Calling the Shots

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Other: Venues

Shrinking your drinks doesn’t mean sticky fluro shots that your customers will want to forget. Laura Foster examines the growing trend of the classy micro-Martini


Shooters – but posh, like
A world away from the lurid, sticky, layered shooters of the 70s and 80s, some bars are creating refined new recipes that are pre-made and poured from a bottle. In London, both White Lyan in Shoreditch and Cecil’s in Bermondsey offer mixed, lower-abv shots on their menu at £3 a pop.

‘Shots are great for camaraderie, but I’ve seen neat booze floor people so many times,’ explains White Lyan proprietor Ryan Chetiyawardana. ‘White Lyan was about opening up cocktails to people. Mixed shots allowed us to address the time issue but also give a range of shots depending on tastes – some are lighter, some sweeter, some cleaner and some boozier. But they aren’t going to creep up on you like ingesting a standard unit in five seconds.’

Some customers order a range of the shots, creating their own sample flights to sip.

‘When we were putting the first menu together, we didn’t even GP our shots menu,’ adds Chetiyawardana’s business partner Iain Griffiths. ‘We just asked what we would want to pay for a shot. As long as we’re hitting our overall menu GP, it’s no issue. We go through 13 70cl bottles of our shots on an average weekend night.’ That’s a total of 364 25ml shots in a night, pop pickers.

Mini classics, good margins
Rather than coming up with brand new shooter recipes, some businesses are merely shrinking ‘standard’ cocktails. Mission wine bar in London’s Bethnal Green offers a range of classics such as Negronis and Manhattans as ‘three-sip cocktails’ at a price of £4.50 each, while Oskar Kinberg of Oskar’s Bar at Dabbous offers the option of splitting one of the original cocktails on his menu between two or three shot glasses.

‘Shots aren’t going to creep up on you like ingesting a standard unit in five seconds’ Ryan Chetiyawardana

‘Our IKEA Sours cocktail with aquavit, rhubarb, jasmine, lemon juice and mandarin works really well for this, but people can ask for what they want,’ he says. ‘We make the drink fresh to order. I think less alcoholic shots are usually better, because it’s a bit of a social ritual and you can have more.’

‘I think we’ll see this trend continue,’ agrees Jack Adair-Bevan of The Ethicurean near Bristol. ‘Negroni shots could offer a business an even higher margin once the reduction in size masks the price increase.’

Shots for health
Dining occasions are having a big impact upon this shooter trend, as restaurant bars try to limit the effect that full-size cocktail aperitifs can have on customers. Charlotte Sager-Wilde at Mission says that its three-sip cocktails were created as a way of allowing a customer to have a couple of aperitifs but avoid being drunk before they’ve started eating.

Timberyard in Edinburgh offers what Jo Radford describes as ‘a pre-dinner cleanser and post-dinner refresher’ as part of its eight-course paired drinks menu, both of which change with the seasons. ‘Our current cleanser aperitif is vermouth-heavy, combining birch sap, vermouth, caraway and aquavit, while the refresher digestif is a British take on the Sgroppino using crab apple ice, Cornish pastis, cider brandy and topped with our own crab apple and Douglas fir cider,’ explains Radford. ‘We suggest you drink them both in one.’

‘Shots can offer a business an even higher margin’ Jack Adair-Bevan

The Ethicurean has been offering ‘sips and sharpeners’ to its customers, such as the Pine and Honey or Beech Leaf Noyau. ‘Serving shorter measures of interesting, challenging drinks leads to our customers being more adventurous,’ explains Bevan. ‘They only take one or two sips to complete, at £6 they’re a lower investment from the customer’s point of view, and allow them to try a few drinks without becoming too squiffy.’

Shots with food
Moving on from the start and end of a meal, Stuart Bale of Strange Hill consultancy has investigated the idea of creating cocktails specifically to pair with food, and has ‘worked on a lot of shot-type drinks that have interesting flavours and can be enjoyed alongside wine without the customer getting panelled’.

‘Short measures let customers try a few drinks without becoming squiffy’ Jack Adair-Bevan

‘People get put off matching full-sized cocktails with food,’ he explains. ‘But a small drink can really enhance some dishes without interfering with the dining process.’

For cocktail-and-food matching, Bale suggests aiming for an abv of 11%-15% per shot, as ‘anything above that starts to interfere with the taste of the food’.

There you have it – plenty of ways to allow your customers to eat, shoot and leave rather than eat, shoot and vomit over their shoes before being carried out…

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