We’ve all been to bars at an hour when the long minutes waiting for attention seem to stretch endlessly into the future, only to see the poor harried bartender start making three or four multiple ingredient drinks all at once, while we still wait. And wait. And wait…
It’s always been an industry plague, the wait for service at busy hours, made a magnitude worse by the penetration of craft cocktail-inspired drinks into bars where volume is at a premium. But help may be on the way, as serious drink makers have tackled this problem by advancing batching methods that can effectively help create a menu that has quality drinks AND streamlined service at its heart.
The trend is not without controversy, but many of the practitioners of contemporary methods to serve good drinks in a more timely manner certainly have the bona fides to make the case that not every drink needs to be made a la minute, and that few customers and operations benefit when delays cut into sales and profits.
We recently noted how The Tasting Kitchen in Venice, CA (winner of Nightclub & Bar’s Restaurant Bar of the Year Award) serves carbonated bottled drinks made by Justin Pike, like the Mancini West (Meletti, anisette, soda, amaro and maple syrup). Tavernita in Chicago has become a must-stop for curious operators thinking about putting in tap systems that serve beer, wine, cocktails, even vermouth. Classes in what and how to batch cocktails have become sources of interest at industry conferences. Media hype over bottled cocktails served at bars has spread the attraction to consumers.
Many complain that batching cocktails in advance, whether through frozen drink machines or preserved for a few hours under gas, is antithetical to the spirit of the modern cocktail era, which is funny given that punches, rescued by the same impulse to return to American drinking’s roots, were conceived of as ways to keep guests with a full cup in hand while other matters were seen to. And what, after all, is a barrel-aged Negroni or Manhattan except a batched cocktail made so far in advance that one of the effects considered so deleterious on other drinks (oxidization, in this case) is touted as a benefit.
Pre-batching for faster service doesn’t necessarily mean that the entire drink is made in advance; you already probably pre-batch lemonade, for instance, so building a drink menu on a slightly less sweet version of that same lemon juice/water/sugar concoction is one step in a sensible direction if craft cocktailing is beyond your current ability. Other juice/puree/spice combinations are equally well-suited for pre-batching, as long as pars are established and maintained and batches not kept longer than the day they are made. Long drinks built on a base of fruit-spiked lemonade are a great way to start building an upgraded drink program, if the lemonade is freshly made in house. Add carbonation, incorporate the main and modifying spirit and you’ve got the potential to menu drinks your staff can make quickly and professionally, and be proud off. It’s not, as most people have pointed out, rocket science.