Learn How to Batch Cocktails For Your Next Party

In 2011, California lawmakers, led by then-California Senator Mark Leno, amended a section of the California Alcoholic Beverage Control Act that prevented bars and restaurants from removing liquor from their original bottles for multiple liquor or cask brews or pre-dose aged cocktails. In short, it meant that bartenders could now legally dose, steep, or cask age liquor in bulk without fear of violating a California Department of Alcoholic Beverages Control law. For Scott Beattie, now beverage director at Michelin-starred Barndiva in Healdsburg, this meant he could use batching to bring the art of extreme craft cocktails to a fast-paced bar environment.

Next time you’re hosting and trying to keep a crowd happy, read on for a few of Beattie’s tried-and-true batching tips that effortlessly transfer from the restaurant bar to the Christmas party.

Prepare your cocktail ingredients

“Have a drink like ‘The Last Word,'” Beattie says, “if you want that on your cocktail menu, you need three bottles of gin, chartreuse, maraschino, and lime juice in the fountain just to make that one drink.” Now multiply those bottles by a program that offers multiple drinks, each requiring three or more bottles, and you would need hundreds of bottles to make one drink each time.

He found the solution was to pre-measure all of the stable ingredients into bottles labeled with the cocktail’s name and instructions on how to make it. The labels included the list of ingredients in the batch and directions for finishing the drink, which might include citrus fruits, a carbonated mixer, and accompaniments. Anyone working behind the bar could follow the instructions to make the drink consistently throughout service. On their inaugural cocktail menu, they did so for fifty drinks in April 2012.

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Similarly, a restaurant where Beattie worked had a mai tai with three different rums, Cointreau and simple syrup, topped off with Small Hands Orgeat and lime juice. “We mixed the three rums, Cointreau and syrup ahead of time and all we had to do was add lime juice and orgeat to order. This turned a five-step process into a one-step process,” Beattie says. The same process works like a charm with Negronis, Manhattans, Sazeracs, and Vieux Carres — any drinks that don’t involve juice or fizzy shakers. They all become stirred cocktails in one step.

“People are still amazed at how we manage to crack so many cocktails over and over again with such high quality,” he says. “We mixed non-perishable ingredients that didn’t go bad, which gave us extra time to make beautiful toppings. We have increased performance, saved time and generated more sales.”

Build a conveyor belt for your drinks

Whatever the drink, it all starts with ice. “I designed these boxes, which we filled with crushed ice,” explains Beattie. “Then we take a cocktail glass and make an imprint in the ice, then we sprinkle kosher salt in the shape of that glass and replace the glass.” The salt keeps the ice from sticking to the glass. Once the molds are made, it takes about 45 minutes in the shade to “build the cocktail in the glass.”

The first thing that goes into the glass is the pre-measured base cocktail. Next comes the ice cream and beautiful toppings; Once these are ready, the waiters grab trays and form a line. Sixteen to twenty waiters, each standing with a tray of six or eight drinks on it, and each waiter would make two complete trips handing out drinks to the first rush of people – who “would be thrilled to have a nice looking cocktail” . – and it killed the opportunity for a line to form the gate.

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Plan the classic cocktails

In addition to the drinks served, Beattie says they would make up to ten different cocktails in batches that might not even be featured in case someone orders a Cosmo or something. Just as he had done at Goose & Gander, the recipe for each drink appeared on a label on the bottle, along with the type of glassware to be used, the garnish and whether it was to be shaken or stirred.

Although batching dramatically sped up service for weddings and events, others in the craft industry began pouring cocktails into high-volume bars to keep up with demand. The trick to a successful tapping program, just like batching, is not to use ingredients that break down quickly — like fresh citrus, which oxidize quickly.

Stack what people drink the most from

But mixing and pouring aside, and outside of the world of events and weddings, when the central experience of visiting a bar is watching the bartenders put on a show, “gather your favorite drinks,” says Beattie. “In a restaurant where ninety percent of the diners are seated at a table and you have a respected cocktail program, selective batching can save time and money.”

At the events and weddings he oversees, like any event where a cocktail is to be served, Beattie says the ultimate goal is to make the cocktail process appear natural. “You shouldn’t wait in a long line. Someone should approach you with a tray of nice cocktails. In the age of Instagram and TikTok, you need to create systems that make it possible to do this in the most efficient and beautiful way possible,” he explains. “Guests want to remember the day and do so by taking a picture of themselves, how they enjoy a drink. I make sure these drinks are beautiful, tasty and delivered very quickly.”

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