No need to drink from a urinal.

I found an article in The San Francisco Chronicle newspaper reporting an upscale event where they served yellow “specialty cocktails” that “flowed from white ceramic urinals”. I saw no pleasure in a drink like that and It may me wonder what is the limit.

It instantly made me remember what Arrigo Cipriani said about what makes a good barman. Please take a few minutes to read both articles and share your thoughts with me.


SF gate urinal cocktails at event


Arricgo Cipriani - Good barman

Just on a side note, you can read this article about a London bar infusing liqueur with Whale skin (yes, it’s true, they infused the same 2×5 cm piece of skin several times through out the year, also serving you an inconsistent drink). The bar got raised by the police because of this. I agree with the cops this time.

I would love to know your opinions or any interesting story to share regarding this topic.

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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Right Name, Right sales

There are plenty of alternatives when it comes to naming a cocktail and some of them will be better than others, but one thing is certain: the name will directly impact the sales.

It’s 2013 and we have left behind the 90’s with the overused formula: “(Apple) + Martini”, right? Well….not really to tell you the truth. Let’s have a look at any random contemporary cocktail bar menu and we find the same formula still in existence: “(city/person/fruit/herb/noun, etc.) + family cocktail”.  What has changed though is that with today’s cocktail trends and higher levels of professionalism among bartenders, we’re seeing more cocktail families (correctly) used. Now we may find “Apple fizz” or “Blackberry Cobbler” or “Gin Basil Smash” being served in the same way that Gin Cocktails, N.O. Gin fizzes or St. Croix Daisies were served 100+ yrs. ago. There is nothing wrong with this ancient technique, indeed it can contribute to intrigue and educate the guests while helping the staff to know what it’s in the drink. Yet if this were the only naming method used, we’ll be missing on Mojitos, Piña Coladas, Sidecars, Zombies and South-sides.

On the other hand, random words or naming drinks in honor of your beloved girlfriend* won’t always do the trick when it comes to business; neither will do using Spanish words just because you’re using Sherry, Pisco or Tequila (like the “Oye mi canto” from the Artesian bar in London, or Bloody Maria for a tequila based Bloody Mary, named like this at least since 1960’s). (* On the other hand grandmothers ,mothers, uncles and aunties name usually do work and people may buy Uncle Tom’s flip in Christmas season).

There is indeed a lot behind a name, such as trends, your guests’ interests, their age or your bar mood and concept just to name a few things that you need to consider.

In an article from 2011 the author refers to a study showing that people on  diet avoid some foods by its name before reading the ingredients itself. They may happen to pick a less healthy option that carries a healthy name and end up completely out of their diet without been fully aware but convinced that they’ve picked the right one. The word Smoothie for example sounds healthier than milkshake (and goes hand in hand with today’s concern for health); while the word batida will instantly transport them to holidays on the beach and tropical fruits, even though a real batida has plenty of condensed milk, not appropriate for your bikini size.

Think about how you react to “fruits blended with lemon sorbet” Vs. “fruits blended with lemon ice cream”. Which one has more sugar and more calories?

So the next time that you have to name a drink consider your purpose and the role of that drink within the menu and your offer. If you have a drink that tastes really good but its ingredients may carry a negative image or fact that may put off your clients, try to find a name that will disguise negative facts. For example, a traditionally made Piña Colada demanded some effort to be made, but today it takes very little effort, yet the word “colada” (strained) was and still is a huge fact in its popularity giving it a sense of real craft while hiding the fact that it has plenty of sugar and is made by almost carelessly blending the ingredients for 15 seconds. There’s a reason why the Coco loco didn’t make it to the hall of fame. Words can enhance a cocktail but can also distract the guest so they don’t notice what you want to hide about it. “Colada” speaks craft, in the same way as Infused or Aged or Maestro or Special or A la minute or Bartender’s choice have connotations as well.

