Dial M for Manhattan: should you make cocktails to go?

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Location: UK
Other: Business, Venues

Good cocktails require three things: quality ingredients, time, and a skilled ‘tender. With bars from the Emerald Isle to the Pearl of the Orient offering cocktails at a mere tap of an app, we thought it was about time we looked into whether drink delivery apps are a no-brainer or downright pain in the arse for bar owners.

For a consumer, the Highballs at Home idea is an easy sell (£40 price tag aside): pick up a phone, tap a few times and a Colebrooke Row cocktail can be at your door within 10 minutes. No need to change out of the PJs.

But for a bar, the advantages aren’t quite as clear cut, with any rewards offset by not insignificant negatives.

‘We thought cocktails would be a good idea,’ Laundrette bar general manager Joe Bateman tells Imbibe. ‘But you can’t always maintain the consistency if people aren’t shaking it down with ice [at home]. If you look at our Instagram you’ll see we put a lot of effort in; a vast percentage of the appeal is how it looks.

‘Normally with any drinks going out to a table, a good 80% of the table spend five minutes taking photos. You might be able to transfer the liquid, but you’re never going to transform the look. The first sip is with the eyes and you lose that with the delivery.’

In addition to looking a bit below par, the general manager says the logistics were proving problematic, with any Deliveroo order joining the line of orders at the bar.

Colebrooke Row's Negroni

Colebrooke Row’s Negroni

‘None of our cocktails are pre-batched,’ Bateman says. ‘A big, big part of it was whether the cocktail is stirred or shaken, and how long you would do that for, for the dilution. A lot of them we had to transport part-made otherwise they spoil.’

After months, the Chorlton bar (Manchester’s first to opt into the delivery app business) cut its losses and now only offers food and bottled beer to the at-home drinks enthusiast.

Tredwells from Marcus Wareing in London’s Covent Garden came unstuck the same way.

‘We offered it for around eight months,’ Stefan Jansen, guest relations manager, says. ‘And because of where we are based, there’s quite a lot of business. It was a good thing to do at the time. But now we have decided to focus on our in-house guests instead of outside, and make sure we can deliver the service here instead.’

While it might not be for some, bars like 69 Colebrooke Row – and sister venues Untitled and Bar Termini – are better equipped for the Deliveroo demand, in part due to the fact many of its cocktails are already available in bottle format. Before you say it, the team is already in discussions to create a more environmentally friendly way to transport its drinks, other than the glass bottles it currently uses.

‘We started to offer it due to customer demand,’ says bar manager Louis Ugabade-Campbell. ‘We’ve always had clients that come in and say: “we really want to have this at home”. And I suppose over previous years, we’ve said you’ll just have to come here and have it.

‘I guess when someone asks you the same question 10 times over you start to listen and go right, we need to look at doing this on a larger scale.’

Opening their ears has proved profitable, despite Deliveroo’s 40% cut of sales. Colebrooke Row is 24-bottles-a-week to the good.

‘We make all of these bespoke products, they’re very labour intensive,’ he says. ‘They’re not on a conveyor belt. But we’re at the stage now, where we have enough knowledge and enthusiastic staff to batch these things up on a slightly larger scale.

‘It’s bringing in lots of extra business for us. Obviously, there is an administration fee with Deliveroo and there is a split, so it’s not 100% profit, but it is more profit than we have seen in any other year.’

So, it would seem the drinks delivery app game is as you’d imagine: a faff with flaws that can be a nice little earner on the side if you have the time and resource at your disposal.


Woo-Woo Deliveroo

Tried and tested, the customer’s experience

What’s a girl to do when she’s in need of a decent cocktail, but has absolutely no drive or inclination to change out of her PJs and face the biting cold? Get someone to bring it to her of course.

Faced with this dilemma on a cold Tuesday night I sought out the nearest booze-purveyor that would bring drink directly to me. Living in central London, it turns out there were quite a few willing to indulge both my laziness and antisocial tendencies. Wine, spirits, beers and cocktails are all available at the touch of a button in these parts. But it was to 69 Colebrooke Row I was drawn. Or more specifically, to their Negroni.

Almost £40 with the £2.50 delivery fee included, felt like an indulgence. But ten minutes later, here it was. I must have looked my age in my cat-adorned PJs, as the warning the ID may be required didn’t seem to apply. The wine bottle-esque packaging was wrapped in paper to protect it. And with the addition of one hefty ice-cube, there it was, a world-class cocktail in my own home.


How much?

Our experience of ordering a £40 cocktail left us wondering… what else could we do with £40 in the time it takes for a Deliveroo order to arrive?

Back, neck and shoulder massage: Need a little help relaxing? You might after you check your bank balance. A 30-minute deep massage at Depilex Health and Beauty, in Marylebone, Central London should do the trick though.

A flight to Amsterdam: Need to get away from it all? Okay we’re cheating a bit here, the flight actually takes an hour. But that probably makes it more of a bargain. BA has a one-way flight from London for £37. We can’t help you with getting home though.

Lunch at a Michelin-starred restaurant:  Okay, well, just the main course. Tom Kerridge’s the Hand and Flowers in Marlow has a number of dishes that hover around the £40 mark. Make ours the Slow Cooked Duck Breast with Duck and Chicory Tart, Oat Crumble and Blood Orange. Yum.

About Author

Claire Dodd

As a freelance journalist, Claire has written about pretty much any topic you can imagine, from which are the best sausages, to how to flood-proof your home. However, her writing on drinks began when she landed a job as a features writer for the Publican magazine in 2007. Adjusting to a lifestyle of sampling the best drinks from around the world was tough, but someone had to do it. Having left the title in 2011, today Claire focuses on drinks and travel writing for both consumer and trade titles. Aside from searching the globe for the best drinks, and the nicest spots to consume them, she also judges global brewing competitions and keeps an eye on the business moves of the on-trade.

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