Executing Quality Drinks Quickly

Cocktails on tap. Image: Getty

One of the most effective methods of delivering drinks quickly is batching. Many bartenders love batching since it makes executing cocktail orders easy. Even inexperienced bartenders can execute batched cocktails, and guests appreciate the speed and consistency inherent to this method of order fulfillment.

That isn’t to say, however, that batching is without its challenges. Operators must consider whether batched cocktails work with or against their brand; if it’s not a fit it must be skipped. How the public views these types of drinks isn’t limited to brand perception, either. Many guests are wary of alcohol beverages when they can’t watch the bartender handcraft their order. Projecting use accurately in order to avoid waste is also a necessity with these drinks. There’s also the risk of service to minors with which operators must contend.

But let’s assume that batched beverages works with your brand, the majority of your guests like them, and you’ve crunched the numbers. We already know you’re vigilant when it comes to preventing underage consumption. For operations that can benefit from batching, here are the best practices according to David Commer, chain account beverage specialist for Commer Beverage, one of the expert panelists at the 2017 VIBE Conference:

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  • Create a clear and concise recipe book with batching procedures. Require bartenders to always have that book open when batching drinks.
  • Adopt and adhere to container labeling and color coding system. Have the right equipment on hand for measuring, mixing and labeling.
  • Determine the shelf life of each batched drink and follow it closely.
  • Project usage for each individual location and day of week.
  • Don't serve non-alcohol liquids such as juices from the same style of containers as your batched alcohol beverages.
  • Use unique glassware for non-alcohol beverages and batched cocktails to differentiate them from one another easily.
  • Shake or spindle mix for improved presentation.
  • Train, train and retrain.

The beverage operations and training manager for Tavistock Restaurants, Michael Hanley, has found a creative and impactful way to leverage guest perception. To gain credibility with guests, he recommends batching on the bar. For instance, Hanley uses Yama Cold Brew Drip Towers (about $250 on Amazon) and Yama Coffee Siphons (roughly $60 on Amazon), keeping them on the back bar. He estimates an ROI of roughly 30% of guests who inquire and engage with the YAMA Cold Brew Drip Tower, and taking the YAMA Coffee Siphon to the table when a guest orders a beverage from it entices others into inquiring about it. In terms of the Cold Brew Drip Tower, one drip every 5 seconds equates to an 8-hour infusion. The drink creation process takes 11 minutes and 6 seconds when using the Coffee Siphon with an electric butane lighter.

No batched beverage takes more than 30 seconds at Tavistock Restaurant locations. Specialty drinks are poured in a two-step process 90% of the time, with adding the garnish and straw and servers grabbing and going. One beverage made with a SodaStream device takes just 9 seconds to serve.

Kathy Casey, president of Kathy Casey Food Studios and Liquid Kitchen, addressed cocktails on tap during this panel discussion of batched drinks. CoT offer speed, consistency and cost control to operators, and Casey finds that employees love serving them and guests love ordering them. In her experience, CoT are always the top selling cocktail on an operation’s menu. Norwegian Cruise Lines, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Compass Group, Lyfe Kitchen, Moda Center, and San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium are just of the big names utilizing cocktails on tap.

Part of the appeal of CoT is that they aren’t just a way to batch and serve alcohol beverages; they work just as well for non-alcohol drinks. To Casey, best practices when it comes to cocktails on tap are training, training, and training. In fact, she recommends creating a certification or “train the trainer” program. Making certain that the correct measuring tools and concise recipes are available to staff is crucial, as is maintenance; keep your tanks and lines clean and use a fine strainer or chinois when batching CoT. One immensely helpful tip shared by Casey relates to water and ice. Remember that both are keys to the balance of a cocktail, batched or not. Follow Casey’s Golden Rule for batching: an ounce to an ounce-and-a-half of dilution is needed per alcohol beverage.

You may think that you’re not set up for CoT yet, or that utilizing the systems necessary may not be worth the cost. Brad Ward, beverage manager for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, explained that the best way to approach CoT design planning is to think of it as setting up a beer keg. Only, of course, you’re setting up a CoT container. Essentially, the process is identical. Non-pressurized tanks are used instead of kegs, power is needed in the cooler, lines are run with the beer chase, the liquid is dispensed from a standard beer tap, the lines need to be kept cleaned and sanitized, and there needs to be an area to clean and sanitize the containers.

However, As Ward explained it, at the end of the day an operation just needs ice and a CO2 system to begin using cocktails on tap. Sound too simple to be true? An IDS portable banquet bar can be retrofitted for bag-in-a-box CoT, meaning no power or refrigeration system would be required. That means endless options in a portable package. In fact, Ward pointed out that an operator could retrofit a golf cart with a CoT system rather easily. Again, ice and CO2 make it possible.

Now that you’re chomping at the bit to add batching to your operation, what’s next for this approach to beverages? According to panelists, modern slushy drinks that make use of fresh recipes and high quality ingredients that aren’t too sweet should be on your radar. Batched drinks that take cues from the kitchen are on their way to popularity. These drinks will take advantage of premade ingredients and products that can be elevated like a traditional cocktail. Infused, blended or otherwise customized syrups, infused and spiked cherries, onions and olives, and infused bitters will also likely show up on your menus. The future is here, and it will take just seconds to serve.

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