Shining a spotlight on the reality of a fresh-juice cocktail program. (PART 3 of 3)
I would recommend you read PART ONE and PART TWO of the "Fresh Juice" blog posts before reading this one, as I cover what "fresh" means and dig into the flavor variances of different juices and sour mixes.
If an account is considering going the "all fresh squeezed juices, in-house", this article is meant to shine a light on that reality and showcase some of the pitfalls that you might not think of straight away so you can make an informed decision.
There is no comparison with the flavor of fresh-squeezed vs all other juices, as it has not had time to oxidize (which means, less bitterness) and the juice gets the added benefit of the aromatics from the oils on the skin to make the juice taste that much better.
But, it does require more attention, more resources and more money.
There is a shorter shelf life on fresh-squeezed juices. 1.5 days is usually the maximum you want to hold onto it. (Some bartenders may argue that it's actually shorter than that.) You also may not want to juice every lemon or lime in a case. (The small hard ones are extremely bitter and can effect the whole batch.)
Juices that are lightly pasteurized are more consistent than fresh-squeezed juices. It’s the same juice every time. It’s not going to quite match up in flavor with squeezing fresh citrus fruit, but in many cases, for the guest, it’s not going to make or break the flavor of the cocktail.
With that being said, not all brands of lightly pasteurized juices are created equal. We’ve done taste tests and there is a remarkable difference in brands. Some can be extremely acidic and bitter. (Part TWO covers some specific brands and flavor variations.)
Using a lightly pasteurized juice is less expensive than squeezing your own, both because of the labor involved in making fresh and the fluctuation of the cost of fresh citrus. As I write this, the current market rate for a case of limes in Arizona is $75 for a 120 case count. That's $0.62 / lime or $0.62 for 1 ounce of lime juice. Ouch.
On the flip side, a lightly pasteurized juice will remain consistent in price. (For example, Sun Orchard is around $0.11 / oz)
As is implied in the name, pasteurization extends the life of an ingredient. Lightly pasteurized juice has a much longer life than fresh squeezed (about 12 days vs. 1.5 days for fresh squeezed juices) so less waste.
As anyone that has squeezed fresh citrus fruit knows, there is quite a bit of waste afterwards - the spent citrus shells. Do you just throw it away with your trash? Probably. And, it is most likely disposed of in plastic trash bags too, making the breakdown difficult. Many juice companies dispose of their waste in much more economical and “green” ways by working with compost organizations or not disposing of it in plastic trash bags.
Using a standard Sunkist industrial juicer, it will take a person a 2-3 hours to juice 6-8 quarts. And that’s assuming someone is juicing limes, lemons, orange juice and grapefruit. This includes rinsing the fruit, cutting the fruit in half, rinsing out the juicer every 30 pieces of fruit, straining the juice and bottling it and the clean-up afterwards. Often, this can fall to the bar back. Or, if it’s a hotel that cost can be absorbed by the garde manger kitchen who can juice for the entire property. There are ways to cut down on that time, but that usually comes with someone who has done it for a while and can develop an organized system to streamline the process.
A CASE STUDY
There was chain a few years ago that wanted to incorporate fresh juices into their beverage program. (This was a chain that went from “sour mix out of a gun” to going all fresh, all the way.) Sounds great, right? It failed miserably. They juiced cases of fruit and threw away gallons of fresh watermelon juice. Sales dropped. What went wrong? They tried to do too much, too soon. Going to a fresh juice program can’t be done in a day without some serious training and a look at revising the recipe book. I’ve seen some other cases where a National Account hires a “celebrity mixologist” and while this mixologist may make some amazing drinks and has won all kinds of awards at their bar, they may not understand the context of working with a national account and its limitations and challenges. That can end up costing a lot more money than just their day rate.
Fresh juices and syrups are rather “advanced” ingredients and leaving an inexperienced bartender to “eyeball” them into drinks or freepour them, just doesn’t work. (It would be like hiring a new cook off the street and expecting them to be able to “eyeball” or “free measure” the recipe for a loaf of bread. ) Proper training sets the bar up for success, without it, it’s being set up to fail which will affect the bottom line.
Recipes need to changed to fit a fresh juice program. (The recipe and techniques are different using fresh juices and syrups than a recipe using a “sour mix.") They can't just be swapped out.
Now, with that being said, it CAN be done! There are many multi-unit accounts that use all fresh juice and do it successfully, but it requires training and the right set-up. And I can't emphasis the training piece enough. You just can’t do it with a flip of a switch. Fresh Juice Program + Training = Success (higher sales and less waste.)