It’s fair to say that cocktail batching has a mixed reputation. In Australia it evokes connotations of basic mixers and party punch, but internationally there’s a growing trend of high-end bars using batching as a method of quality control and to ensure consistency. The practice is particularly popular in New York, where award-winning small bars such as the Rainbow Room, Death and Co., and Please Don’t Tell are turning batching into an art form.
It’s a philosophy found locally at acclaimed Melbourne bar The Everleigh, where founder and principal bartender Michael Madrusan leaves nothing to chance. Voted one of the Top 50 bars in the world by Drinks International two years running, Madrusan and his team have recently launched the Everleigh Bottling Co., which produces batched classics for the Gertrude Street venue as well as Madrusan’s brand new Chinatown location, Heartbreaker.
Madrusan says batching is really about education. “People may think a batched cocktail is not as good because you don’t get the theatrical experience of seeing it mixed in front of you,” he says. “But I can definitely tell you, the product we make is better than anything that’s made at the bar when it’s under the pump.”
The Everleigh Bottling Co. is producing four classics, a Martini, Negroni, Manhatten and an Old Fashioned, and Madrusan is confident their quality is second-to-none. “We have created the best cocktail the Everleigh can make,” he claims of his precise recipes. “They cannot be beaten. It’s a no-brainer how good they are.”
Joining The Everleigh in raising the profile of batching locally is The Black Pearl. The lauded Brunswick Street venue recently hosted Jeff Bell, head bartender of New York institution Please Don’t Tell and the 2013 Diageo World Class US Bartender of the Year. Bell – who transformed The Black Pearl’s upstairs bar, The Attic, into a pop-up of Please Don’t Tell – is unequivocal on the benefits of batching.
“The goal of operating a bar is to create a great experience,” Bell says. “You have to find the balance and what’s appropriate. In Melbourne we batched the spirits and liqueurs together – the freshness and integrity of the drinks are still there, but we can serve them quickly."
It's all about planning. "As ingredients sit together in a batch, sometimes different flavours can take over," says Bell. "So you tweak the recipes, they aren’t exactly the same as you’d do them if you were doing each ingredient individually. They taste exactly the way they should."
Bell also says it ensures bartenders can curate drinks to their exacting specifications – batching just makes a better cocktail: “It gives us more consistency and ensures quality,” he says.