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Mixology: Starting from Scratch

Mixology: Starting from Scratch

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Published by Kyle Branche
Setting up a Bar Program to get Fresh with the Drinks
Setting up a Bar Program to get Fresh with the Drinks

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Published by: Kyle Branche on Feb 28, 2010
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Mixology: Starting from Scratch

Setting up a Bar Program to get Fresh with the Drinks
by Kyle Branche Unedited version Edited version published - June 2005 - Sante

The proper operation for the flow of all liquids involved in a bar requires attentive individuals with an extra passion and creativity for this culinary art. Preparation is the key to everything behind the bar, and even though there is a little more time and detail in the prep and safe storage of cocktail recipes made from scratch, bringing the botanicals more to life may be exactly the touch of added personality your bar needs. When a bar specializes by using an organic or natural approach to the mixers, juices, and the popular liquor infusions of the day, the establishment is showing its interests in bringing to the bar the freshest ingredients available to extend to their patrons. This is a program of growth and development over and during a period of time, which also asks for a level of measurement and flexibility, as well as consistency. The use of the wide variety of organic juices on the market today will assist in the labor prep time/product costs equation of affordability, so certain creative drinks won’t get left out of the loop due to their expense to produce. With over 30 different flavors to choose from, they not only taste great, but their naturally nutrient filled. A bar manager would take the lead in establishing the wants and needs for a beginning program, having meetings with the executive chef and the general manager to establish an initial collective of thoughts and ideas to start with. Then a meeting with the bar staff to discuss and involve their ideas within the program, as well as their expanded duties. Use of the kitchen’s galley at desig-nated slow periods of the day or evening for purposes of pan heating special syrup preparations such as simple sugar, berry, maple, orgeat, rock candy, grenadine, chocolate, fruits, and even falernum if you can get the recipe right.. The kitchen and bar inventory sheets are vastly different in their product listings. The bar manager can examine the chefs product ordering sheets as well as talking with produce distributors in the area for knowledge on what is available, what is in season, and the best times of the year for the freshest ingredients. This is what will dictate to a degree the change and/or rotation in drink menu selections, as weather patterns shift through the year, which changes the tasting and nutritional interest and hunger of your customers’ palates. Some things change. Some things stay the same.

From the Earth to the Bar
Fresh ingredients to be on hand everyday The following is a listing. What you would seasonally and regularly stock will depend on all of the drink selections for the fresh cocktail menus. Fruits – cherries, grapes, pineapple, mango, papaya, carambola, kiwi, pears, canteloupe, honeydew, oranges, apricot, grapefruit, watermelon, kumquat, apples, peach, lime,

lemon, blood orange, banana, pomegranate, plum, guava, raisin, persimmon, date, carob, fig Berries – blueberry, boysenberry, blackberry, red raspberry, black raspberry, cranberry, huckleberry, elderberry, strawberry, caperberry, blackcurrant Leaves – lemongrass, aloe vera, coriander, damiana, java tea, new jersey tea, peppermint, sweet basil, rosemary, sage, thyme Seeds & Spices – clove, allspice, nutmeg & mace, pumpkin, cinnamon sticks, anise, caraway, cardamom, apple spice, mulling spice, vanilla & coffee bean, coriander, grains of paradise, peppercorns, star anise, tamarind, fennel, turmeric, cajun spice, sesame Peppers – chili (Fresno, Habanero, Anaheim), jalapeno, serrano, pasilla, pepperoncini, bell, cubeb, sweet cherry, Thai chiles Vegetables – tomato, cucumber, celery, green bean, olive, corn, bell peppers, onion, asparagus, okra, carrot, artichoke, eggplant, garlic, sun-dried tomato Roots – ginger, echinacea, ginseng, radish, sarsparilla Advance Prep involved for fresh ingredients. Juices/Purees – the selection of squeezers, juicers, and blenders make the task of having fresh fruit or vegetable juices easy. Prepare early to last the whole day. Can be done during the slow “before the rush” period of the am shift. Syrups – Prepare various flavors by pan heating fruit, raw sugar, and water. The bar manager or executive chef can teach the bartenders the correct method and temperature for preparation and storage. Muddle and stir for many minutes. Sours – fresh lemon juice, lime juice, and sweet & sour is a bit of squeeze and dissolve time, so is best to get this done early as possible. For some drinks, fresh lemon and lime are squeezed on the spot. Liquor Infusions – Depending on the degree of complexity and ingredients involved, putting an infusion together in a jar is a 30–90 minute process. The instilling time is roughly 2–4 days, pending texture. Seeds – Some are ground, some are grated, and others are left alone. Minimal time in advance, or prepared on the spot. Leaves – Dried, fresh, chopped, muddled, or infused. Minimal labor time.

Vegetables – Diced, sliced, pressed, juiced, or infused. Prep as needed, minimal storage. Infusion note:
Textures – Harder ingredients last longer, but usually need to be infused longer as well.

