Doubles Trouble

doubles .jpg

QUESTION From: Brenda C in CA

“How do you charge for a single versus a double cocktail?

My customers have become accustomed to a drink made of 2 ounces of booze. For better or worse, that’s what they are accustomed to. I am fine with not changing that. So, a “double” would probably be more like a 3 ounce pour (because 4 seems insane to me.) Any thoughts on that?”


HH Answer:

I can’t stress enough the importance of defining pours on your terms - not your guests’ - and then taking steps to actively ensure both accuracy and consistency at the bar just as you would in the kitchen.

Guessing by “drink” you mean a shot or a mixed drink?

If, like most establishments, you sell a variety of drinks and offer various kinds of glassware in which to serve them,

your pours should vary depending upon the types of drink. And if not - I would strongly recommend sitting down and developing a more formal beverage program.

Menu development, whether it’s for food or beverage, requires a thoughtful and deliberate pricing matrix, consideration of sales viability, tastings and testings and focus groups for A/B testing. 

Start with costing out every beverage as you would with food ingredients when developing and standardizing food recipes.

If you recognize the value in doing this for the BOH - standardizing the bar should be just as important to you - if not more so - considering the increased profit margin of that revenue center.

But costing out menus / recipes isn’t enough. You have to make sure the recipees are being followed.

If a dish calls for a 6oz steak, a spoon of potatoes and 3 stuffed mushrooms - its pretty obvious what’s going on if you see an 18oz steak and a mountain of potatoes that cover 3/4 of the dish sitting in the pass.

Recipe adherence isn’t so obvious behind the bar, especially when you’re dealing with liquids like vodka and tonic which happen to be the same color.

While many people believe there are industry standards, menu pricing can be a lot like a legal contract – although there are “boilerplate” standards out there, you can really do whatever you want so long as it makes sense for both parties (and you aren’t over-serving your guests).

Doubles can be tricky and there is defiantly a greater responsibility that comes along with serving them.

I understand that your guests are accustomed to a 2oz pour but pours don’t exist in a vacume... just as no one dish exists alone. (i.e., you wouldn’t serve a 1/2 pound burger with a foot high onion ring tower and then have a turkey sandwich with an once and a half of meat on it.

All that being said, there are a lot of reasons why I don’t like a 2oz pour for a shot or mixed drink. One of which being that I would not want to serve a 4oz double. I would dial my pour for a standard mixed drink down to 1.5oz. 

Tweaking your existing bev program might not be as noticed as you think - and would make up-charging much easier, more reasonable and more profitable as well.

But make no mistake; a well designed beverage program isn’t a one pour fits all type of scenario. 

The type of drink definitely makes a difference - 1.5oz of alc for a rum and coke might be perfect... but for a nice scotch or a martini, 1.5oz might seem a bit scant.

Although one of the golden rules in hospitality is “you can always add but avoid taking away”; thoughtful recipes and pricing strategies for: rocks, up, neat, tall, etc...often help with the transition and avoid the need to soften the transition into fiscal and social responsibility with comps for regulars who might otherwise feel like you’re “jacking prices” on them. 

If you agree with regard to restricting your doubles to 3 oz but aren’t interested in dialing down your shot pour and/or redesigning your entire beverage program; I would caution against putting the word “double” on the menu, in a spiel or in print anywhere if you aren’t actually serving “double” the amount of alcohol.

Keep in mind that instead of offering “doubles”, you could go the more “modern” route and simply add an ounce or a "floater" for a modest up-charge. Instead of offering a “single” or “double”, have you considered listing ounces on your bev menu as follows:

1.5oz $X | 2oz $X | 3oz $XX etc.. 

Once you do make a decision re: liquor portioning and pricing - I’d revisit your multipliers (i.e., double, neat, tall, rocks, up, soda, juice, mix, etc...which should also be carefully considered based on both COGs AND margins.

In my experience, I find an equal amount of $$$ lost with improper pricing as I do with inconsistent pouring / bartenders relying on “counts” (instead of ounces) due to the fact that not everyone “counts” at the same speed.

Just as you have a chef or manager examining every dish in the pass; your bar staff should be regularly monitored for accuracy as well (See: info on pour-test tools).

Knowing that your bartender’s counts are accurate is just as important as your pricing drinks appropriately.

Keep in mind that multipliers are rarely “round” numbers; but the final cost is usually a clean / easily rememberable # based on tiers (well, mid and top) as I have mentioned in previous replies.

Taking the time to price appropriately and train properly can often mean the difference between giving the house away and opening another location.

Developing a solid bev program is really one of the big ticket items that make an experienced bar manager or consultant worth their weight in gold. If you’re not confident and your own ability to do this then consider hiring someone with experience to do it and take advantage of the opportunity to learn how.

If you do decide to re-vamp, keep in mind that while that 1/2 ounce might be missing - your doubles, strategically priced, could represent a real bargain by being heavily discounted.

Many establishments price a single shot somewhere around 15%, then discount the second “shot” at 50% off so that the double ordered is more than justified while still making sense from a COGs perspective.

(If you run a matrix based on 3 general tiers (i.e. well, mid and top) and price each shot WITHOUT the mixer first, you can then add the second shot for half that price.

e.g. If a Captain & Coke is $6, a double in this scenario could be only $9 instead of $12).


Keep in touch Brenda. Curious to see which direction you decide to go and whether or not these thoughts are helpful,

Josh Sapienza