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weinoo

Premixed Cocktails Join the "Revival" (but why, really?)

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According to the NY Times, bottled cocktails are now good for the "discerning drinker."

 

I guess that depends on what your definition of discerning is. Evidently, they've been around, in stages, for a long time...

 

The bottle first met the cocktail long ago. A former Connecticut company, Heublein, is generally credited with creating the market, introducing a line of “Club Cocktails” in the 1890s. Bottled drinks enjoyed wide popularity in the 1940s and ’50s with home entertainers and, as one blunt New York Times article put it, men “who cannot mix a passable cocktail to save their lives.”

 

 

I'd never buy one of these, but I'm probably not discerning enough, nor their target audience.

 

Mr. Chetiyawardana said the idea was “to take all the faff away from making a cocktail — no equipment, range of booze or even ice required, so you could enjoy the magic a cocktail has in any setting.” 

 

Will you be buying any of this?

 

Full Story.


Edited by weinoo (log)

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I think well-made, readily available drinks for the masses is a good thing. I can't speak to any of these in particular, though I hear great things about Germain-Robin's bottled 1850 cocktail, a barrel-aged half-brandy Sazerac that just requires a few dashes of Peychaud's and a stir.

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There is a huge trend with pre-mixed cocktails, both for products available in stores but also in bars. The White Lyan in London, which is mentioned in the article, has this philosophy behind the bar, where everything is prepared in advance. Cocktails are pre-mixed and pre-chilled, and all the bartender needs to do is dispense and garnish. The result is that the quality and consistency of drinks is improved. Also this allows the bartender to focus on the customer rather than complicated drink preparations.

 

I would consider buying pre-batched cocktails as long as they are not something I can easily make at home (for example something using ingredients I don't have access to, or barrel-aged cocktails as Lisa already mentioned). They would make a great gift for sure. White Lyan's Manhattan mix is really excellent and I would not mind having it again, although at £50 for 500 mL, it's probably not something I would buy for myself.


Edited by FrogPrincesse (log)

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I've been working in this territory for quite a while now but I do imagine it very differently. My quick take (without trying all of them) is that these new bottled cocktails are fairly uninspired plebian stuff. Nothing really tells a story.

 

Right now I'm helping a distillery make a bottled Old Fashioned. Where we are at is just labeling and bureaucracy issues. This Old Fashioned isn't revolutionary but it is in my divine ratio of whiskey, particular sugar, & particular bitters (just add orange twist). In its batched form, it has been the tradition of my bar for the past six years. I think that pretty much every distillery should be doing this. The target audience is anyone that needs just a little convenience or any restaurant program that has trouble expressing themselves like dives and chains. I don't think they should get too far beyond their local radius. So yeah, not much of a story either.

 

Where I really wanted to go with it all when I started pursuing next gen batching was into far flung boutique hotels of the world like Costa Rica. I thought there would be a market for Noma style foraging and then no holds barred (as far as liquor bureaucracy goes) creation of whatever I could dream up. No hotels and resorts have tapped me on the shoulder yet, but my technique set and bottling equipment is pretty darn formidable these days.

 

This summer I get to pursue a few more projects at the distillery. My bottling equipment is working so well that I think I can make a few sparkling bottled cocktails. I see it as an opportunity to make some epic liqueurs from locally sourced fruit, that otherwise would be lost in the market, and then give them needed context. The volumes might only be 50 or a 100 gallons max and they will only be sold retail at the distillery because margins and production level are just too low.


Edited by bostonapothecary (log)

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Wow!  That White Lyan stuff really does quantify the value of some drinks-mixing knowledge... The difference in cost between the raw ingredients and the finished product is staggering... but it still looks to be at a discount on a per drink basis from cost of ordering at a bar.


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How do they deal with "fresh" juices?  Doesn't any juice going into the bottle need to be pasteurized. thereby making it not fresh, by default?

 

I de-aerate my juices with pressure from CO2. This forces the oxygen out of solution and prevents oxidized aroma and browning but does not prevent enzymatic bittering (which can be charming). I've been able to juice green apples and keep the juice from browning without even adding ascorbic acid. I don't know how many other people are hip to these techniques.

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How do they deal with "fresh" juices?  Doesn't any juice going into the bottle need to be pasteurized. thereby making it not fresh, by default?

White Lyan does not use any juices or perishables. They use acids for sours (malic, citric, tartaric, etc).

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White Lyan does not use any juices or perishables. They use acids for sours (malic, citric, tartaric, etc).

Interesting. As I said, I'm not their market - I can't imagine a Daiquiri, or Margarita, or Aviation, etc. tasting great without the proper, reasonably fresh juice.


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White Lyan does not use any juices or perishables. They use acids for sours (malic, citric, tartaric, etc).

 

are they really still doing that? I remember reading about that idea, but only right when they opened. I suspected they might change as other techniques became available. Juices aren't really that perishable if you know how to process them and exactly why they change. back in 2008 I had done some fun investigation with various wine makers acids. I was making vermouth or sherry, both tart as a lemon and other funky stuff like a tart pineapple-irish moss syrup. people weren't ready for it around here, they were just having their first Jack Roses back then.


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Pretty sure they are since it's one of their core concepts. See their January menu here. This is also in-line with their goal to be as sustainable as possible and to limit their waste. Also in the article they make a point that fresh fruit "can't be relied on to deliver a consistent flavor".

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Pretty sure they are since it's one of their core concepts. See their January menu here. This is also in-line with their goal to be as sustainable as possible and to limit their waste. Also in the article they make a point that fresh fruit "can't be relied on to deliver a consistent flavor".

 

I really like the looks of what they are serving. I hadn't taken a look probably since they began. I'd say citrus fruits like lemons and limes can be more relied on than the botanicals they are putting in their drinks whose quality changes so much more than you'd think.

