1 Why are quality mixers important?
You can’t make a good drink with bad ingredients. I liken it to making a margarita with a margarita mix or fresh lime juice—which one would you rather order two of? You always want to put the best thing you can in front of a guest. You don’t want to put wilted mint in a cocktail. You don’t want to put spoiling produce out on your tray. You want the best. When a customer sees a bottle of Dirty Sue, if they’ve never heard of it, they’ll ask the bartender what it is. And that’s a really good point of service to say we use a premium olive juice for our dirty martinis. And now that customer has a better appreciation for your bar because they now know you care about what you’re giving people.
2 Why switch to bottled olive juice?
You’re always going to get some bar managers that say, “why would I buy something I can get for free?” And the answer is right there: you get it for free, how good could it possibly be? The juice or brine that’s in a jar of olives is called pack brine; it’s mostly salt water, and it’s really just there to keep the olives from spoiling. When I designed Dirty Sue, I wanted to do a better version of what people are used to. I worked hard with the owner of the farm we source from to find the right balance of the mother brine that comes in the barrels and the pack brine. What you normally get in a jar of olives is really salt forward with a hint of olive. I wanted Dirty Sue to have that nice olive-forward flavor with a little bit of a salt kick in the back. It makes more of a balanced cocktail.
3 What are the benefits of using bottled olive juice?
The four C’s of Dirty Sue: (1) Cost. You’re not wasting a jar of olives every time you run out of juice because those olives start going bad. (2) Consistency. Whatever jar you have, that’s the juice you have. Also most restaurants don’t refrigerate that gallon jar of olives. You don’t have to, but it’s not going to be as good sitting out in a hot restaurant all day. (3) Cleanliness. There are still some bars that don’t use a spoon to get those olives out of the jar so they’re putting their hands in there. It really is a dirty martini. With Dirty Sue, you just put a pour spout on a bottle, and it’s a no-hands dirty martini. (4) Convenience. Cocktails take a long time to make now, so it’s good if there’s a way to speed up that process without compromising quality.
4 Over-the-top garnishes are trending. Any advice for how to use them while still making a profit?
If you’re going to offer something that crazy—like a giant Bloody Mary with a piece of fried chicken and two pieces of shrimp on top—it’s either something you’re charging for or it’s one of the lost leaders that get people into your bar. To me, a better drink is always a win over kitschy or flash-in-the-pan trendy. Having said that, there are some things you can put in a Bloody Mary that enhance the cocktail. Bacon is a good one—the salty goes right along with the Bloody Mary. Blue cheese, onions, pickled green beans—all those things also work really well.
5 Any advice on using Dirty Sue?
Taste it. Never trust even the recipe I put on my bottle. You want to make sure that what you’re mixing with works for your clientele. It’s really important to know what’s going into your cocktails. Also, a big trend right now is adding salinity to cocktails. The salt balances some of the bitter in your drink and adds a more well-rounded, almost sweet note at the finish. I’ve been playing around with this concept with Dirty Sue, and I call it my “dirty little secret.” I take ½ ounce of Dirty Sue and 3 ½ ounces of spring water, and I put it in a dropper bottle. Then I just add it to some citrus-forward cocktails, and it makes the cocktail better balanced.
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