There's a lot of confusion about bottled cocktails - what they are, what it takes to make them, the effort and energy needed to make the program work, and what the pay-off might be?
We’ll be answering some of those questions and more at the Nightclub & Bar Show seminar on Monday I'll be leading about bottled cocktails. The panelists - bartender Danny Ronen who works with Kathy Casey Food Studios and Liquid Kitchen on bar programs for operations large, medium and small; Jen Colliau, San Francisco bartender and syrup entrepreneur at Slow Hand Foods who is currently getting ready to launch the bar and cafe The Long Now, and Trevor Frye, top barman at Washington, DC's Jack Rose Saloon and Dram and Grain, where nightly a slew of non-carbonated and bottled Mother-in-Law cocktails are served.
Trevor is a case in point: many people have come to believe that the only reason to bottle a cocktail is to carbonate it, but that's not the case. The value derived from pre-batching and premeasuring a drink are the two main attributes of a bottled cocktail program - a perfectly made drink ready to go is a bartender's dream, a time-shifting and work-saving device that if made properly is a far better solution to a crowd of thirsty customers than a handful of bottled beers.
If you've thought about serving punch, for example, or do so even now, then bottling is just the next step. Most punch recipes were derived from a need to serve many guests a refreshing drink all at once - what better describes the advantages of bottled cocktails? Of course, these drinks won't keep forever especially if citrus is involved. But if an operation isn't busy enough to sell through a couple dozen bottled cocktails per shift, then the idea either needs better promotion or should be trashed.
In other words, don't start attempting to get into bottling cocktails because it seems so cool or because business is slow and you need a new trick to attract a crowd; bottling works best when you already have the crowd, or in the case of hotel operations, you want to be able to serve well-made drinks in new ways that will be convenient for your guests.
We'll touch on the differences between citrus and non-citrus, carbonated and non-carbonated, the best practices in quality assurance, and other, non-technical issues. And if you can't make it, look for a post-show report here in the next few weeks.
Photo by Jon Estrada