The industry is relishing in a new level of creativity when it comes to craft cocktails, reaching far beyond bottled spirits and often delving into the pantry which in yesteryears may have been reserved solely for plated offerings on a menu. Today, freshness and quality are at the top of the list when considering ingredients. Nicholas Bennet, Head Bartender at Porchlight in New York City shares his advice on getting the most out your bar inventory.
Dehydrate Your Garnishes
Beyond giving extra TLC to the various fresh fruits and vegetables you work with, use a dehydrator on citrus garnish to create a fun and aromatic finishing touch to a cocktail (with a longer shelf life).
Preserve with Shrubs and Vinegars
Shrubs and vinegars, similar in nature, are great ways to extend the life of ingredients, like berries, that would otherwise spoil after a very short period of time. Creating a vinegar can allow you to offer more ingredients year-round vs. seasonally, they also have the added benefit of improving with age. Make a citrus shrub-of-sorts by blending leftover lemon and lime juice with sugar and vinegar to use as a focal ingredient.
Take your pre-prepped citrus garnishes remaining at the end of the night (e.g., orange and lemon twists, cut lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit wheels, etc.) and toss them into a large pot with sugar. Cook until the mixture becomes a thick, gelatinous marmalade. (Side note: When Nicholas makes marmalade with his team, he’s been known to use a little of it on his breakfast toast!)
Infuse in Liquor
Extend the use of a seasonal ingredient by infusing it in liquor. For example, the Porchlight team steeps jalapenos in tequila for use in their very popular (and wonderfully spicy) Jalapeno Diablo. It also makes a great vegetal Spicy Margarita.
Keep Communication Constant
The value of clear communication between Front of House and Back of House holds true when it comes to ordering produce for the bar. In general, the kitchen places the orders (e.g., citrus, berries, herbs, etc.), but they might not see how much is used because they are focused on feeding guests. Thus, it falls on the Front of House team to communicate how much is needed. The order needs to be just right, enough for what is needed for the bar, but also not too much to avoid unneccessary waste as some ingredients are only good for a short amount of time.
Created by Danny Meyer, Porchlight is Union Square Hospitality Group’s (USHG) first standalone bar. Porchlight is a timeless watering hole, featuring signature and classic cocktails, exceptional Southern-inspired food and a magnetic atmosphere. From lunch or happy hour with colleagues to drinks with friends, Porchlight is a respite for neighborhood employees and residents alike, providing a gathering place inspired by the spirit of community found on porches throughout America.