             Avoid names with negative references because they usually don’t work (like a brain hemorrhage that will crowd your bar with shot slammers). The same with childish names, you’re selling a luxury not Fruit loops. Try to come up with names that are specific to your product, this will help its sales and makes things easier for your customers; it will also speed up the service. Not every single name has to be glamorous, remember that you need contrast to appreciate the tones. Avoid funny sentences or word combinations if they have nothing to do with the drink, write them down and keep them for a future recipe. Yet if you still want to use them, make sure that you clearly communicate what’s in the drink so the guest knows what he/she’ll get. Think about the Penicillin or the Albermale fizz, you know the latest is a fizz, but with this information, do you know what any of those drinks taste like? But if I tell you a Honey suckle or Bee’s Knees, you’ll certainly know that it has honey in its flavor profile. Or what about Hot buttered rum….you can’t miss that one. And what about the Aviation or the Alexander? Well, those are pretty useless name on their own and they’ll need some description backing them up.

 This list of cocktail families may give you some ideas:

cocktail, slings, sour, fizz, cobbler, punch, plush, daisy, flips, toddies, fixes, frappe, collins, crusta, grog, highball, rickey, julep, pousse café, smash, swizzle, cooler, sangaree, etc.

And for a list of useful words that will help you sell more check out this other post

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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Bar Tools: how to choose? how many to buy?‬

‪            When buying tools for a bar, fantasy and desires meet face to face with reality. Professional bartenders are geeks and would like to have the most complete spectrum of classic, contemporary and modern tools available for their trade; and since social media became part of our life, they want to be the first one to have it.

Then budget kicks in, just like in any other profession. The project owner or administrator is not always aware of what all those tools are for (or even if they’re needed) and not all bartenders are consciously aware of budgetary issues. So, how to solve this problem?

It is common to see bars lacking essential tools as much as seeing tools that are actually infrequently used, if at all. At the same time, we all need basic tools like a cocktail shaker, but how are you going to decide if you need a u$100 silver shaker, a u$10 stainless steel or a vintage glass shaker with silver top from ebay?

Let’s have a look at what was needed for a “First-class bar” a hundred years ago (this list can be found in “Drinks How to mix and how to serve”, Paul E. Lowe, pg. 138, NY, 1909),

Tools Utensils
Bottles (serving, mixture and stock), Bowls (punch, sugar, Tom and jerry, Cracker, Ice, Finger, for spoons and strainers), Boxes (for salt, sugar and supplies generally), Boxes (match, pepper and salt), Brace and Bit, Brooms, Brushes (clothes, hair, scrubbing, silver, window), bung starter, Business cards, Cash registers, Combs (hair), Cork press, Cork pullers, Corkscrew (counter and hand), demijohns (large and smalls), Dishes (fruit, spices), Dusters, Dust pans, Egg beaters, Envelopes, Faucets for ale for beer for champagne bottles for liquor, Filtering bags and paper, Flasks (quarts and pints and 1/2), Forks, Funnels, Furniture oils and polish, Gimlet, Hammer,  hot water kettle, ink, Ice pick, Ice scoop, Ice shaver, Jars, jiggers, knives (fruit and table), labels, lemon squeezers, liquor gauge, liquor pump, liquor thieves, mallet, matches, measures (for beer and liquors), muddler, nails and tacks, Newspaper file, nutmeg graters, paper (wrapping and writing), paste, pens, pitchers (honey and syrup, water, punch, molasses), punch ladles, rail road timetables, rubber hose, ruler (for beer foam), screws, Cigar cutter, set of books, Shakers, sieve, soap, spittoons, sponges, spoons (long and short), stepladder, stoppers and corks, Strainers (for individual drinks), straws, sugar tongs, telephone, thermometer, towels, trays, waiters, Washing soda, water pails, whitening.

That’s a long list. I couldn’t finish reading it. But If you had, you’ll find that some tools are not needed in modern times (a telephone? ink? a Gimlet?), while others sound plainly ridiculous to even be considered today (a comb?). However we may notice a few cheap items that will make customers happy (carrying a high ROI), like racks for newspapers or the rail road timetable (if you have a railroad nearby…).

When choosing bar tools we need to ask ourselves what is really necessary and what will make a real impact in our business while surpassing the guests expectations.

