The ABC’s of Batching Summer Drinks
Batching cocktails is a brilliant technique for shortening ticket times, upselling elaborate cocktails, and optimizing performance and service speed. Check out how and why you should consider implementing batched options at your bar!
What is Batching Anyway?
Batching is a technique of combining ingredients for cocktails ahead of service. One can batch a complete recipe in a large volume, as is the case for barrel-aged cocktails, draft cocktails, high-volume bars, and any bar/restaurant that is looking to expedite service. Alternatively, one can opt for batching parts of cocktails. This is the option of choice when looking to shorten ticket times and contact points while maintaining a “full service, prepare all cocktails a la carte” model of bartending.
With this in mind, there are two ways to implement batching techniques in your bar program: offering multi-format cocktails for take-away and group seating or batching your cocktails back-of-house to expedite service. Whichever you choose, depends on your establishment’s guest volume and what your guests are looking for in their experience. Let’s explore both of these options to determine which is the ideal fit for you!
Batching Complete Cocktails
First, let’s talk about batching complete cocktails and why it may be a good tactic to increase your establishment’s performance and profitability. Batching complete cocktails makes sense especially if you sell a high volume of specific cocktails and these cocktails are suited to be made in large quantities ahead of time. As an added benefit, pitchers or bottles of cocktails are an attractive option for groups, because they minimize the number of times servers have to interact with tables to offer refills and drink menus. Whether you’re offering bottled cocktails to-go for groups, batching allows for faster service, consistency in serves, and leaves less waste. So, how can this come to life at your bar?
- For To-Go: Projecting and estimating your sales can inform how much of each cocktail you can sell before the ingredients expire, pass their prime freshness or change their character. One should only make enough in advance to sell in one to two services and then should make a fresh batch for subsequent services. Because batching large volumes of cocktails ahead of time reduces the number of steps for preparing the final drink presentation, this method is very suitable for to-go. If your state allows to-go cocktails, be sure to promote these recipes on your delivery or takeout menus to inform your customers of this new offering. Perhaps you can create a menu section featuring ideal cocktails to pair with your popular food offerings to increase visibility and purchase of your to-go cocktails. From there, it’s simple! Have a pitcher of your top-selling cocktails handy to pour into to-go bottles/containers for fast delivery or packing. It is an innovative way to boost sales and reach outside of your usual sit-down demographic – especially as many transactions are shifting from in-person to to-go or delivery.
- For Group Serve: If to-go isn’t your jam or isn’t available in your area, batching whole cocktails offers a unique experience for dine-in guests. For duos, offer a bottled cocktail that serves three drinks. Accompany the bottle with a glass of ice and the proper garnishes to provide a DIY experience at a slightly lower price than ordering three normal cocktails. This attracts the first dates, the casual buddies, and the twosomes looking for an attractive opportunity to save a couple of dollars for happy hour. For groups of 3 or more guests, offer pitchers of cocktails beyond the usual sangrias and mimosas, and watch your brunch following go from awesome to the most-loved brunch offering in town!
- For Upselling Opportunities: By batching your cocktail options, you may seamlessly uncover ways to upsell your cocktail options and aid in depleting your inventory. For example, do you need an idea for a new brunch cocktail? Try pitchers of Ketel One Rose Punch (recipe below)! Why should wine drinkers be the only ones who can order bottle service? A large-format bottled cocktail can offer the same refined and elevated service as a bottle of champagne when done correctly. Alternatively, for club atmospheres where bottle service with spirits is an offering, bottled cocktails give guests a wider palette of options while creatively upselling inventory.
Batching Parts of Cocktails
Another style of cocktail-batching is more for speed of service than offering multi-format cocktails. Batching parts of cocktails combine certain ingredients that “go together” in addition to smoothing out the mechanical rhythms of the bartender’s workflow. It’s about rapid consolidations and thoughtful combinations to increase speed and natural flow of movement.
