How To Better Profit From Crafted Cocktails

shutterstock_693501274.jpg

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:

shutterstock_453204217.jpg
  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. 

shutterstock_610118255.jpg
  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.
 

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Encanto Pisco

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Encanto Pisco, started in 2010, is a brand made “from the heart” by three seasoned industry friends: award-winning distiller Carlos Ruben Romero-Gamero, bar owner Duggan McDonnell, and sommelier Walter Moore. The three men first met at McDonnell’s bar, Cantina, in San Francisco and with their knowledge in various aspects of the business (distillation, cocktail creation and wholesale), they created Encanto Pisco. Moore first experienced pisco in Peru in 2009. “I had already begun to do some consulting with spirits brands, but hadn't yet experienced pisco. It was a revelation for me. I wanted to get my hands into pisco and the beautiful grapes behind it.”

Pisco, a grape brandy made in Peru (and Chile), has a long history with San Francisco. Beginning in the mid-1800s, it was the spirit that fueled the Gold Rush as it arrived on ships from South America that were bringing labor and supplies. Pisco can be made from eight designated grapes. Once the wine is made, it is distilled to make a brandy using the solera system, as with sherry, and then the blending takes place. It is Encanto Pisco’s goal to make the best handcrafted artisanal pisco. Through long-standing relationships with growers and a detailed focus on the winemaking process, distillation and blending, every step of the process is hands-on. The result is a smooth, terroir-driven product.“As a sommelier, I wanted something sippable,” says Moore. “And as a bartender, Duggan wanted something mixable. Carlos wanted something brilliant that reflected his 32 years of experience as a distiller.”

Read More

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: FEW Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs is a mini-series that gleans firsthand insight and delves into the challenges, inspiration, lessons learned, and more, from a variety of spirits entrepreneurs.

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Paul Hletko has brewing in his blood. His grandfather was a brewer in the Czech Republic but lost his business in World War II, and, despite moving to the U.S., continued to fight to get his brewery back until he died in 2008. Hletko wanted to pay homage to his grandfather and, with a passion for whiskey and gin, opening a distillery seemed like a natural option.

Hletko started as a home brewer in his hometown of Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. While a brewing hobbyist, Hletko worked as a patent attorney and had also worked in the music business, doing everything from playing guitar to running a record label to designing custom guitar effects. He began to plan the distillery, and it took five years before it was operational. Hletko was juggling two businesses but knew it was time to exclusively focus on distilling spirits. 

“I was no longer able to do both and it was a real gut check,” he says. “The mind will tell you all sorts of things that it wants you to believe, like you need the money or that people will laugh at you or that you aren't good enough to do it or whatever it takes to keep you in your comfort zone. But I had to make a choice between doing what I wanted to do and doing what I had to do.” 

The shift from home brewer to commercial distiller occurred in 2011 when FEW Spirits opened its doors.

Read More

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Catoctin Creek

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Catoctin Creek

By: Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Becky Harris, a former chemical engineer, had been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years when her husband Scott had an idea to start distilling spirits. 

At that point, Scott had spent 20 years working in government contracts. When he told Becky about the idea, she thought he was crazy, so she decided to write a business plan to talk him out of it — and almost succeeded. Becky noted that there were less margins, higher taxes, and more regulations compared to other products they could produce. The husband-and-wife duo realized they could make it work only if they took their 20 years of savings and invest it into equipment, and if Becky would work for free. "If you are going to take a chance, it was as good a time as any," says Becky.

Read More

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits

Startup Stories of Spirits Entrepreneurs: Re:Find Handcrafted Spirits

By Allison Levine, Foodable Contributor

Begin in the wine country with wine, add a passion for spirits and a drive for sustainability, and the result is Re:Find Distillery. Started in 2011 by Alex and Monica Villicana, Re:Find was born out of a crossover of these interests.

Alex Villicana has been a winemaker in Paso Robles since 1993. During his more than twenty years as a winemaker, he noticed that the winemaking process resulted in a lot of leftover juice. According to Villicana, it is not uncommon for producers of Rhône varietals (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre) to bleed a percentage of the free-run juice (resulting in rosé colored juice) from the red wine grapes before fermentation in order to concentrate the quality of the wine. As much as 30 to 40 percent of juice is lost when one bleeds out this fresh juice, resulting in the waste of a used byproduct from wineries

Read More