How To Better Profit From Crafted Cocktails

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Crafted cocktails are not a new invention, but from the days of the good old “Harvey Wallbanger” to today’s gastronomy driven “Old Fashioned,” they have evolved to complex, costly, and labor-intensive items.

“What is a crafted cocktail?,” you may ask. First off, nothing pre-made out of the bottle mixes—Fresh, fresh, oh did we mention you need freshness in your drink? That would consist of using real fruit juice made to order or prepared the day of. Please keep lime-in-the-bottle out of the bar and remember to use fine liqueurs with no artificial flavors and opt for natural flavored syrups. Fine spirits stay away from the well brands. You just can’t make it work, this is not the way to save or cut costs on the main showpiece.

So, many barmen and women think they should just stay behind the bar, but this is wrong. Today’s crafted cocktails are full of exciting ingredients from spices to fresh herbs, and use co-kitchen ingredients like pork fat, tomatoes, and fruit and vegetable scraps.

Here are some tips to keep it crafty and profitable:

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  1. Pick fine spirits for your cocktail. A little goes a long way here. A one ounce fine whisky pour in a cocktail will standout versus a two ounce well whisky. People ordering crafted cocktails are becoming more knowledgeable and will seek a small batch liquor when selecting. Yes, a fine liquor will cost more than a well brand, but lower pours will aid your costs.

  2. Batch make some of the more labor intensive items like fresh juices, and syrups during prep. They should be stored in glass not plastic. This will save labor and timing and you can control your usage throughout the day. You can also calculate your yields from your raw ingredients.

  3. Know your COSTS! Use measuring tools like jiggers to calculate costs. Set a cost goal that you are comfortable with and gives the customer value. Many times, owners are surprised to find out their cocktail list is costing them 40 percent just in products.  Know before you pour.

Formula:

Total cost of ingredients divided by the sale price equals the cocktail cost percentage per menu item. 

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  1. Keep all cocktail production under three minutes each. This has been one of the biggest speed bumps for many bar programs. Time is money, and customers don’t want to wait until their meter is out. How to make a crafted cocktail within a reasonable time? Train bar staff and know what items can be prepped beforehand and still be fresh within the given shift. You can pick off mint leaves and precut some garnishment. People still want to see the whole process, but if the bartender is making cocktails for a table away from the bar, this will not matter, as the taste and level of freshness will be the same; so saving the show for the bar top is not short changing anyone.

  2. The kitchen has a wealth of free ingredients you can use to make syrups and garnishments from just scraps. Ask the chef what he is throwing out—peels, herb, stems and more. Michelin star restaurant, Providence, in Hollywood uses many kitchen scraps in their cocktail program daily, and bar manager Kim Stodel had no previous cooking knowledge but has learned from on-staff chefs how to best utilize ingredients. It would also be great to include your chefs on your cocktail creations, as they will give you insight on which free kitchen scraps you may be able to exploit.

  3. Ask your supplier what crafted spirit specials they have. Many times you can work out a deal for case discounts and/or refunds if you just place the liquor brand name on your cocktail list. We have more small batch spirit companies than ever, and they are thirsty for business and willing to give a break in cost for a spot on your list and sales. ASK ASK and ASK and you will find a fitting brand willing to invest in lowering spirit costs. Spirit companies are willing to do joint promotions, which will also aid you in costs. Ask for package deals being offered with other items, like ginger beer. Also remember that many times your sales rep will be forgetful in offering, so you have to keep asking every week.

  4. Changing up the menu and keeping it seasonal will also keep costs down, as many of the fresh items, such as citrus and herbs, will rise in costs as they fade out of season. Use the seasons as your guide for refreshing your cocktail menu; it’s a great way to keep your cocktail menu from going stale.

When creating crafted cocktails, the end goal is to make a refreshing beverage that will leave a lasting memory on your guest.  So many bar programs end up with a list of ingredients longer than a French cookbook; don’t get caught up in making it complicated, and just keep the glass full of value and quality.
 

The Art of the Cocktail Glass

The Art of the Cocktail Glass

By Kerri Adams, Editor-at-Large

Gone are the days where bars and restaurants had only a few glasses to serve beverages in. With the rise of hand-crafted cocktail, there are more glass wares available than ever.

The cocktail glass is a central component to the visual aesthetic of the beverage and this is almost (or some may argue that it is) equally as important as the actual taste of beverage.

It’s true when they say diners eat and drink with their eyes first. When a diner sees a unique looking cocktail, it’s almost impossible for them to resist the urge to order their own and to post a photo of the cocktail on Instagram. The glass of the cocktail plays into that. It only heightens the presentation.

Read More

Meat-Centric Cocktails Are All the Rage in San Francisco

Old Foie'Shioned at Pabu  | Instagram, JustCocktails

Old Foie'Shioned at Pabu | Instagram, JustCocktails

San Francisco's cocktail culture is amongst the nation's finest, yet some mixologists are still looking to take it up a notch by adding a unique twist to their cocktail creations: adding meat.  While seemingly an unusual cocktail ingredient, San Francisco's bartenders have found interesting and innovative ways to include meat in their drinks.  

At local restaurant and butchery Bel Campo, such meat based cocktails include the "Boney Mary" and "Bone Broth Toddy" which both are made utilizing the restaurant's own signature bone broth. At Pabu, foie gras is used to craft the Japanese inspired "Old Foie'Shoined."  Michael Mina's eponymous restaurant featured vodka based cocktails infused with octopus and gin infused with Serrano ham.

The success of these meat inspired cocktails is mostly based on shock value, explains freelance spirits writer Lou Bustamante.   But it also adds an intriguing flavor component not available in other traditional cocktail ingredients.  Jon Gasparini of Bel Campo explains that meat based products can add a salty complexity into beverages that makes for a nice layering element, bringing cocktails into balance with their fruity and citrus components.

Will meat-centric cocktails become a nationwide trend?  Read More

Across the Bar- 15 Romolo Boosts Handcrafted Cocktails with Bitters

Have you seen our most recent Across the Bar episode? It features San Francisco's 15 Romolo!

Mixologist Ian Adams prepares some uniquely handcrafted cocktails, including their signature "Velvet Jukebox." Watch to see what house-made ingredients and artisanal bitters are incorporated into their beverage recipes to add that extra flavor.