Softer selections like fruits and leaves need to be more closely monitored as the flavor will have a tendency to infuse quicker. Therefore, before all the liquid in the jar has been consumed, it may be necessary to discard so they don’t turn to mush. Use a sizeable drain ladle for ingredient extraction. Instilling – Infusing is the process of steeping or soaking without boiling, to instill individual selections of various fresh or dried fruits, berries, seeds, leaves, grasses, spices, herbs, plants, vegetables, hops, and roots into a specifically chosen base spirit for accenting the flavor beyond the original/natural aroma components initially selected by the master distiller. Fuse Time – Allow the concoction to infuse for at least 36 hours. Room temperature infusions are usually best for the harder ingredients. A cooler temperature infusion usually benefits softer ingredients and helps the fruit to last longer in the jar before extraction. It can also stay in the cooler infusing longer. The liquor will absorb the ingredients’ flavors. The longer the infusion time, the more flavor the liquor will acquire. I’ve heard of some infused recipes where the fuse time can last up to a week. If you find that too much flavor has been infused, you can add a bit more of the base spirit to correct the amount of flavor to fit your needs. The infusion can stay in the jar for up to 3 weeks if consumed semi-regularly and up to 6 weeks if left alone in a cooler, after the selected remains have been extracted from the liquid and discarded. Special Bar organization to accomplish the new tasks Depending on how many new tools and products come into the bar will determine where their place of safe keeping will be in the bar. Wash as many tools in the bar as you can. If you need to wash through the kitchen washer, then stay there until they all come out. Take them back to an area in the bar to dry and store. Don’t leave anything in a place where it increases the chances of disappearing to who knows where. The storage of new perishable products would be best to also have its own special place, so everyone knows. If there is a product cooler in the back of the bar that is only partially being used, then make room for it to have its own designated shelf space, and try to gauge the temperature to increase the products’ shelf life. Any new dry stock can be kept in safe compartments. Special Bar Tools required From the restaurant and bar supply house: Quality fruit and vegetable juicer Apple corer Paring knives Sharpening stone Generic glass bottle containers Canelle knife (vegetable peeler) Zester (fruit peeler) Whisks Melon Baller Muddler Pestle and Mortar Fruit squeezer Fine grater Infusion Jars with spigots ( 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, and 12 liter sizes) Funnels Cheesecloth Large cutting board Garlic press Large strainer Atomizer bottles Heating pans Stirrers and spoons Antique shakers Medium size towels Aprons Flash blender

Hydrometer and a 250 ml tall Beaker, to measure the specific gravities of the various syrups (Available at scientific supply outlets) Crushed ice machine Sidekick cocktail carafes Snifter warmers Soda siphon Tincture bottles Ladles Special Staff Training From the point of the drink menus’ final selections, the bartenders will examine each of the recipes for memory and application while all new special bar products are being ordered, which includes the tools as well. Even though the kitchen may already possess some of the tools that the bar could use, it may be suggested that the bar would be better off having its own set of tools to be responsible for. Don’t want any trouble from the chef! If your establishment happens to be closed one day a week, it may be the best day available to get the whole bar team together for a quick 3-4 hour prep session in the afternoon while the doors are locked, going through every drink preparation that’s on each new fresh drink menu (which will change with the seasons), and get acquainted with new tools in the shop so the staff is on top of it from day one. Otherwise, the bar manager will have to train in split sessions during selected open hours. When all drink preparations are ready for business, invite the waiters/food servers to the bar for a tasting beforehand so the whole floor staff is well acquainted with the variety of taste and selection. If any product happens to run low or out, let the staff on shift know. All drinks and prices should be added to the POS system a couple days in advance. Get the bar staff motivated to look forward in creating new drinks for each seasonal menu. Summer – Begin over the Memorial Day weekend Fall – Begin over the Labor Day weekend Winter – Begin just after Thanksgiving Spring – Begin anytime in March before St. Patrick’s Day Why make drinks from scratch, rather than use the higher quality mixes on the market. (advantages and disadvantages) In the last 10 years there has been a growing surge of organic products, whole foods, and natural food stores. This stems from the consumer asking for a more nutritionally impactful food or drink. Higher quality mixes on the market are still mass produced to a degree, yet the quality and variety of bottled organic juices are excellent and should be used. If your creative drinks are capable of being prepared completely from scratch, then why not do it all the way if it’s affordable. The flavor is also more robust, naturally. Is preparing drinks from scratch always more expensive ? Usually they are, but it depends on how you are able to offset the expenses. If there are extended labor hours beyond the bartenders’ normal shift length, this also gets thrown into the equation of “Is it worth it ?”. Yet, if you are always aware of choosing a selection of drinks for the menu that lie within a fitable area in regards to expected prep time, and if these drink prices can be respectably a bit higher, then it’s worth it to go the extra mile for your clientel. The value of having scratch fresh drinks at your