A few questions you may like to ask yourself are, Do we really need a super expensive Cocktail shaker or Japanese tools? Do we have enough (shakers)? Are those tools adequate to our concept and the ambiance we want to recreate? Will that be appreciated by the guests and will it benefit the business or just the bartender’s ego? Can I make that investment and make the bar staff happy and in return get their commitment?

You need to bare in mind your concept and the needs to implement it. For example, let’s say that you want your bar to serve the latest trends in cocktails; then you will need specific tools like a rotovapor, ice molds or Isi siphons, as much as 100 years ago they needed a “bung starter”. You will have to add all this to the rest of the standard bar equipment, which will also need to be congruent with the image and quality of your establishment. For example, don’t spend money in a rotovapor if you have cheap Chinese shakers or a TV showing sports in your front bar. The quality and style of the tools has to spread throughout all of the bar equipment, and that includes the bar top, the uniform and the hair of your staff (they may need to buy the comb themselves this time).

As a rule of thumb, the more sophistication you want in your bar and in your cocktails, the higher the budget you’ll need in tools and bar equipment and the more professional your staff needs to be.

You should however be conscious that bar tools are intensively used, so buy quality. Quality tools are actually cheaper. They last longer, they look better, they don’t break down or worn out easily and they make your staff happy.  You’ll save (and make) money in the long run. Consider the amount of times a knife is used (a lot, right?). A u$10 knife wont do it, and what is worse, it will cause you losses.

How does a knife relate to your profits? You may ask yourself.

Well, simple put: a knife is used to cut garnish with speed and precision for all your drinks, which are the little dwarf that generate your income. Guests will see the difference of a good knife, even if they can’t clearly spot what it is that makes the lime peel in their drinks nicer than the ones at other bars. Also you’ll allow your staff to work fast while preventing them from cutting their fingers when struggling with a blunt knife.
As a conclusion: the tools that are mostly used should be of the best quality possible according to your budget. No excuses there, don’t buy crap. (HINT: Take sometime to consider the relationship of other tools with your profits, now go and check out your bar. Are you loosing money there? What does your staff think)

Now, How are you going to prevent quality tools to get “lost”?
Well, for big volumes you’ll have to ask your bar staff and manager to keep a record of them. Start by taking a picture and writing down brand and model, cost and purveyor of all your tools and if you know it, the date of purchase. Keep it in a binder or in your computer. This will allow you to keep track of your buying and replacements so you’ll see if something gets lost too frequently, if the quality is not really that good and track  the cost of your bar tools. Barstaff should make sure that all the bar tools are present everyday, and if one tool needs to be replaced, add the new date of purchase in its particular file. If you have a “lost tools problem” you can also include the date in which it was lost and see if your tools get lost in a particular pattern, for example Saturday nights or during shift changes. This will also allow you to spot any thieves. however the best way to avoid loosing them is by hiring professional staff to begin with, and keep the most expensive tools secured under lock. No need to have a record binder if your bar is small.

A standard set of bar tools will be composed of: Cocktail shaker, corkscrew, cutting board, a small and a bigger knife, electric blender, bar towels, jiggers, pour spots, citrus squeezers, hawthorne and julep strainer, ice tongs and ice scoop, bar spoon and mixing glass. And don’t forget the straws ad napkins.

I recommend you these links to get your tools here, or here, or here and here

               Conclusion. Happy staff with quality tools makes your business more profitable and it also minimizes staff rotation. The details make all the difference in this competitive market. Buy what you need according to your concept, buy quality, help your staff work faster, minimize looses. Whenever possible, ask your purveyors for samples before committing to buying them.

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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Useful Tip – Window farming

This Useful Tip is about one of the many activities I enjoy along bars and bartending: urban agriculture.

Urban agriculture is one of the reasons why I also studied landscaping and horticulture here’s a wiki link in English and Español to understand what it’s all about.

This time a very easy and useful way to grow some of your own edibles to use at the bar, or at home.

