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Cocktails on Tap

Cocktails on tap are popping up on bar menus across the country, and the appeal is easy understand. Pouring a cocktail on draft expedites service and ensures consistency from drink to drink and bartender to bartender. And where there are improvements to volume and quality, revenue is sure to follow suit.

How Do Draft Cocktails Work?

Cocktails on tap rely on the same draft technology as beer and wine. With the pull of a level, batched and kegged cocktails held in cold storage (or at room temperature, in some cases) are forced by way of gas pressure through food-safe lines to a waiting glass. From there, the bartender need only garnish before presenting the drink to her customer.

Benefits of Cocktails on Tap

    Faster Service

    Faster Service

    Draft cocktails eliminate many of the tedious gesticulations that craft cocktails typically require. That means, customers receive their drinks fast, even when the bar is slammed.

    Increased Profits

    Increased Profits

    Time is money. The faster your staff can prepare a drink, the less it costs your bar to make said drink. Some of those cost savings can be passed to the customer (who may end up ordering another because they are so affordable), and some can go straight to your bottom line.

    Product Consistency

    Product Consistency

    With cocktails on tap, every drink will taste the same regardless of who’s pouring. Even inexperienced bartenders can serve a perfect draft cocktail (as long as someone experienced is doing the batching, of course).

    Product Sampling

    Product Sampling

    With kegged cocktails, menu offerings like cocktail flights are completely feasible. They also afford you the ability to pour small tastes of what’s on tap for indecisive or inquisitive customers. Just be sure to factor in the cost of samples when pricing out your batch.

    The Carbonation Option

    The Carbonation Option

    Force carbonating a cocktail is difficult if you’re making drinks individually, but force carbonating a keg of cocktails is a different story. With a draft system, fizzy Gin & Tonics, Pimm’s Cups, Mojitos, and more can be ready with the pull of a tap handle.

    Challenges to Consider

      Batching

      Batching

      Batching a cocktail isn’t always as easy as multiplying the measurements in a single-drink recipe by the number of desired servings. And even if you’re thinking in terms of ingredient ratios, adjustments to proportions are sometimes necessary in large volumes. Moral of the story: it takes a skilled and experienced bartender to make a nuanced and well-balanced big batch cocktail.

      Dilution

      Dilution

      Pouring a draft cocktail over ice doesn’t dilute it the way shaking or stirring would. To compensate, you need to incorporate water into your recipe. Alternatively, you can stir or shake a kegged cocktail with ice before you serve it, but then you are reintroducing some of the à la minute labor you were hoping to eliminate.

      Homogenization

      Homogenization

      If you’re kegging a cocktail made of ingredients with varying densities (spirits and fruit juice, for example), you’ll want to agitate the kegs regularly to keep the the cocktail from separating.

      Spoilage

      Spoilage

      Fresh ingredients like citrus juices degrade quickly, which will alter the taste of a kegged cocktail if not consumed quickly. If you don’t anticipate kicking your keg within a couple of days, it is best to stick with spirit-forward drinks that tend to improve with time like Negronis and Manhattans.

      Clogs

      Clogs

      Particles and sediment in fresh juices can build up in draft lines, which can promote bacteria and mold growth and lead to clogs. To mitigate the risk, be sure to filter your ingredients well before kegging and clean your lines obsessively. (And just avoid egg whites altogether.)

      Legal Issues

      Legal Issues

      Pre-batching cocktails is against the law in some areas. Make sure you know the rules where you operate.

      How to Put Cocktails on Tap

      Draft cocktails require some special equipment. Exactly what you need will depend on whether you are planning to serve still or carbonated cocktails.

        Required Equipment

        Required Equipment

        • Cornelius keg (used or new)
        • Cornelius ball locks (2)
        • Nitrogen tank and regulator (if serving still cocktails)
        • CO2 tank and regulator (if serving carbonated cocktails)
        • Air line
        • Barrier tubing, which is made of harder plastic that is resistant to flavor stain
        • Draft tower with all stainless steel contacts (including shank and faucet); chrome-plated brass is not recommended, as the acidity in cocktails will corrode the finish
        • If you are carbonating at a pressure of 40 PSI or higher, a Perlick flow-control faucet and inline flow restrictor is also necessary
        Setup

        Setup

        There are two primary setup options for pouring chilled cocktails.

        • A long draw system is required if your kegs are stored in a walk-in cooler away from your taps. In a long draw system, air-cooled or glycol-cooled lines are necessary to ensure the cocktail’s temperature is properly maintained from keg to faucet.
        • A direct draw system is the right solution if you have room for refrigerated keg units beneath or very near your taps. The short distance from keg to glass means you won’t need special insulated lines or cooling solutions.

        If you are pouring room temperature cocktails or spirits, you do not need a chilling solution.

        Dispensing Temperature

        Dispensing Temperature

        • If serving still cocktails, you can dispense at your preferred serving temperature.
        • If serving carbonated cocktails, 38 degrees is recommended to keep the carbon dioxide in proper suspension.
        Pressure

        Pressure

        • For still cocktails, dispense at whatever pressure allows your cocktail to flow freely
        • For carbonated cocktails, you will need to figure out the proper pressure for maintaining your preferred level of carbonation. PSI will depend on how fizzy you want the drink.
        Gas

        Gas

        • Still cocktails should be pushed with 100% food-grade nitrogen. Nitrogen molecules are smaller than carbon dioxide (CO2) and will not absorb into the solution as readily.
        • If you’re carbonating you cocktail, use CO2.

        If you’d like to discuss installing a cocktails on tap system in your space, give one of our draft equipment specialists a call today at 1.888.415.2803.

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