Food is serious business. Now, on The Main Course, host Barbara Castiglia will invite insiders on the front lines of food to share their expertise, strategies, and forecasts for navigating the ever-changing restaurant industry.

 

Every great meal needs an equally tantalizing beverage. For a pulse on what’s happening in the world of cocktails, host Barbara Castiglia spoke with Nicole Quist, Beverage Director for bartaco, known for its fresh take on tacos and spirits. Quist fell in love with the restaurant industry while in college and has been charting a course in beverage management ever since.

Explaining the vision of bartaco’s cocktails, Quist said, “We want to speak to what the guest wants. Drinks are simple but well-executed with freshly squeezed juices and bold, vibrant flavors.”

Things at bartaco changed when COVID-19 became reality. “We wanted to reimagine what our at-home guests were looking for, and as our CEO says, ‘Hospitality is safety’.”

So, could to-go cocktails work? Quist revamped the menu and researched the laws in the states in which they operate. Not all states allowed for to-go, so they improvised. “In Connecticut, we partnered with a local distillery to bottle spirits together. We were able to get registered in the state and put some people back to work.”

Where legal, the restaurant makes to-go cocktails. The attention to detail and freshness is still the guiding light of the new venture. “We’re still juicing by hand and don’t batch make. We pared down the menu, and the managers have a great system to ensure drinks are fresh,” Quist said.

In areas where they can’t sell to-go spirits, they have a new margarita mix called the bonfire margarita. In the change to deliver experiences outside the restaurant, Quist and other leaders in the company began to focus on the to-go packaging. “We’re using eco-friendly packaging and wanted the design to match our brand. It’s so much more important now,” she added.

Quist is optimistic about bar culture’s future, believing that the atmosphere and experience of freshly prepared cocktails will never be replaceable.

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