Today’s cocktail culture celebrates drinks made with multiple ingredients, but impatient customers often don’t like to wait for a handcrafted beverage. The solution, many operators find, is to batch cocktails and either bottle, barrel-age or keg them to serve on tap.
In its various forms, batching has moved from fad to solid trend. “I see batching and kegging as a trend that’s continuing because of differentiation and operational efficiency,” says Donna Hood Crecca, senior director of Technomic’s adult beverage group.
Batch Gastropub is committed in both name and service. Located in a fast-growing Miami neighborhood, it launched with an expansive drinks list to cater to its young urban audience. “In a high-volume operation, with the huge demand for craft cocktails, you can’t be making all those drinks to order,” says co-owner Kevin Danilo.
The restaurant batches and kegs a changing roster of cocktails, fulfilling orders for gin and tonics and Collins at the pull of a tap from the bar. Additionally, at seven tap tables, guests can serve themselves, choosing from a rotation of two spirits (a housemade cinnamon-flavor whiskey or pecan-infused Irish whiskey, for example) or two draft beers. Batch Gastropub also offers three barrel-aged cocktails, matured in custom 50-liter casks that decorate the dining room.
The housemade gin and tonic has been a big hit with patrons, says Danilo. The tonic syrup is made with cinchona bark and other botanicals, then kegged with gin and force-carbonated in a bar tap line. “The syrup is such a pain to make that small amounts aren’t worth the effort,” says Danilo. His team preps the syrup in batches and modifies the basic mix seasonally. Last summer the tonic was tinged with orange-blossom water and chamomile; on tap this fall is a black pepper-jasmine version.
Batch Gastropub matures its barrel drinks for six to eight weeks. At peak maturation, the cocktail is bottled in glass decanters. To order, bartenders measure a 2-ounce pour over ice. “A just-mixed cocktail can’t compare to a drink that’s been aging in wood,” Danilo says, calling the flavor smooth and oaky. “That’s added value for the customer.”
Faster pours also mean more sales, Danilo says. “If a table of 20 walks in, instead of waiting 20 minutes to get their first round of drinks, they get them in three minutes,” says Danilo. “That helps drive revenue because the faster you get a drink in someone’s hands, the more likely they are to order another.” Plus, all of the prep work is accomplished during slow periods, so a restaurant or bar is getting more value out of staff during what’s usually considered downtime.
Turning up the volume
There’s more to batching than multiplying the ounces in a cocktail recipe by 100. More assertive ingredients, citrus and sweeteners will dominate and need to be balanced. “Tweak and taste,” Danilo advises.
Not all cocktails lend themselves to barrel aging because it is an oxidative process. The best candidates are all-spirits, stirred drinks.
To tap cocktails takes more than hooking up a keg to a beer line. Many beer systems use brass components; higher-alcohol spirits will corrode them and create off flavors. Danilo recommends taps made of food-grade stainless steel.