Alex Chivers has witnessed the benefits of batching cocktails firsthand. As the marketing and assistant venue manager of popular Melbourne food-truck park Welcome to Thornbury, Chivers is on the team that arranges the venue’s cocktail menu.
“Our bar manager puts together a collection of ideas and we all do a big taste session and discuss them,” says Chivers of their process. Before opening in August 2015, the team set what they thought was an appropriate focus on cocktails. They were wrong.
“We got a couple of months into spring and had a freak-out,” says Chivers. “Cocktails are contagious. Customers see someone else getting one and think, ‘Great, let’s get a cocktail!’ Ten minutes later you’ve got 700 cocktail orders. Despite having 25 bartenders, we couldn’t keep up.”
The team turned to Dave Kerr at The Beaufort for advice. “When we started we didn’t batch any of our cocktails,” says Chivers, referring to the process of making large quantities of pre-made drinks for quick service. “He taught us some of his batching tips and about what would work best.”
Kerr’s advice was a game changer. Welcome to Thornbury now batches the alcohol portion of its cocktails twice a week for both single and jug service. Batches are refrigerated and fresh ingredients and mixers are added at service.
Do customers ever baulk at being served a batched cocktail instead of having it made at the bar? No, says Chivers. “Most people get it. Because we have such a big bar, a lot of people see the opportunity to be served as soon as possible.”
Chivers says the Pimm’s Cup is a consistent favourite at Welcome to Thornbury and an easy one to make at home. Featuring Pimm’s, sweet vermouth, Cointreau, dry ginger and seasonal fruit, Welcome to Thornbury’s Pimm’s Cup stays on the menu year round – it only needs tweaks to its garnishes to make it seasonal.
“I haven’t met someone who doesn’t love it. It sells so well and it works well for any season. Initially we were using fruit shrub in the Pimm’s, now we use seasonal fruits. If only we had a food truck that sold cucumber sandwiches,” says Chivers.
Another proponent of batching is Tim Phillips. Former Global World Class Winner, Phillips is a co-owner of Dead Ringer and Bulletin Place, both in Sydney. Phillips regularly uses batching methods to fine-tune his drinks, such as Dead Ringer’s Yuzu Breezer, made with rum, yuzu (a type of Japanese citrus) and soda, served in a Breezer-style bottle. Last summer he made a Summer Punch from Tanqueray gin; vermouth; Italian bitters; and ginger and cucumber syrups.
Phillips says when batching at home, make sure the ingredients you use are at their best because, “a cocktail is only as good as its worst ingredient”. Like Chivers, Phillips says be sure to add any non-alcoholic ingredients just before service.
Chivers says batching has been so popular at Welcome to Thornbury it’s planning to extend its menu further. “Especially this summer – we’d really like to grow our cocktail list,” says Chivers. “I think people look at us and don’t think we’re a cocktail bar, so they order a beer – especially when we’re busy. But with people now seeing we can do batched singles and jugs I think that’s going to change.”
With more than 700,000 people through Welcome to Thornbury’s doors since opening, it’s going to need all the batching help it can get. Has seeing how effective it is for gatherings changed Chivers perception of batching? “It most definitely has,” he says. “One of our staff members even went and batched a Paloma cocktail as an engagement present.”
Try these batching recipes at home:
Tim Phillips’s Bay Rosita
Makes one serve. Approximately 1.6 standard drinks.
40ml bay vermouth blend*
10ml Italian bitters
25ml Tanqueray gin (Don Julio Blanco tequila can also be used)
Dash cardamom bitters
Combine all ingredients in a sterilised, 100ml bottle and refrigerate until required. Serve in a chilled rocks glass over ice and garnish with a fresh bay leaf.
Increase the quantities in the recipe to make multiple serves.
*To make the bay vermouth blend, combine equal parts dry and sweet vermouth and add a couple of fresh bay leaves. Leave for one week to infuse. Strain and use within two weeks.
Welcome to Thornbury’s Pimm’s Cup
Makes one jug. Approximately 6.5 standard drinks.
20ml Monin Ginger
160ml sweet vermouth
40ml citric acid (replace citric acid with lime when serving at home)
40ml sugar syrup
Combine all ingredients in a sterilised bottle and refrigerate until required. Serve in a chilled glass over ice, top with dry ginger ale and garnish with sprigs of mint and long stick of cucumber. Increase the quantities in the recipe to make multiple serves.
Simple Sugar Syrup Recipe:
Equal Parts boiling water and sugar - stir until all sugar is dissolved.