Creating a cocktail menu is a creative and very individual process and it includes thinking about spirits, liqueurs, and all the other ingredients, such as citrus fruit, herbs, and edible flowers.
There is a lot of valuable information online about the most important spirits and liquors every bar should hold. You can browse recommended stock checklist of bar owners and learn about pricing structures, tips for negotiating with suppliers and resellers. For more information, check trustworthy online guides, such as the Difford’s Guide. This page carries an abundant pool of free knowledge and offers many possibilities to learn and become a better bar professional.
What we often see are artful creations, perfect taste, and color combinations of liquid, garnish, and glassware. The main focus often remains on all aspects concerning the used beverages. What is often overseen, however, is the journey of all the non-beverage ingredients until they find their way into a cocktail glass.
We have reached out to some of the best bartenders around the world to learn how they deal with all non-beverage ingredients, such as fruit, herbs, edible flowers, and spices.
Costs & Sourcing
Even before putting an incredible cocktail menu together, every new bar owner needs to do the math. You will need to get to the bottom of each ingredient’s price points. The price of fresh produce can vary significantly from one season to the other. Make sure to include some “wiggle room” to accommodate price changes that could affect the profitability of a specific cocktail. When calculating the price of each ingredient, it is crucial to keep in mind the specific storage times. If possible, more frequent deliveries of fresh produce over huge bulk deliveries require storage space and will cut your flexibility.
Reduce Distance: The closer the better
Timo from Flying Dutchman Cocktails tells us, that he takes the management of ingredients very seriously. Born and raised in Amsterdam, he believes in regional and local suppliers, some around the corner. This is not only to support local business but simplifies logistics significantly, especially if you need to urgently restock a certain ingredient.
The best place to store juice is inside the fruit.
This is a sentence we hear from many chefs and bartenders. And it is true: As soon as a fruit is cut and manipulated, we start a chemical process called oxidation. And this is a problem because most compounds responsible for taste and color are sensitive to oxidation. So, a bartender who wants to exploit the maximum potential of fruit cannot avoid daily juicing. The juice itself can be stored for that one shift in a closed container inside a refrigerated under-counter cabinet. Similar to a well-sorted commercial kitchen, a bar has dedicated spots to store all these colorful helpers. When it comes to most herbs, the best ambient temperature to maximize shelf life depends on the structure of the leaves.
Rob Baan from Kopper Cress, an international supplier of microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers breaks it down:
“If you want to know how to best store a fruit, herb, or edible flower…anything that comes from a plant, you need to do some research and learn in what conditions these plants naturally thrive. “. That means, that the worst place to store a tomato or physalis, is a refrigerator. Cold temperatures are unnatural to these fruits (yes, a tomato is considered a fruit) and will break down important aroma components. The result is a tasteless fruit.
DIfferent ingredients, different storage
Mint, a widely used herb in bars and kitchens and the main ingredient in classic cocktails such as Mojitos and Mint Juleps, is a cold-hardy plant. It thrives in lower temperatures and can be stored in a fridge.
For citrus fruit, it is best to find a dark, cool place for the longest shelf-life. Other fruit, like strawberry, can handle colder temperatures and should be stored in a refrigerated cabinet at 4-7 ° Celsius.
Strawberries and other berries are very prone to mold, discoloration, and dents. To protect the fairly thin fruit skin, it is best to place paper towels inside of containers and spread the fruit out before refrigerated storage.
Spices however need to be stored entirely differently.
Spices are plant materials as well, however, they are stored and used in a dry state. Cinnamon for example is the cured and dehydrated bark of a tree, the Cinnamonum Verum. The biggest enemies of spices are water and light. That is why it is recommended to store spices in a sealed container in a dark and cool (not refrigerated) place at approx 9-13 degrees Celsius.
Similar to other foodservice environments, it is best to strictly the FIFO rule.
FIFO stands for “First in, first out” and reminds us to label all products and store them in a way that we automatically grab the good with the shortest remaining shelf life. Practically that means, that you store all new ingredients in the back, with the older ingredients in the front.
When asked what she does with leftover garnish, Tess Posthumus, award-winning bartender, co-Owner of Amsterdam top bars Flying Dutchman Cocktails and Dutch Courage, has some valuable tips. These tips came with a whole video about how to become a more sustainable bar, which you can view below.
Tess makes sure to not overstock. With good planning and meticulous admin, she makes relies on more frequent and smaller orders. Naturally, that will guarantee, that you always can make use of only the best and freshest ingredients and keeps her leftovers to a minimum. If she comes across any ingredients that have seen better days, such as oranges with wrinkled skin, they cannot be used as garnish anymore. But instead of tossing she recommends juicing or even cooking syrup from it. Making syrup is a perfect way to make use of fruits and even herbs that cannot be used for garnish anymore. For the syrup, you simply mix the herbs or juiced fruit with equal parts sugar and water and cook it at low temperature until it becomes thick. Store the syrup in sealed bottles to protect it from contamination. Once open they need to be refrigerated and used within a week.