Barrel-aged and Smoked: Deliver Sophisticated Cocktail Trends on a Budget

Images: Time & Oak

Those who have attended the Nightclub & Bar Show the past few years—along with those who enjoy keeping tabs on the latest bar and spirit developments—know Time & Oak. The small wooden elements the brand produces can make a big impact on your bar program and bottom line. It’s for those reasons you should seriously consider experimenting with these.

If you’ve tasted a spirit that has undergone the Time & Oak treatment (possibly at the Nightclub & Bar Show) you know that there’s no denying its impact. Using 100-percent natural oak from a proprietary source, the elements produce a smoother liquid not by manipulating the liquid with flavorings but by enhancing the flavors inherent to the barrel aging process.

Succeeding as an operator has always required an obsessive dedication to studying numbers. It also requires a sharp eye for innovations that cut costs while delivering on guest expectations. What today’s guest wants is a unique experience, the story behind what they’re consuming, and value for their dollar. Time & Oak’s elements delivers on all three.

The Experience

Engaging with guests using these elements can be as subtle as dropping one into a bottle and placing it somewhere on your back bar that will catch someone’s eye. When someone asks about the thing in your bottle—or multiple bottles, really—you or your bartender have an opening. Show them an element, let them hold it, and explain what it does to spirits. Time & Oak isn’t just selling sticks—these are attractive, carefully crafted tools.

If you want to take it a step further, give your inquiring guest a sample of the spirit in its original form and one of it after it has been Timed & Oaked. But to really take engage with the guest, consider putting on a show for them by leveraging the brand’s own pro use tip:

Pour one ounce of the spirit your guest will sample into either a shot or highball glass and stir it with the element. (You want at least one inch of the element to be in contact with the liquid.) Stir for at least two minutes, up to ten, and have the guest taste roughly every two minutes. Your guest will likely be blown away by how the flavor changes in just this incredibly short period of time. Utilizing this process before dropping an element into a bottle you’re thinking about enhancing will give you an idea of how it will change. Time & Oak says that you’ll see the best results when skipping the bottom shelf and enhancing your midrange bottles.

Time & Oak wood elements on a barrel - Cocktail trends for a fraction of the cost

The Story

Time & Oak proudly embraces science to enhance liquids with its elements. Lasers are used to tool, shape and char the elements, which is healthier for the wood. The wood, it should be mentioned, is sourced from the Midwest and is the same used by coopers. The lasers “cut” so hot and so quickly that there is no soot or ash on the finished product for you or your bartenders to worry about, so no straining is necessary when pouring liquid that has been Timed & Oaked.

Additionally, these elements certainly speak to consumer desire to know about environmental impact and sustainability. These innovative little tools are a far more sustainable product than a barrel. One barrel obviously requires much more wood than a batch of Time & Oak elements, and a batch of elements can enhance multiple bottles across a variety of brands and categories.

You can also explain that Timing & Oaking can be done in as quickly as 24 hours but the process can last for up to three weeks. While the obvious choice for first experimenting with Time & Oak elements is whiskey, they’ll enhance the flavor and finish of any liquid it contacts. Tequila, rum, gin, vodka...the options are almost infinite. Even beer can be Timed & Oaked and the brand suggests using one element for 750ml of liquid, two for a half-gallon. In fact, the only liquid Time & Oak doesn’t recommend giving their treatment is wine.

The Value

This is where both the operator and the consumer benefit. Barrel-aged cocktails have been of interest to consumers for many months, and now smoked cocktails are increasing in popularity. Time & Oak is the inexpensive way for you to leverage both trends.

Ask yourself which of the following scenarios sounds more appealing as an operator:

  1. Splash your hard-earned cash on a barrel, fill it with one cocktail, and wait six to eight weeks for it to be ready to pour for your guests.
  2. Buy a handful of Time & Oak elements at the wholesale cost of about $4 and have multiple cocktails ready in 24 hours to five days.

That’s right—you can use the elements to do more than smooth and enhance your spirits. Due to the smaller surface area an element has to work with should you pre-batch a cocktail in a bottle, your cocktails can become “barrel aged” or “smoked” much quicker than if you were to use a mini-barrel. Use Natural Signature elements for barrel-aged enhancing and Smoke elements for a smoked cocktail effect. There are also limited-edition Spice and Autumn Spice elements still available for further flavor experimentation.

As we know, guests will pay an upcharge for unique cocktails. Because the perceived increase in value is there, particularly if you’ve engaged with guests about Time & Oak elements, your guests will feel comfortable and satisfied paying a $2 to $6 upcharge. Sell just two Timed & Oaked cocktails and you’ve recovered the cost of one element. Delivering on guest expectations while seeing measurable, positive ROI? Win-win. As co-founder Joshua Thorne says, “Invest $4 with my company and I’ll put $40 behind your bar.”

Time & Oak isn’t out to change your spirit or cocktail program, it’s here to help make it unique to your operation.


Disclaimer: The author received no monetary or product compensation to write this article (he just really likes this product line).

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