flavored Cocktail-Essential
In a business where success is measured one sip at a time, serving guests dull cocktails is hardly an option. So bar chefs and mixologists are increasingly using syrups to bolster the flavor of cocktails. One viable tactic is infusing simple syrups with the flavor of cucumber, peppers, spices, ginger or seasonal fruit. Another creative outlet is relying on a premium brand like Monin to deliver a true-to-fruit payload regardless of the season or market availability. Creative potential alone qualifies them as indispensable.


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