bar sometimes outweighs any expense if the customer and community recognizes that the establishment has raised its standard with new ideas for the bars’ beverage program. Are there any drinks that may be just as good or better not made from scratch, but prepared ahead of time ? Doing pre-mixes of drinks with Long Island bases, juice and syrup combinations for Mai Tai’s and other juice/mixer oriented specialty drinks, Kamikaze’s with lime juice, and layered Pousse Cafes can all benefit from “prep ahead”. In generic glass or plastic bottles from your restaurant supply, funnel or layer in all required preps for your bar. The key factor is putting them into the cooler and allowing them to get real cold. Thus when pouring over ice in glass, there is less dilution due to like temperatures touching each other, instead of shaking something cold with ice. This increases the body, flavor, and potency of the drink. Also, when cold, the bands of the layered Pousse are more distinct and remain separate longer, and it can taste better when the liquids are chilled. What are some key ingredients that should be prepared from scratch each day ? each week ? Whatever scratch juices that are in the recipes for your current menu. Also, the attention on any specialty garnishes to be washed and cut, their stock levels, and their proper keep temperature. Note: The bar coolers are too cold for most garnish produce to last long, so it may be necessary to use one of the storage coolers in the kitchen, of which have varied temperatures for various products, meat, dairy, etc. If any leaves are used for muddling purposes for example, this is something prepared more on the spot for each drink ordered. Liquor infusions -jars with spigots are usually prepared weekly or bi-weekly with caution to size (anywhere from 2 – 12 liter jars) and popularity. Why about the “from scratch” drink makes it better ? It can be looked at as a sense of nostalgia, for instance. Besides the nutritional benefits realized with the use of fresh cut, juiced, or ingredients to infuse with liquor, it’s like going back to the old days in saloons and parlors before the plethora of bottled bar mixers were available and mass produced for distribution. How much pre-shift prep work is involved, if any ? Most things behind the bar that have preparation requirements are usually shared and accomplished during the course of the shift instead of before the shift begins. If the drink menu happens to be more popular in the evening, then you’d like to gauge any prep as close as you can to its time of usage, which would be in the afternoon instead of the early morning. Then again, if it needs to be chilled for quite a while, then early-mid morning wins out.


Organic Cherry Daiquiri
GLASS – Coupette – 10oz
½ oz Bacardi light rum ½ oz fresh made sweet & sour

ICE – Cracked, for blender

PREP – in Blender

½ oz Voodoo spiced rum ½ oz Lemon Hart dark rum juice of 1 whole lime 2-3 oz Santa Cruz organic cherry juice

Garnish – 1 organic cherry and 1 maraschino cherry

Cider House Martini
GLASS – Martini – 6oz w/ sidekick carafe ICE – in Shaker PREP – Shake & Strain
Rim the glass with cinnamon sugar 2 oz Shakers wheat or rye vodka ½ oz Berentzen cinnamon-apple liqueur 2-3 oz Santa Cruz organic cider & spice juice Garnish – slice of red apple

Berry Island Tea
GLASS – Tall Collins 12oz or Hurricane 16oz ICE – Cracked PREP – Build over ice in glass
½ oz Ketel One vodka ½ oz Bombay gin ½ oz Bacardi rum ½ oz Dekuyper triple sec 1oz fresh made sweet & sour juice of ½ lime and ½ lemon partial fill with club soda or natural ginger ale splash Dekuyper blueberry schnapps top fill with Santa Cruz organic berry nectar Garnish – a kabob of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries

Cold Pizza
GLASS – Pint - 14oz ICE – Cubed or Cracked, packed in glass PREP – Build over ice in glass
Rim half the glass with celery salt, and have a peppermill standing by after the cocktail is prepared 2 oz Absolut vodka infused with onion, green pepper, tomato, and olives (black or green) (start with 2 or 3 litres of vodka in jar, and slice to open up each of the vegetables – place in liquid) Monitor infusion for about 3 days 4 oz fresh made House bloody mary mix To prepare 2 pints of juice, combine the following ingredients in a vegetable blender 12 tomatoes 4 celery stalks 2 cucumbers 4 carrots ¼ onion 1 jalapeno pepper 1-2 fresh pressed garlic bulbs 1 tablespoon fresh horseradish pinch of pepper pinch of onion powder dash worchestershire sauce dash lime juice Garnish – a skewer of cooked sausage, pepperoni, mushroom, green pepper, and onion Accompany with a warm, buttered baguette on the side

The Concorde
GLASS – Martini 6 or 8 oz ICE – in Shaker PREP – Shake & Strain
2 ½ oz Hangar 1 vodka ¾ oz Dekuyper triple sec juice of ½ lime 1¼ oz concentrated concord grape juice (concord grapes, sugar, and water simmered down to a syrup) Garnish – small bunch of champagne grapes

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