Want to know more? let’s talk, it has so many benefits for the business along the human factor and guest satisfaction! (and you don’t need to grow a bear to do it)

Have you got experience with this system or a similar one? Like chef’s Michael Mina… please share what you’ve seen!

urban agriculture - roof top farming

(urban agriculture – roof top farming)

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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Spirits’ How to write Tasting notes and Descriptions – Absolut Vodka case.

Following the previous post on how to write engaging cocktail menus and use appropriate copy to describe items I will expand with examples from Absolut Vodka.

Why Absolut vodka? well,

  1. Because I have this information handy.
  2. Because they were sold in +126 countries
  3. Because they won +400 ad awards and +40 online campaign awards
  4. Because it’s a company that has invested heavily in clever and tasteful publicity and copy since its very beginnings. It is a brand that was inspirational and aspirational both for consumers and bartenders and left nothing to chance. They knew how to grab people’s attention. A forward thinking company with spectacular global sales that helped put bartenders in the right place and cocktails back in the map.

Here a few examples they used the world over, pay attention to the use of descriptors.

Absolut Vodka, Is made from winter wheat grown in the rich fields of southern Sweden. We use a process called continuous distillation to remove impurities. A method so efficient it eliminates the need of filtration. All water used comes from our own deep well. Absolut vodka has a rich taste, is smooth and mellow, with a distinct  character of grain.

Absolut Citron,  is made form citrus fruits. Lemon is dominant, but other citrus  flavours are added to give a fuller flavour. Absolut citron has a distinct character of lemon and lime with a hint of sweetness.

Absolut Mandrin, is made from citrus fruits. Mandarin and orange are dominant, but other citrus flavours are added to give a fuller flavour. It has a distinct character of mandarin and orange, with a hint of sweetness.

Absolut Vanilia, is made form natural vanilla. To reflect the full potential of the vanilla flavour, all parts of the pod are used. Absolut Vanilia has a rich, robust and complex taste of vanilla with notes of butterscotch and hints of dark chocolate.

Absout Raspberri, has the wild, rich and intense taste of ripened raspberries with a fresh and fruity finish. Made from all-natural ingredients and without any added sweetener.

Absolut Pears, has a fresh delicate taste of mellow pears and a long fruity aftertaste.


It is interesting to me how they followed a template, like in the case of Citron and Mandrin. If you do the same, it will help you organize your menu and facilitate the process for your guests. Your voice has to be the same through all your ad, and it has to be complimentary to your products. When you look at the brand’s cocktail pictures and drink styling, they still have the same voice. As they put it “One Global spirit, many Cultures”

image, ad and voice is complementary.

Do you know any other brand that has done such a great use of copy? do you have any examples?

I would love to know them, feel free to share them….or I’ll give you a warm Absolut Apeach shot next time I see you!

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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How to write engaging cocktail menus- Useful advice.

When was the last time you didn’t have to struggle while reading a bar menu?

Developing cocktail menus is a wide topic and one I am personally fascinated with (so it will be a frequently recurring topic in this blog and if you email me about it I will certainly reply back).

Throughout the years I have seen menus that don’t address the clientele and have no positive financial impact, but after having done consulting and redesigning menus for my clients we have immediately seen sales improvements. What did we do? I will share with you a secret.

First of all, we have to make clear that a menu is not just a written list of items in any order. Your sumptuous drinks need to be communicated with the right graphic design (typography, colors, paper texture, etc.), the right order and organization of your items, right prices and right pricing strategy, categories, menu length and ease of use, etc. They all play a role in defining your identity and finally maximizing your sales while having an exquisite menu. A properly designed menu can put you in the elite of guest’s perception, and more money in your pocket with less effort. Sounds like too much for your little weak menu? With total confidence I can assure you  that with the right menu you’ll see an increment in your sales.

