Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Counting Room Goes for Batching Drinks and Pared-Down Program

The Counting Room, one of the best and most unappreciated of the Williamsburg cocktail bars, is making some changes to its drinks program.

Whereas in the past one stayed upstairs to drink wine, and went to the basement if cocktails were the order of the day, now one will be greeted with a unified menu for both floors. According to a press release, the change "is necessitating not only a new cocktail list, but a new type of cocktail program, one that increases the speed of production, while maintaining the unusual style of cocktails, headed by Maks Pazuniak, that The Counting Room has been known for."

In the name of speed, the cocktail list has been pared down to five selections, and each of those will be pre-made, or batched. This method is used by a lot of bars around the country, but hasn't been touted by the new cocktail movement, which prizes freshness and the individual crafting of each drink. The downside of this attention to detail is that drinks often take a while to reach you. "In the growing market of artisanal cocktails, speed is an area where there is a lot of room for opportunity, and The Counting Room is jumping on it," read a press release from the bar.

One can't help but agree, but one wonders whether such a system will effect the quality of the cocktails. Time will tell. But it's hard to imagine Pazuniak allowing a poor drink to leave his bar. A talented mixologist, he is a veteran of New Orleans' Cure and has been praised for his use of bitters and other unusual flavors in cocktails.

The five drinks on the menu are as follow. Good to see they've retained the Salt & Ash, which I've previously praised as one of the best cocktails in town.

Parade of Lunacy - Sparkling Wine, Wine Aperitif, Orange Bitters, Lemon Peel

First Transmission from Space - Cynar, Homemade Ginger Syrup, Apple Brandy, Mint

Salt & Ash - Mezcal, Lapsong, Sweet Vermouth, Fresh Lemon Juice, Grapefruit Peel

Look Both Ways - Gin, Fresh Lime Juice, Chartreuse, Wine

The Last Slow Dance - Whiskey, CioCiaro Amaro, Apricot Liqueur, Bitters, Orange Peel


frederic said...

Drink here in Boston batches several cocktails -- more on their busier nights and none on their slower nights. Crowd size does affect the craft that can go into each drink or what drinks they recommend, but batching can allow more ingredient-intensive drinks to be served. It also allows for a mini-menu (albeit oral) at their menuless bar.

SPS said...

I see no problem batching the stirred drinks, but the shaken items may present some issues, given the volatility of citrus. I wonder how they'll compensate for that. Maybe batching every few hours, as opposed to before shifts. In fact, there has been some interesting research in the last year or two (see Dave Arnold's blog) suggesting that citrus, particularly lemon and lime, oxidize at differing rates and the optimal (most satisfactory in terms of taste) point for consuming those juices is not immediately after they are squeezed. So, maybe Maks and the Counting Room really are onto something here. Though, I hope they're still making their in-house Amer Picon. That stuff is killer.

Robert Simonson, "Our Man in the Liquor-Soaked Trenches"-New York Times. said...

Thanks, people. Smart comments, both.

frederic said...

The citrus would be squeezed at the beginning of the shift either way and the batch is used for the shift only (not sure if you're suggesting that citrus would go bad faster in a mix than as juice alone). Any excess goes to the bartenders or into making milk punches that get bottled and served another day.

I know that they will add sensitive ingredients individually to a pour from a batch.

Maks said...

Thanks for the post Robert.

To answer some questions regarding batching, we leave the citrus out of the batch. The citrus is mixed with the batch per order, to ensure that we're using fresh squeezed juice. Shaking and stirring is also obviously done to order.

Also wanted to note that Troy Sidle (formerly of the Violet Hour) was instrumental in the creation of the menu, and several of the new drinks can be credited to him.

Though the list itself is pared down, we'll still be able to deliver the full canon of classics and "dealer's choices" that people love.

Hope you guys make it out soon to try new menu.


Maks Pazuniak

Robert Simonson, "Our Man in the Liquor-Soaked Trenches"-New York Times. said...

Thanks for the clarifications and elaborations, Maks!