Saturday, September 15, 2012

Draughts aren’t just for beer!


Most drinkers (myself included) froth at the mouth over a perfectly poured beer, the beautiful head and anticipatory aromas of flavors waiting.  And now debuting all over the country, restaurants and bars are offering cocktails, shots, and wine served on tap, just like beer. Cooks, bartenders, and most importantly the patrons seem to be gushing about its brutal efficiency and consistency. 

From my vantage point the benefits to a bar program include:
  • Ease of service (it takes only a few seconds to deliver)
  • Consistency of the drink
  • Novelty of the experience
  • Pouring a taste to allow a guest to preview
  • Reducing the amount of cans, bottles, cups, and other components necessary to make a custom cocktail, equals a significant reduction in waste
  • Endorsement the establishment is giving the patron… we like this cocktail so much, we made a 100 liters of it!
  • Preservation of wine vs. random open bottles

Maintenance seems to mirror the upkeep of draft systems for beer with only a few exceptions, and the kegged cocktails/wine can retain a high quality for weeks.  Putting additional beverages on tap can make work easier for bartenders, but the kegs with cocktails do require occasional shaking to prevent ingredients from separating.

The legitimate cons for me seem to be centered around the technical aspects like matters of oxidation or setting up the proper equipment.  Other downfalls are that kegs can also make it more likely to lose ounces of the cocktails, which can add up over time, due to over-pouring, samples and self service.

Some talk however seems to be about the culture of drinking and the customer experience. In an age of perfecting the perfect cocktail and charging for it, are we undoing the notion that a great cocktail takes time?  That very ritual, watching a drink come together, constructed one element at a time. I can imagine myself missing that—if an establishment didn’t also serve traditional cocktails.  What are the perceptions if the bartender doesn’t have to do anything other than pour it? 

Timing is everything right?  So on Tuesday when the bar isn’t crowded, maybe I’ll go for the elaborate multi-ingredient, double strained, layered cocktail.  On Saturday when it’s 3 deep at the bar and I want a beverage, that fizzy Negroni served at the same price as the rest of the cocktails with a bigger pour is sounding pretty damn tasty.  

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