The Death Of The 15-Minute Cocktail: How Bartenders Produce World-Class Cocktails In Seconds
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Even though some of our favorite movies were made in the ‘80s, the decade was a truly dark time for the world of cocktails. While classic movies like Teen Wolf, The Breakfast Club, and Back To The Future were gracing movie screens, bartenders were putting out some pretty awful mixed drinks. At the time, the movie Cocktail (starring Tom Cruise) seemed like the pinnacle of cocktail culture. Now it seems more like a cloyingly sweet, neon-colored joke.
“Everything was made from processed ingredients, nothing fresh,” says Gary Wallach, director of food and beverage at Arlo Hotels. As we headed into the ‘90s and beyond, people began to see the value of quality cocktails and bartenders began to develop and define the craft that we know today.
But, the rise of cocktail culture lead to myriad bartenders feeling the need to add to create cocktails to include a half-dozen ingredients, including various shrubs, herbs, spirits, and garnishes. And these cocktails took a long time to make.
“It’s not easy to create a cocktail with upwards of five ingredients, make it taste balanced, and serve it in quick manner,” says Wallach. “This added a new style of refined bar service that started to add time to the clock. Great food and great drinks take time, but I feel the business is learning how to meet the volume needs more than ever.”
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The Unpopularity Of The 15-Minute Cocktail
No one really wants a cocktail that takes 15 minutes to prepare. “Unless a cocktail is a large-format, long-prep drink, more than 7 minutes is pretty poor form,” says Jim Kearns, managing partner at Slowly Shirley and Happiest Hour and Corporate Beverage Director of Acme and Tijuana Picnic in New York City.
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Don't Make Customers Impatient
“Hangry guests are tough,” says Wallach. “Not sure what the term is for when guests are hungry and thirsty.” Bars and restaurants need to set expectations. “If the space feels like a drink should come fast and it doesn't, guests will be difficult.” He adds, “If guests understand the love and passion, they will be more inclined to wait, knowing the experience is worth it in the end.”
Most guests are pretty unhappy waiting for a long time for a cocktail, “unless they’re told explicitly that the drink will take a long time, or it’s a large-format, high-presentation cocktail, for an entire table,” says Kearns.
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Stopping The Log Jam
Cocktails that take too long to prepare can create a log jam for those waiting as well as other issues. “The strain can be on sales if the team is not prepared,” says Wallach. “I believe that's the key. It's not the wait that hurts, it’s the stress on your team. That's why training is everything, and it helps avoid any jam or wait.”
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An Increase In Quicker Cocktails
“People are getting creative with their multi-ingredient cocktails by batching them, so as to not ruin the quality of the cocktail,” says Wallach. He’s seen that this works well for service at Arlo hotels.
Kearns has also seen an increase in cocktails that don’t require a long preparation time. “A large part of our service, at all of our properties, is to try to find ways to make great cocktails as quickly as possible.” He adds, “The faster a drink gets into a guest’s hand, the better things work out for everyone.”
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Creating Cocktails In Seconds
The key for any bar to shorten the amount of time customers have to wait for cocktails all boils down to training, creative batching, and smarter designed bars. “All of that paired with a well-educated, highly-trained, and talented staff are truly what makes the difference,” says Wallach.
The entire program at Happiest Hour is based on just that. “We pre-batch the bases of all of our signature cocktails, so not only are they incredibly efficient to make, but we also give guests the freedom to choose their base spirit, adding a fun, interactive element to the menu,” says Kearns.
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