Tamir Ben-Shalom of Bull Valley Roadhouse in Port Costa, California shared their fresh citrus juice rotation schedule, which is meant to use up fresh citrus and minimize waste.
- Use small bottles for citrus, filled all the way up, both to make it last longer and to have easy quantity calculation.
- Make it easy to cut to order at the end of the night and squeeze just a bit of juice.
- Have a system to use the juice in order from oldest to youngest.
We are normally closed Monday-Tuesday, and Wednesday is Dram Shop (a guest bartender night with a changing drink list), and to start the week, we only use citrus leftover from Sunday.
Each Small Hand Foods syrup bottle (530ml) is dated for lemon, lime, and grapefruit. When cold pressing our juice, we fill bottles to the very top and cap em. We are fine with them for up to 3 days. Will taste on 4th day, but that’s usually only on Saturday and it’s never more than a half bottle. Hand juicing and allowing the least amount of oxygen will keep it fresh the longest.
Keeping the excess to minimum is crucial and the bartender is in charge of that. I’ve seen a barback take over and they will over squeeze a lot for a few reasons. Mostly, because they are trying hard and mean well. The use of smaller bottles will keep the usage under control. When you use the same containers and have a strict system, the bartenders can gauge what they are using. Math plays a big role. We say they are 500ml bottles and then we speak in litres and will eventually translate how many bottles to the litres. When they understand the math, it’s not as daunting and over squeezing is cut to a minimum.
When we do over-squeeze juice on Sunday and we have to use it all up on Wednesday, we aren’t always successful saving it. If the bartenders are [our own rather than guest bartenders], we will create drinks to use it up and maybe serve a punch as well. If we have guest bartenders, I don’t want to disrupt their creativity, but usually they need lemon and lime. Finally, if we have more than a bottle left over, we will offer to the kitchen staff or someone to take home. It’s pretty rare though. As a rule, we do toss on Wednesday, but it’s usually not much.
As for bottles of juice, they rotate from one well to the next. Oldest at the main service wheel, 2nd oldest in the personality station and the back ups line up from oldest to newest in the back. Rules, rules rules!!
Last but not least.... bars should have a cutting board with a knife and a large hand juicer at an easily accessible station during service. This will control usage. If the bartender can easily squeeze 2 oz of oj, they won’t panic and squeeze a full bottle of it.
We always use the spent citrus first when squeezing. We have strict rules with cutting fresh citrus for garnishes and keep our usage at a minimum. 4 limes, 2-3 lemons, half grapefruit, etc. We always expect to cut more later in the evening, and the barbacks are instructed to look at the garnish bowls.
The barback might not have to cut new garnishes if it’s later in the service and can simply split the garnishes left in a co-bartender's bowl. This takes training, like the juice. We are diligent and keep our fresh garnishes to a minimum. We rarely use more than 10 pieces of fruit. So we are wasting about 2 a night in average. Bothersome, but I can sleep ok.
An Excess of Fruit
When chef gets a deal or accidentally buys too much citrus.... cordial time!! I also make some citrus syrups that have some cordial qualities. An ideal example are the golden nugget mandarins we get this time of year. I make a syrup using the skins and juice.
The garnish for the cocktail is flexible, but when we have too much left over, I’ll dehydrate them and that’s the garnish.
Ben-Shalom noted that their juicing is done with a strong hydraulic press. The pulp it leaves behind is very dry so they don't feel the need to try to reuse ginger and other pulps. For their ginger, they grate 30 pounds at a time and vacuum seal it until they need it. "The bartender will pull a bag out from the fridge and press away."