One of the services we provide is complete development of efficient menus (from the recipes and training down to the menu itself), including development of its text and descriptors. A simple rule you can use to see if the items in your menu are good selling is to apply the rule of 100%. Quite simple, print a sales report for the last 3 months for example, then see what items sell the most and which ones don’t sell at all (get ready to be surprised!). Then keep the top 60% sellers, add the next 20% remaining and get rid of the non selling 20%. Now check the prices and make adjustments if needed. Then try this “quick edition” of your new menu and check it once a week for the next 4 weeks. Check how all your staff performs with this new menu and try to improve the quality of your items whenever possible.

Now I will share another secret with you. When it comes to describing your items one of the many tools we use to communicate them in the menu  is the book Words that sell, by Richard Bayan. This book will provide you with proven formulas to engage your reader and a long list of words (really long) to help you in many situations.

For example, how would you describe something as natural or fresh without sounding cliché or boring? Let’s quickly try it out with a Mojito for a healthy clientele, let’s say that this bar is in Los Angeles, USA.

“Our genuine Mojito combines soulful mint with unrefined pure sugar cane and pristine lemon juice. Carefully muddled and topped off with refreshingly crisp club soda making it a very relaxing and low-calorie drink.”

How does it sound? It certainly sounds appealing to me!

If you want to start putting more money in your pocket and run a better bar, now is the moment! You can get the book and give it a try yourself or you can contact us for our services and put our ideas and other secrets to work for you.

And please, don’t do this,  this is a BAD menu!

Better to this, a simple and good use of a chalkboard,

Have you seen any really good menu lately? share it with us!

If you apply the 100% rule or use the book I suggested for your menu, please share your experience here with all of us!

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia.

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Quick and easy converter

This is not a real post (I repeat: this is not a real post) just that I’m sharing this quick online converter tool – from US / imperial oz to ml. US cups to ml, and other volumes into ml.

The next real post is coming on January 15th, about menu development and a couple of secrets!

Hope you have enjoyed the first post (with over 600 views already and I’ve received no insults but nice words and feedback whatsoever)

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia

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Drinks (some) bartenders hate to make. And now Mojitos are banned from NY.

In 2006 the newspaper San Francisco chronicle published an article about 5 drinks (some) bartenders hate to serve. I don’t agree with the reasons they give, neither with the idea of “hating” to serve a drink. You can find the original article here and in this other blog  as well (a good blog BTW).

Now in 2012 there’s is an article in the NY post where some NY bartenders confess that they hate making Mojitos because it is “simply too time-consuming to make, while at labor-intensive cocktail bars, it’s been deemed out of fashion” (yes Mojitos!, that iconic flavorful money making drink!).

For example: “It’s a matter of basic economics” …“Time is money. You can make six or seven other drinks in the same time [it takes to] make three mojitos,” he (Freddy Thomas, 41) says.

A good mise en place and proper technique allows you to make Mojitos quickly, I am a bartender myself and I can testify this. But most important: they are missing a key point of pricing strategy (and basic economics): people are willing to pay an extra 50 cents for a Mojito, because they like it and because it has added value over a Rum and coke. Added value is the same reason why guests are willing to pay more for freshly squeezed juices than juices from a carton box. Added value is why they go to your bar.

Another reason they give for not serving Mojitos: “Once one person is seen with a mojito, others are inspired to order it. “It’s like a disease,” says [downtown bartender Freddy] Thomas.”

But, isn’t that what you want in your business? People consuming high profit margins items?  And if it encourages others to order it, is it out of fashion?

A Mojito is a happy drink. A drink that makes people talk to each other not only about their lives but about the drink itself, they’re talking about your product. It is a drink that brings positive energy to your business. How can you refuse to serve a jewel of the crown?

It is worth remembering that there is a bar in Paris called “Mojito Lab”, where it mainly serves…well, you guessed! Mojitos! Or the bars “La Floridita”, from Cuba to the world over. Bacardi’s marketing campaign is based on the Mojito itself and, God they know about selling rum!

If a Mojito is time consuming, will they ban Dry Martinis as well?

My minty advice: have a talk with your front of the house staff and make sure you’re surrounded with the best staff you can afford. It is your business, get rid of lazy bartenders and bring on those who want to work an help you build profits making your guests happy.

Be my guest, Lucas Ranzuglia.

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