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1–2 July 2024
Olympia London

The Evolution of Pre-Batching Techniques in Bartending: Enhancing Service and Creativity

Once a controversial subject, the pre-batching of cocktails has become commonplace, offering a variety of benefits, not only for bars but for their guests too.

Some drinks, like clarified milk punches, as well as cocktails on tap, require preparation in advance, but a growing number of bars are relying on pre-batching for some or all of their other cocktails too. And as the practice has become widespread, it’s become more refined, with an array of techniques being used nowadays, not to mention, in some cases, some pretty serious tech.

Image credits to Julie Spicy

The benefits of batching

At Dram in Soho, every cocktail contains at least some degree of pre-batching. “It benefits us with service, and just makes everything a lot easier and smoother,” says Chris Tanner. “We also have to, because of our tap cocktails, which are not only ready to go, but due to our centrifuge we can also clarify them beforehand.”

Nearby, at Wacky Wombat, where there are four cocktails on tap, as well as a milk punch, Nico de Soto agrees. “We pretty much batch everything we can,” he says. “It’s way easier, and enables the service to be faster and more consistent, if the cocktails are batched well.”

The theatrical element of bartending isn’t forgotten, however. “We still have some cocktails that we jigger, so the show is still there,” he adds.

For Alessandro Mannello at JOIA in London’s Battersea, batching is necessary given the evolution of cocktails. “The main classics have an average of three or four ingredients mixed together, but since then, bartending has hugely changed. We’re now looking at drinks with up to 15 or 20 ingredients, with techniques, such as infusions and clarifications, that can take up to a month or more,” he says. “Behind each drink there are hours of work and preparation, and the result is a pre-batched drink that, once ordered, can reach the guest within 30 seconds.”

Image credits to Rebecca Hope

At Prelude by Oriole, too, pre-batched drinks are a significant component of the offering. “By pre-mixing cocktails, we ensure that each drink is crafted to perfection, allowing us to meet customer demand swiftly during peak hours without compromising on flavour or presentation,” says Samet Ali. “This streamlined process allows staff to focus more on providing attentive service and ensuring a smooth flow of orders, particularly during busy periods.”

There’s an additional, creative benefit to making use of pre-batching techniques in a bar, he adds. “They enable us to experiment with unique flavour combinations and innovative recipes, enhancing the overall experience for our patrons.”

Image credits to Casey Gutteridge

Tech and techniques

Bartenders involved in the making of complex, pre-batched drinks will tell you, quite rightly, that you don’t necessarily need a prep room full of high-tech equipment to make great cocktails, including pre-batched ones, although Mannello admits that “in our lab we often feel more like chemists than bartenders”.

That said, his main tip for creating great batched cocktails is a relatively easy one. “Find substitutes for citrus juices, which are largely used in cocktails, and have a very short shelf life,” he says. “A good balance between citric and malic acid, as well as some vitamin C, can provide the same flavour profile, allowing for a longer shelf life.”

De Soto is aware of shelf life too. “Only batch what doesn’t perish,” he advises. “Fresh juices, for example, oxidise very fast and can’t be batched. If you do want to batch them, you can clarify them with agar agar or a centrifuge, which is what we do.”

Even simpler, he suggests only batching the spirits, liqueurs and syrups of a cocktail together, reducing what might have been three pours during service to just one.

Ali agrees, also offering a hybrid approach. “Using fresh fruit and juice within a cocktail will cause it to go off quicker, but you could simply add in the fresh ingredients before shaking and serving,” he says. “If you do decide to use fresh citrus or fruits in your pre-batched cocktails directly, I recommend going through a filtration process with a coffee filter to remove any residual fruit flesh. This significantly increases shelf life and enriches the taste profile of your drinks.”

For Ali, carbonation is another important consideration, with lots of potential. “We focus on enhancing the carbonation levels in our sparkling drinks by adding the sparkling element along with some dilution directly into the pre-batched cocktail. This could be as simple as adding water, tonic, or even flat sparkling wine,” he says. “Then, using a pressure regulator connected to a CO2 tank, we infuse the entire drink with carbon dioxide. This ensures that even ingredients that have lost their fizz contribute to a cocktail that's refreshingly bubbly and vibrant.”

Image credits to Julie Spicy

Dilution, meanwhile, is a major factor when it comes to batching cocktails, for a number of reasons, says Ali. “For certain beverages, such as Martinis or other straight up cocktails, it is beneficial to incorporate the appropriate amount of dilution directly into the batch,” he says. “Care must be taken to monitor the temperature and the dilution level closely to prevent the cocktails from freezing.”

Dram, meanwhile, offers an example of what can be done with the right equipment. “We use a lot of different techniques and processes, such as distillation of course, and carbonation, as well as a centrifuge to clarify,” says Tanner. “Our latest addition is a homogeniser, which allows us to interact with the whole drink and have a more holistic approach to cocktail making.”

Equipment like this can certainly be an advantage, but other considerations like shelf life and dilution are perhaps the most important. As Tanner puts it: “Be conscious as to why you’re using pre-batching, and remember that the process, and the technique behind it, is still important.”

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