- Benefits of Batching: Batching parts of cocktails first requires a clear understanding of your numbers. The Product Mix Report and Menu Item Reports are important indicators of how well menu items are selling – so start there! If some cocktails aren’t your most popular options, don’t batch them. For your best sellers, batching can reduce over-pouring and control inventory. Batching also reduces variance, because it calculates volumes and necessary additions required when building a cocktail in a shaker or glass ahead of time. This minimizes the opportunity for miscalculation in inventory by your bar team. By preparing ahead of time, your bartenders also reduce their bottle pickup, which makes cocktail builds more efficient. Overall, this can greatly improve your bar’s efficiency while reducing your pour cost, or the cost of goods sold per cocktail, by ingredient. The more accurate your projection of your sales, the better your understanding of pour costs per cocktail.
- How to Pull It Off: Focus on the top requested menu cocktails that have more than 3 (bartender) touches. To save time pre-batch spirits together and separate from fresh/non-shelf stable ingredients. If it’s a margarita, for example, batch your tequila and triple-sec together in a clean, empty bottle without any labels or branding. See the diagram below for representation. To use, the bartender will pour into his or her shaker tin, the combined volume of the spirits—in addition to the non-alcoholic ingredients of simple syrup/agave and lime juice. Thanks to your batching, a cocktail that was originally a 4-bottle pick-up is now a 3-bottle pick-up. Ta-da! You’ve shaved off 5 seconds from your build.
This might not seem like a lot, but if you start applying the concept and strategically implementing batching for speed, you will notice increased efficiency overall. After your top-selling cocktail is optimized for efficiency and pour cost, start to look at your other popular menu items. Do some cocktails require the same combination of ingredients? Or do you have cocktails that involve 2-3 modifier liqueurs? It doesn’t have to happen overnight; maybe incorporate batching on a drink-by-drink basis. Decide what makes the most sense for your bar and try it in sections rather than trying to overhaul it. Either way, you’ll be saving time and money by doing so.
Now that you’ve learned the many benefits that batching can bring, you’re probably eager to implement these tactics at your establishment. To assist you with making this transition smoothly, see below for a few additional tips to keep in mind.
- Do not include bitters in your large-format batches. Bitters tend to bloom and transform in flavor the longer they diffuse into a drink. Your chances of producing a consistent flavor in multiple liters of cocktails with bitters added to the mix decrease as time passes.
- Do not batch egg whites. If your cocktail requires egg whites, it should be made a la carte and to order. Egg whites, once shaken and exposed to acids and alcohols don’t retain their texture and flavor.
- Don’t over-batch. If you are unsure of the volume you could sell, batch a limited amount of fresh ingredients together and keep the spirits separate.
- Leave the bubbles for later. We all know sparkling wine or soda goes flat if oxidized for too long. If your cocktail pitchers require sparkling, add it at the very end right before the pitcher goes to the table. Be sure to stir and incorporate! If you offer bottled cocktails for single-serve or to-go, make sure you know how long you have before the cocktails go flat in the bottle. Make enough to serve that day and make fresh for tomorrow if you can’t keep carbonation levels under control.
- Batch for ease, not quantity. Bigger is not always better. For example, it doesn’t help to batch 4 of the 7 ingredients of the top-selling cocktail in a 1.5L bottle that has to be stored behind the bartender in a low-boy refrigerator. If you go about it this way, it may actually add more time and effort to the bartender’s plate. In this example, every time the bartender makes that drink, she has to turn around, bend over, open a refrigerator, pull out a giant bottle of liquid, pour a couple of ounces, and turn around to return it to the refrigerator. Not too helpful, right? Instead, make smaller batches and keep them in a convenient location. Refill more often to keep fresh ingredients fresher and minimize waste.
Batching as a technique can diversify a menu while also offering fun and engaging experiences for guests. With trial and experimentation, a combination of all techniques mentioned in this article can provide creative solutions to unique and changing challenges in your establishment, while also saving you valuable time and money. If that’s not enough to sway you, just remember that batching is also a straightforward and effective method for increasing hygiene in service – which is an even more important factor now more than ever!