 

A big part of what I'm working on now is to standardize botanicals for oil yield with fairly accessible means which will help more people make higher quality stuff like gins on the very small scale. Granted they probably get one batch of an ingredient, make a drink with that batch, then can change the drink instead of having to repeat that batch exactly.

 

This summer I might get to kick off a bar, tasting room, and/or lab, but we're really not sure how its going to go. Its pretty much right in the fruit market so I can go get produce with a hand truck and just walk it down the sidewalk. I'll also be legally allowed to distill so besides all the usual madness, I'm hoping I can take all the peels from juicing and harvest the essential oils for candles and hand sanitizers if I can fit it in with all the other tasks.

 

In London they have a very different legal framework as here, but I'm hoping to set a strong precedent that an Indie Distillery should have a big focus on their retail business and it should be a place that is fun to visit again and again. To be honest, it will probably strongly resemble White Lyan or Peg + Patriot (but with more citrus juice and definitely ice).

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To me, this is roughly the equivalent of going to a 4 or 5 star restaurant and they serve you a TV dinner.

 

There is a huge trend with pre-mixed cocktails, both for products available in stores but also in bars. The White Lyan in London, which is mentioned in the article, has this philosophy behind the bar, where everything is prepared in advance. Cocktails are pre-mixed and pre-chilled, and all the bartender needs to do is dispense and garnish. The result is that the quality and consistency of drinks is improved. Also this allows the bartender to focus on the customer rather than complicated drink preparations.

 

 

Half of the enjoyment that I get from going to a craft cocktail bar is sitting at the bar and watching the mixologist perform his or her art.  If I ordered an enticing concoction from the menu, and the bartender poured it out of a bottle or a dispenser, I would certainly not return to that establishment.  Bottled cocktails are fine for the supermarket or liquor store for convenience when going to a casual party or picnic, but that's about it.  But serving them in a bar?  That's why cocktails went out of fashion in the first place, because bartenders didn't want to be bothered making cocktails, and kept taking shortcuts.  Cocktails turned into "mixed drinks" with only two ingredients, one of which comes from a soda gun.


Edited by brinza (log)

Mike

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It should be said that White Lyan service isn't just a matter of opening a bottle and setting it down in front of the customer. There's still a fair amount of weighing, frothing, atomizing, glass painting, etc. to the performance, depending on the drink ordered. But mostly the bartender can give more attention to talking to you about the drink than to picking out good mint or rinsing the lemon press. I went in with similar skepticism that it might not really feel like a bar but it was great fun.

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TV dinner lol. What if the drinks are on par with what you had at some of the best bars in the world? And are more creative because of the huge amount of prep work that happens behind the scenes?

Don't get me wrong, I love bar showmanship (not talking about flair, just good technique). I actually thought I would hate White Lyan when I went there because the concept was so different from what I am used to, but ended up spending hours trying a bunch of things and talking with the bartender. It is just a different type of experience.

In the end, If I have to choose between a cocktail that is made before my eyes but may take 10-15 min and may not be spot-on if the bar is busy, or something that tastes great and is served in less than 5 min, I know where I am going back. :-) Also, if I am at the bar with a group of friends, I am much less likely to be focused on what the bartender is doing than my friends' conversation.

Cocktails on draft are a big thing too. In San Diego, Polite Provision has half a dozen cocktails on tap (although unfortunately they tend to be on the sweet side). It's a great option when the bar is busy.

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Will you be buying any of this?

 

How do they deal with "fresh" juices?  Doesn't any juice going into the bottle need to be pasteurized. thereby making it not fresh, by default?

 

I feel like I caught the first wave of the 'craft bottled cocktail' trend all the way back in 2010 when a local distiller bottled a product that could be shaken to order to produce a relatively spot-on Corpse Reviver #2.


Edited by KD1191 (log)

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They do their own take on these classics, rather than just trying to recreate them. I think that's part of the charm. What they serve is not something you will find elsewhere. 

 

Seems like this has to be the goal if you're going to attract people who are willing to source ingredients and tinker with a recipe, rather than just get those customers who want something they can pour from a bottle.

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Sounds like a fine thing to toss into the picnic cooler... if it isn't 't already fill of Pimms.

 

Isn't Pimms a premixed cocktail?

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Wine Spectator did a similar article not too long ago as I recall. That article stated that these companies thought a big market for the product would be hotel mini bars. That made sense to me.

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Wine Spectator did a similar article not too long ago as I recall. That article stated that these companies thought a big market for the product would be hotel mini bars. That made sense to me.

 

I've really wanted to go after the bespoke hotel minis market. we tried to do it in London but my collaborator left the hotel abruptly to start a new project. I designed a bottling plant that could do 10 gallons a week in 200mL bottles, carbonated or not.

 

I've really wanted to do it at a gastro hotel in some far flung place to give you a little taste of civilization in your secluded romantic Cabana. part of the problem is teaching operation. its all grunt work so you need to teach it to someone. sterilizing bottles, de-aeration, carbonating or not. I just got a goPro so now I can start to make some quality instructional videos.


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To me, this is roughly the equivalent of going to a 4 or 5 star restaurant and they serve you a TV dinner.

 

Half of the enjoyment that I get from going to a craft cocktail bar is sitting at the bar and watching the mixologist perform his or her art.  If I ordered an enticing concoction from the menu, and the bartender poured it out of a bottle or a dispenser, I would certainly not return to that establishment.  

 

 

When I go to "4 or 5 Star Restaurants" I don't expect all the chefology to be done a la minute.  In fact, I'm pretty sure there is quite a bit of prep and pre-cooking taking place.  

It may shock you to hear that 24 hour braised meat is not cooked to order!

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