Bartender pouring a cocktail

From the Stage to the Bar, And Back Again

This article will help identify places where you can add theatricality to your serves in a thoughtful way to improve the flavors and presentation of your drinks while elevating the guest experience to create enthusiastic regulars.

 

Estimated Reading Time: 13 minutes

 

You’ve built yourself a wonderful new cocktail, or maybe even developed a whole menu for your bar. Yet despite using great technique and having a well-balanced menu, It isn’t having the impact that you hoped. It’s time to pull out the flair, the Theatrical Flair that is.

This article will help identify places where you can add theatricality to your serves in a thoughtful way to improve the flavors and presentation of your drinks while elevating the guest experience to create enthusiastic regulars.

Theatrical Flair

If all the worlds a stage, the bar is the black box theater that allows for an intimate experience and a personal performance. It’s these kinds of thoughtful touches and additions to the cocktail serve that can elevate a drink to a full hospitality experience.  This kind of elevated serve has a myriad of benefits, from creating free marketing through increased “Instagramability” to increased profitability as guests are willing to spend more on the full experience rather than just the drink. This will also drive new business as people see your drink posted and have to experience it for themselves!

In a cocktail landscape where guests have learned how to make a pretty great Negroni for themselves in the comfort of their own home, what is the value add of having one at your bar? Or why should they choose to have your negroni versus the one at the bar or restaurant across the street?

Guests want the experience of being served their cocktail to match up to the flavors and quality of their cocktail.

Start With A Script

The first place to start with your theatrical touches is often the easiest: the menu. There is a lot of science that goes into what makes a World Class Menu but all of that insight is lost if you’re not considering the most basic function of a menu: to tell a compelling story.

Any menu that is placed in front of a guest should tell a cohesive story. Not only should it reinforce the theme of the bar or restaurant, but also the subplot of the cocktails.

Is there a theme to the menu? Is it telling you about how these cocktails might pair with food or about the occasion that they should be enjoyed with?

What is the story the cocktail names are telling? How are ingredients listed? Are you listing ABV or Standard drinks per serving to allow your guests to make informed decisions about responsible drinking?

These may seem like small decisions but they all open up opportunities to engage the guest. If the name of a cocktail ties into a piece of the bar’s history, that opens up a moment of hospitality and engagement with the guest.

Same thing goes with how the ingredients are listed. Anchoring a menu with quality spirits helps the guest trust that everything that goes into the drink is of equal quality, and calling out culinary techniques used to make homemade ingredients can prompt guests to ask questions that lead to further engagement.

Just remember that language matters.

Dress Rehearsal

Once your story is in place it’s time to rehearse. No script should ever be put before an audience without rehearsal and no cocktail technique or serve should be put before a guest without practicing it first. Spending time to practice and perfect higher level skills and techniques is essential to their final execution.

Looking to play around with the intersection of texture and flavor? Consider learning how to make a cocktail air or foam to top your drink. This can give a piece of theatricality that can last throughout the drink.

Play around with and practice new cocktail mixing techniques. For instance try throwing a more traditionally stirred cocktail and taste them side by side. The act of throwing may open up a new set of flavors while also giving the guest at the bar a show.

Same with doing a Freezer serve. Fully batching and keeping a cocktail like a martini in a freezer can change the perception of flavors and allows for a moment of serving a literal ice cold cocktail from a unique vessel.

Ketel One DIrty Freezer Martini

Serves 10

Combine all ingredients in a cambro.

Thoroughly mix to incorporate brine, salt, and balsamic.

Store in a clean glass bottle.

Place in a freezer for a minimum of two (2) hours.

When ready to serve, retrieve a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass.

Measure 2 oz. of the freezer batch into the glass.

Garnish with a Castelvetrano olive

Also consider playing around with color. We’re used to a certain muted range of colors in our cocktails so adding some blue spirulina to a syrup to achieve a natural, vibrant blue to the drink can have a massive impact.

Consider color in your glassware,for example serving a White Negroni in a glass with a red tint or rim can help tell the unfamiliar that this drink is a negroni, even if the color is non-traditional. Even the color of the ice can have a major impact, not only visually but also on the flavor of the drink. Strawberry flavored ice in a pina colada inspired drink would not only be visually striking but would also slowly turn the drink into a Miami Vice as the ice melts. You drink with your eyes first, visual impact can make a huge difference!

Garden Daiquiri Ice Cube

  • 2 oz. Ketel One Botanicals Peach & Orange Blossom
  • 2 oz. Creme de Fraise
  • 2 oz. Lime Juice
  • 5 oz. Water
  • 2 Large Strawberries, tops removed

Combine all ingredients in a blender and pulse to emulsify the strawberries.

Fine Strain to remove the pulp.

Pour the mixture into an ice tray (ideally a silicone mold that makes 1x1 cubes) and set in the freezer overnight.

 

Just remember that any technique that you add to a drink should serve the drink. If the focus is just the technique without changing the experience of the drink it’s not going to have the impact that you’re looking for.

Interact With The Audience

After all of that practice don’t forget that all of this is in service to the audience, our guests. Finding ways to involve them in their own beverage experience can have a massive impact.

You can start small with glassware. Is your martini a sidecar serve so that the guest can top up their own drink? If the drink is on a coaster maybe there is a specific coaster for this drink that tells its story. Or even better perhaps a serving tray with some unique artwork that adds to the experience.

Don’t be afraid of crowd work either. Wheel a bar cart out for high-end spirit pours table side or to do a round of martinis for a table celebrating a special occasion. Don’t have a bar cart? No problem! Dress up a serving tray, grab a friend, and set up on the table to serve the guest directly.

Did you practice your air or freezer martini? Finish those drinks table side for that final touch.

Once you’ve practiced these basics you’ll find that you can start adding in all sorts of touches like a porron, or a smoking box, or more modern gadgets like a flavor blaster or a ripple machine slot right into these kinds of presentations. You’ll also find that without knowing the basics, and without practice, that some of those gadgets are just gimmicks.