In a booze-soaked city teeming with top-notch cocktail bars and Bourbon Street tourist traps, Batch, perched in the Hyatt French Quarter New Orleans, has successfully differentiated itself as a destination for custom cocktails and one-of-a-kind experiences. Branded flasks, served with mixers and garnishes of choice, can be toted to go on the permissive streets of the Big Easy; one-liter charred-oak barrels are filled with signature cocktails for groups; and behind the bar, spirits and cocktails are infused and barrel-aged inhouse to offer guests the true handcrafted experience.
In the 2012 Hyatt renovation, Batch was considered a key component—designed to buck the traditions of the typical lobby bar. Today, it enjoys a healthy split of locals [apt to visit on weeknights] and hotel guests who pack the bar on weekends. “We envisioned something great for tourists, yet with established credibility among locals,” notes Darlene Marcello, VP of F&B and procurement for HRI Lodging and MetWest Terra Hospitality. “We wanted to give guests a totally unique service and leave them with something to remind them of our bar.”
The team spun off the idea of traditional bottle service with flask service, which costs $45 for 12 ounces of liquor [including any of its housemade barrel-aged infusions] plus condiments. About 50 20-ounce flasks are kept on hand, with an average of 15 to 25 flasks sold per week—up to five per day sold simply to go. For leisurely guests, bartenders can mix cocktails in front of flask purchasers or allow them to craft their own.
Batch’s charred-stamp logo, emblazoned on the flasks, evokes the barrel-aged focus of the bar, ignites conversations on the streets of New Orleans as the vessel snakes around the city, and reminds revelers of their experience long after they leave.
“Guest comments and feedback have shown that they’re wowed,” Marcello says. “We’re hitting all the right markers.”
Over a Barrel
Behind the bar at Batch, eight 20-liter oak barrels age and infuse local spirits [think housemade salsa-instilled tequila] and seasonal cocktails, such as the Pecan Bourbon Manhattan, for eight to 20 weeks. Barrel-aged booze [tasted weekly for the perfect flavor balance, then moved to non-aging paraffin-coated barrels] makes up about 20% of revenue for the bar and features in specialty cocktails, including bestsellers such as the Heated Situation, with Anaheim pepper-infused vodka. Each barrel can be used five times, after which Batch gives them away through contests for staff and guests.“Coordinating with our name, Batch, we make our own batches of liquor and even have parties and celebrations when we open a new one,” explains Travis Tague, GM of the hotel. “People ask to buy our liquor directly; that’s how much they love it.”
Though the process is very hands-on—requiring filtering, processing, freezing, and purifying, depending on the infusion—the staff takes ownership of its proprietary creations, instilling the Batch culture and creating excitement among them. “We play with everything; it looks like a giant science lab in here,” says Ray Gil, director of F&B for Batch. “We’ll run contests among our bartenders. They submit recipes, and the first person to empty his barrel gets an award and placement on the menu.”
Groups can also order one-liter barrels of signature specialty cocktails for $75 with condiments, served on a stand; about 15 are sold per week. These free up busy servers, since guests can handle their own pours after initial setup, and the cocktails take on a slightly different flavor as they age at the table.
The barrels themselves can also be purchased [at cost] for $75, complete with care instructions.
“We focus on creating a unique, authentic experience,” Tague says. “You don’t find these kind of cocktails anywhere else in the area. Everyone is into the handcrafted now, and our infusions and cocktails are dramatically different than the average mixed drink.”Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, Mississippi.
Batch’s staff shares tips on infusions, barrel aging and branding:
- Infuse with local ingredients; work within your area and mesh with your market.
- Take your time and be creative. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it fails.
- Staff education is important, and they should educate the guest on your personalized practices.