When Dale DeGroff was behind the bar at New York’s
legendary Rainbow Room,
his signature Cosmopolitan cocktail became so popular that he would make a
batch of it each day by combining the Absolut Citron,
cranberry juice – each one carefully measured to ensure consistency – and then
shake it up with the fresh lime juice, added to order. He told me recently he
also had batch recipes for his Singapore Sling and Long Island Iced Tea, both
also popular drinks at the time.
In the last few years, I too have become a huge proponent of
making batched cocktails to the point now where almost every cocktail on our
menu at Empellon is
batched to some degree. In some cases – such as our Agave Old Fashioned (which
contains two types of mezcal, two types of bitters and spiced agave nectar) –
the entire cocktail is batched, making it a ‘one-pour’ drink. We pour the exact
measure over ice into a mixing glass, stir it briefly and then strain it on
fresh ice. Voila!
I’ve been rather vocal on occasions about the benefits of
batching cocktails at various seminars I’ve given around the world. Some of the
reactions have been quite negative at times with people voicing two main
concerns: one, that the guest doesn’t know exactly what they’re getting because
the ingredients are not coming out of the same bottle they’re originally
packaged in, suggesting perhaps that something unscrupulous might be going on. Of
course the brands also dislike this because their labels aren’t being
The other concern is that some of the romance, I’m told, is
taken out of bartending by reaching for five different bottles (labels facing
out of course) and pouring a dash here, a dram there. To both of these concerns
I say this: I DON’T CARE. This is a business after all and when making drinks,
our concern should always be getting that drink into someone’s hands as quickly
as possible, without ever sacrificing quality. Batching is the answer, even
though in many cities, the practice is actually illegal. But guess what I also
say to that: I don’t care. In trying to create the very best beverage programs,
I’ve had to flout the law on many occasions and I’ll continue to do so. We’d
all be running pretty mediocre bars if we didn’t.
Here’s how I work my batching; some basic principles if you
will. If a drink has three or more alcoholic ingredients, I’ll put this in a
batch bottle (I like to use empty bottles from the 86 Spirits Company (such as Cana Brava
Aylesbury Duck vodka and Cabeza tequila)
and then add any fresh ingredients on the pick up. Any syrups, tinctures or
bitters I also add to the batch because the entire point is to reduce the
number of bottles you need to reach for to make any drink. Less movement = more
drinks = more money.
Each bottle gets a speed pourer unless it contains vermouth
and other fortified wines so as to keep the ingredients from oxidizing. As an
example, in one of our batched drinks at Empellon, the Pineapple & Cilantro
Margarita, the batch has tequila, Combier triple sec, our own
coriander-infused pineapple agave nectar and a Serrano chili tincture in the
bottle. Then to make the drink we add fresh lime and pineapple juices (also
batched together) and some fresh cilantro and there you have a two pour drink
as opposed to what would be a six pour drink if it wasn’t batched.
Batching actually makes the drinks come out more
consistently too because there is less room for error from each bartender by
not having to measure as many ingredients. And consistency should be the very
cornerstone of any bar operation, whatever your concept or clientele. As
another example, my Chocolate Negroni cocktail has five ingredients (gin, Campari, Punt e
Mes, white crème de cacao and chocolate bitters) instead of the standard three
in a classic Negroni. Why wouldn’t I batch the entire cocktail, thus making it
a one pour drink? Too easy.
I’ve also seen many bars use what they call ‘cheater
bottles,’ which isn’t necessarily batching per se, but it can definitely speed
up service while saving on room. Basically, the full bottle of a certain
product is poured into a smaller, generic bottle and then labeled so it doesn’t
take up as much as space in a small bar while allowing easy access to those
bottles in a high volume environment. Again, the practice is frowned upon by
some guests and the lawmakers, but speed is the name of the game here people.
Do you want your bar to make as much money as it can or not?
At other times, I’ll sometimes batch various juices if
there’s two or more required for one drink or even batch the entire cocktail,
juice and all. But be very careful about wastage here. At Saxon + Parole, our biggest
selling drink was the Celery Gimlet, which had nine ingredients in the recipe
(gin, green chartreuse, maraschino, lime juice, lime syrup, celery juice,
celery bitters, verjus and citrus salt).
We would mix this all together in our ‘mega batch,’ but only
on the busiest nights of Thursday to Saturday. We’d mix this in a large
container and store it in those hideous juice containers known as a ‘Store
& Pour.’ We’d pour 4 oz. into a shaker with ice, shake it quickly, strain
on fresh ice and you have a fast, consistent and delicious cocktail made in
less than ten seconds. What’s not to love? It saved our ass on many a crazy
Despite its detractors, I’m still unsure as to why more bars
don’t batch their cocktails (especially many high volume bars). Is it a pride
thing? Are they afraid their guests will think less of them and the experience?
Maybe a little of each. Either way, I’ll never run a bar again where I don’t
use this practice. At the end of the day, it’s smart business and it works. If
it worked for Dale DeGroff, then it can work for us all.
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