Revamping a cocktail, beer or wine program brandwide can be an exhausting process for any company — which makes overhauling all three at once seem practically insane. But at Bar Louie, that’s exactly what is happening today, as the Addison, Texas, company rolls out a new beverage program at its 56 locations nationwide.
The new program centers on instruction, individuality and innovation, explains Beverage Director Blake Rohrabaugh. “Especially now with our guests becoming so much more educated on what’s out there, our executive team and I know we need to be ahead of the trends,” he says. “Every bar in the world has certain beers and certain wines. We want to offer them a reason to come here.”
This starts with the beer list. About one-third of Bar Louie locations offer 40 tap handles, while the rest offer 20. Previously, the brand mandated 16 of those tap handles, and each location could choose four (or 14) beers on their own, whether they were nationally known craft beers or local favorites. Now, the mandate is down to 10 — giving each location plenty of wiggle room to please their patrons’ palates.
Bar Louie is rolling out a new beverage program at its 56 locations nationwide.
“We want each location to have a dynamic beer list that is less of every single thing you can get at the grocery store and more filled with the local, craft brews guests are looking for,” Rohrabaugh notes.
This focus on unique options includes the exclusive launch of new glassware that looks exactly like the iconic Pabst Blue Ribbon “tallboy” can. For the next six months, Bar Louie guests are the only ones in the country who can order a PBR on tap and receive it in this specially designed glassware. (The brand also is rolling out “new funkier, cooler” glassware for its cocktails.)
Over on the robust cocktail menu — which comprises 25 to 35 beverages — Rohrabaugh removed eight of the lowest sellers, added on eight new ones and reconfigured two of the recipes.
The revamped list includes the Elliott’s Pepper (Hendrick’s Gin, red pepper strips, agave nectar, fresh lemon juice), named after its creator, Nick Elliott, who manages the bar at the company’s Anaheim, Calif., location. Elliott won a companywide contest to come up with a new cocktail for the Bar Louie menu; in addition to having his drink on the menu at all locations, he also won a trip to Tales of the Cocktail this summer.
Although some of the cocktails are newly concocted drinks, such as Rohrabaugh’s favorite, The Mongoose (mango, pure cane syrup, Cruzan Light Rum, O3 Orange Liqueur and fresh lime juice), others are simply perfected takes on classics, such as the Manhattan. Rohrabaugh, who has been a bartender for 18 years and spent nearly half of that time with Bar Louie, recently taught the company’s general managers and a team of “rock star bartenders” various techniques, such as the proper stir, so Bar Louie could offer a Manhattan that is “stirred, never shaken.” (It says so right on the menu.)
Training like this was a must for Rohrabaugh, who knew that though there were talented men and women behind the bar, they weren’t always given the tools they needed to succeed. So in addition to the brand-new commercial juicers that will be available at every location to ensure bartenders can make fresh juices easily for every cocktail, bartenders will get hands-on training and personal attention.
The aforementioned “rock star bartenders” — a team of two standout members from each location — will be trained on beverages in the same manner that general managers receive, and they will be responsible for “holding the other bartenders accountable,” Rohrabaugh says.
After today’s brandwide rollout, these select bartenders will receive continuous training. Bar Louie also will provide online training for all bartenders, supporting those who are truly interested in the craft to further their training at in-person sessions such as Pernod Ricard’s BarSmarts program.
This commitment to training extends beyond mixology, as Rohrabaugh says the company will allow the “rock star bartenders” to receive the first level of beer cicerone training and encourage others to work their way toward this training as well.
Additionally, all employees will be required to take an online wine training — and pass a test — within their first month of employment. This strong commitment to wine training exemplifies the brand’s renewed focus.
“We are a cocktail place first, beer place second and far back in the distance is wine,” Rohrabaugh says. “We want to make sure we’re improving the way we sell it, offer it and present it.”
To achieve this, Bar Louie has revamped its wine list, adding 15 new options (out of 20 total) to the menu, most of which only can be ordered at bars and restaurants.
“The direction I gave [our three wine suppliers] was if you can get it at a grocery store or convenience store, we’re not interested,” Rohrabaugh explains. “It’s almost like what you see in the craft beer movement, where people want to try things they never have before — we wanted something people haven’t heard of yet or something that has a story behind it.”
So for starters, Bar Louie restaurants will carry — exclusively — a new wine made by the band Train. The band, which also has a varietal called Drops of Jupiter, just released its newest wine: California 37, a Cabernet Sauvignon named after the highway; it’s also the name of the band’s upcoming album. For the first 120 days, this wine only will be available in Bar Louie locations.
It’s this kind of exclusivity that Rohrabaugh says makes Bar Louie stand apart.
“People are smart, and they want to try new things. If they’re spending $8 to $10 a drink, they’re kind of demanding something cool,” he notes. “If you’re not doing that, you can still do OK, but you’re just standing still. We want to be always moving forward. It’s something we’re committed to.”