In our last post, we discussed how incorporating craft cocktails into your drink menu can help you boost profits while providing added value to your customers. While there are many benefits to serving craft cocktails, they undeniably increase the complexity of the drinks your bartenders must make, and ultimately require a more sophisticated bar inventory system in order to effectively track their performance.
However, there is one other issue which you must consider when deciding whether to offer craft cocktails at your bar. Due to their complexity, craft cocktails take much longer to prepare than a typical mixed drink such as Jack and Coke which allows your bartender to simultaneously pour the liquor and mixer in a matter of seconds.
In contrast, making a craft cocktail is a much more involved process. They typically include two or more types of liquor and several non-alcoholic ingredients. In addition to mixing together more ingredients, there is a greater importance on getting the balance between ingredients correct. Otherwise, your craft cocktails won’t taste right. All of this takes time.
Of course, most of your customers won’t mind the extra time it takes to receive their drink because your signature craft cocktails will be delicious and worth the wait. That being said, you may feel the need to balance quality and efficiency in your operations whenever possible.
Save Time by Batching
One way that high volume bars address this issue is by pre-batching their popular craft cocktails. The term “batch” refers to mixing all the ingredients in the drink together in advance so that serving the drink is simply a matter of putting ice in the glass, pouring the pre-mixed drink, and adding garnishes.
For example, one of Bar-i’s Denver clients is a Mexican restaurant that does a large volume of house margarita sales. In order to accommodate this volume, they batch their house margaritas in 50 gallon drums and pour it from a tap behind the bar. In order to maintain high quality standards, they also have a pump in the drum that continuously mixes the margarita to prevent ingredients from separating.
Benefits of Batching Craft Cocktails
In most situations, it is best to only pre-mix the liquors in your craft cocktail and add the non-alcoholic mixers when you make the drink (more on this later). For this reason, this discussion will focus on situations where you are simply pre-mixing liquors in their proper proportions for your batch.
Pre-mixed liquors help prevent pouring problems, and it is particularly effective when you have one or more ingredients that are used in very small amounts. When dealing with small quantities such as ¼ oz. or ½ oz. of liquor, it can be very tricky to achieve a precise measurement of these ingredients. The margin for error becomes even more significant when you consider that your bartenders will be pouring these drinks when your bar is busy.
It is much easier to get these ingredients measured out precisely when you do a large batch in advance for several reasons:
• It is easier to measure out larger quantities with greater precision
• Your bartenders will have more time to focus on getting the measurements right since there won’t be a bar full of people wanting drinks when you make your batch
Once you’ve taken the time to perfectly prepare a large batch of your craft cocktail prior to the busy rush, your bartenders can easily pour out the right quantity into each cocktail using a jigger. This improves serving speed, increases drink consistency, and provides a better overall customer experience.
When Should I Batch My Craft Cocktails?
Ultimately, the decision of whether to batch should be made based on the specifics of your business. In general, you should consider batching your craft cocktails whenever doing so would improve the customer experience.
You should evaluate the following factors when making this decision:
• Volume – In high volume establishments, batching may be the only way to make serving your most popular craft cocktails practical.
• Complexity of drinks – The more complex the drink, the more beneficial it will be to batch. This is especially true if you have a large craft drink menu which would require bartenders to remember numerous complicated recipes on the fly.
• High end vs. low end establishments – If you run a fast-casual establishment, there probably won’t be much of an issue with batching craft cocktails because customer experience isn’t as important as speed, efficiency, and profitability. But for higher end bars that place a premium on customer experience, the creation of a cocktail in front of the customer may be more important than the benefits achieved by batching.
However, this doesn’t mean a high end bar can’t still take advantage of batching in certain situations. One Bar-i client chose to have 2 different systems:
• Craft cocktails are batched for use at the service bar
• Craft cocktails are made from scratch when serving directly to customers
This creates a complicated system, but this particular bar makes it work effectively. It also allows the bar to create 2 tiers of bartenders:
• Lower tier is only qualified to work the service bar
• Higher tier includes more skilled bartenders who can serve directly to customers
This creates an incentive for the lower tiered bartenders to hone their craft and work their way into the higher tier.
If you are concerned about how batching will look to your customers, train your bartenders to explain that pre-mixing the batch actually improves the customer experience by providing greater consistency with each drink and speeding up the process of receiving a cocktail.
Why Shouldn’t I Include Fresh Ingredients in the Batch?
As stated earlier, we recommend only pre-mixing liquor as part of your batch and adding the fresh ingredients when you make the drink for a customer. There are two reasons to avoid including fresh ingredients in your batch:
• Reduced shelf life – Certain non-alcoholic mixers such as juices can actually go bad, making it crucial that you sell the entire batch quickly.
• Reduced quality – Certain non-alcoholic mixers such as sodas can go flat, ruining the taste of your signature drink.
If you choose to include fresh ingredients in your batch, make sure:
• The volume you make can be used within a couple of days to prevent wasting the product when it goes bad
• To double strain juices to remove all the pulp, which tends to degrade and go bad quicker than the actual juice
Inventory Considerations When Batching Craft Cocktails
The increased complexity associated with craft cocktails makes it much easier to develop problems during bar inventory. If you are not working with a sophisticated bar inventory system that compares what’s sold to what’s used, you won’t have accurate information to determine what liquor inventory shrinkage is costing you.
Comparing what is used to what is sold with batched craft cocktails requires you to engage in the process of “backing out” how much of specific ingredients are contained with whatever amount of the batch you have on hand. You can do this on your own using the following steps:
• Use tare weight and scale – always use the same container whenever you make a batch so that you know how much it weighs. Minus the tare weight of the container from the total weight to determine what volume of batch you have.
• Calculate the percentage of the drink that is comprised of the type of liquor you are trying to measure based on the recipe of the batch
•Multiply the total volume of batch present by the percentage to find out how much of that liquor is contained in the batch. Add this quantity to your total counts for the raw ingredients (e.g. if you calculate there are 60 ounces of Cuervo in your batched house marg, add this amount to your inventory count for Cuervo).
While this method works it is a very manual and time-consuming process. An easier way to accomplish this is to let Bar-i’s bar inventory software make these calculations for you. To learn more, we recommend that you watch this video on how to use Bar-i’s batches worksheet. You can also click on a link below the video to download the worksheet for free.
Please contact Bar-i today to learn how our bar inventory system can help you maximize profits and improve your bar's operations. We provide services to bars nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.