Imagine creating three perfect serves in the time it would normally take to make one… well, dream no more! Leading bartender Thomas Aske from the Fluid Movement gives us some pointers on making pre-batched cocktails and gives us some recipes to get you started!
The beginning of batching
The current trend for pre-mixing and bottling cocktails is steeped in history. You’d be forgiven for thinking that batched cocktails are a new trend and have only recently emerged, but, in fact, the process of pre-blending bottled cocktails goes back over hundreds of years – it even predates the birth of classic cocktails!
In order to understand the rich history of pre-mixed drinks, we need to step back as far as the late 19th century. Gilbert F Heublein pioneered commercially successful bottled cocktails by accident when deciding to sell some unused gallons of batched martini and Manhattan cocktails in his father’s restaurant in Connecticut. His products were consumed by the wealthy and elite, spreading the word of the Heublein produced ‘Club Cocktail range’. Club Cocktails were big business and enabled the Heublein family to expand their empire into other business ventures through the 20th century, with Heublein Inc. being purchased by Grand Metropolitan and later merging with Diageo in 1997.
Why make pre-batched cocktails?
The appeal of pre-batching is clear and long-standing. A bartender’s craft is geared towards the satisfaction of the guest, and what better way to provide this than through attention to detail, consistency and service. All the key factors required to deliver a world-class experience can be achieved by using pre-mixed drinks in your bar.
- More time spent with your guest - By creating drinks using only one or two bottles, you can reduce the amount of time required to mix the drink and reinvest it in spending more time engaging with your customer.
- Focus on presentation - As well as being able to pay more attention to your guest, you can also reinvest your time in how you present your drink. From glassware to garnish, you can give your serve that extra wow factor. The traditional punch bowl can be a great method of serving pre-batched cocktails, as it is a quick and easy way to serve cocktails to a group.
- Adds theatre - The delivery and execution of batched cocktails can also play a critical role in adding some drama and theatre to your bar. This added creative aspect can help increase purchase by making the serves look more appealing, and therefore increase profits.
- Differentiation - Setting your bar apart from the rest is extremely important, and by being able to offer your customer something different, this can help your outlet stand out from the competition.
- Ensures consistency - Batched cocktails ensure that the drinks you serve are always exactly the same with zero difference between bartenders. It is this consistency that promotes repeat business and customer affiliation.
- Increasing the speed of the serve - From three minutes to thirty seconds, speed of service is extremely important. As a business, this can increase the customer spend per head, therefore dramatically increasing the bar’s profitability – it’s a win-win for all parties.
The how-to of pre-batching
1. Consider the ABV of the final bottled cocktail:
This will help you understand both the shelf life and storage conditions required.
As a personal rule of thumb, unopened cocktails above 25% ABV will store well for up to three months at room temperature. Once opened, it’s recommended to keep the product chilled, unless the intention is to consume or sell quickly. Once we reach an ABV of around 36%, as would be the case with an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, the shelf life increases. These cocktails will store well, and sometimes improve in flavour, after sixth months or longer.
2. Think about the use of citrus:
Although citrus fruits and juice can be incorporated into bottled cocktails, there are a number of substitutes that can be used to avoid the clouding and separation that is common with the use of citrus.
Consider using powdered citric or malic acid as an alternative to citrus – this will provide the acidity and balance whilst remaining translucent.
If you want to modify the flavour of the acid, try cooking a citric acid solution sous vide with Persian dried limes or spices to add greater depth to drinks.
During bar service, pre-batch all ingredients apart from citrus fruit, adding this in before shaking. By using this method, you can save a lot of time on delivery.
3. Dilution or no dilution:
We then have a choice whether to dilute the cocktail to service strength or keep it at bottling strength, both of which have their own pros and cons.
By diluting the cocktail to an appropriate service strength ABV and with sufficient refrigeration (ideally to approximately 0 to -2c), we can pour the finished cocktail directly into a chilled glass and serve immediately. The benefit of this is speed, although it is lacking in bartender theatre. This method can also require specific refrigeration equipment to ensure that the drink is served at its optimum temperature.
Alternatively, we can pre-mix the ingredients to bottling strength to increase the shelf life outside of refrigeration. This then means that the drink must be stirred and shaken, adding to the guest’s experience.
Ageing and marrying ingredients in casks has been around for centuries. For example, the use of oak casks can have a marked effect on the complexity of the cocktail by adding various flavours.
Choose a 1-3 litre cask and allow the cocktail to rest for an unspecified period of time. As we are ageing in a natural material, the results will vary, so it is advised that you monitor the liquid on a daily basis to ensure that it is balanced and palatable. Once the desired element of the cask’s character has been attained, simply empty, filter and bottle the liquid for service.
The world of batching!
We are seeing a renaissance of the bottled cocktail craze, with globally renowned bartenders such as Mr Lyan (aka Ryan Chetiyawardana), JJ Goodman and ourselves at Fluid Movement branching out into production and distribution of commercially available bottlings.
The consumer interest in innovation and quality has transitioned cutting-edge cocktails from bars to homes, as people want to experience the same quality and consistency they enjoy at a bar from the comfort of their own homes. As Heublein’s early advertising once declared, ‘Your barman in a bottle (Hugh Bline) will help you make perfect drinks consistently. All the time, every time.’
Barrel aged Rob Roy (to produce a 1 litre barrel)
636ml JOHNNIE WALKER RED LABEL
318ml Sweet vermouth
42ml Maraschino liqueur
3ml Angostura bitters
This will make 12 individual serves. (Alcohol Content: 16.78g per serve)
Add all ingredients into a large plastic container before mixing well.
Fill the one litre barrel with the cocktail and replace the bung.
Monitor the liquid regularly to ensure it is not over ageing.
When ready, filter and bottle.
To serve: Stir 60ml over ice before straining into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a cherry.
Gin cocktail for bottling (adapted from Professor Jerry Thomas recipe)
500ml TANQUERAY LONDON DRY GIN
60ml Triple Sec
200ml Sweet Vermouth
40ml Gomme syrup
7.5ml Cardamom bitters
This will make 12 individual serves (Alcohol Content: 14.15g per serve)
Mix all ingredients before bottling.
To serve: Refrigerate to chill.
Pour over ice or into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a thin orange peel.
- More time for you to engage with your guests
- More time to focus on your presentation
- Adds theatre and excitement
- Makes your venue stand out from the crowd
- Helps with consistency of serve
- Increases speed of serve
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