Pros and Cons of Cocktails on Tap

Cocktails on tap continue to be one of the biggest and most talked about industry trends. Innovators of the approach claim there are several clear benefits, from saving time and money to improvement of the cocktails as the product is aged.  However, with the high demand for more complicated multi-ingredient fresh and craft cocktails comes the reality of struggles with consistency, timing and execution.

Cocktails on Tap for Restaurants and Bars

Here we’ll update you on how this trend has grown in the past year with key insight on the pros, cons and implementation of cocktails on tap from this past years VIBE Conference panel of experts including Kathy Casey & Danny Ronen of Kathy Casey Liquid Kitchen, Matthew Meidinger of Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group, and Brandon Wise of Imperial & Portland Penny Diner.


-          High speed of service
-          Ability to use and retain quality, fresh ingredients under pressure
-          Lower staffing requirements
-          Ease of training new staff
-          Higher profitability due to faster service of a higher profit margin product
-          Reduces mise en place
-          Flexibility to offer tastings/different pour sizes


-          Requires manual agitation
-          Minor separation issues
-          Ker replacement parts
-          Over-pouring, tastings, theft
-          Batching mistakes are very costly
-          Cost of start-up equipment
-          Perception of cool trend vs. cheating


Once you’ve decided to incorporate on‐tap cocktails into your menu, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind explained the panel.  Most important is creating a system to keep track of your profits. To maintain appropriate costs you need to price out your batched cocktails, track input amounts and schedule refills.

In order to keep score training, training and more training is key. Instituting a jiggering/measuring practice for tap cocktails can help, in addition, to increased policies on not drinking or gifting. Permit a pre‐determined “sampling” allowance per day that is recorded in a small sample serving vessel to prevent over‐pouring for consumers that want to try the product before ordering an entire glass. Always make sure that tracking and batching logs match the Point-of-Sales (POS) data.

It’s also wise to think about what types of cocktails you are going to serve - citrus‐based cocktails can go bad while spirit based cocktails will not. Putting one skilled person in charge of batching quality cocktails increases consistency and decreases waste.  

The ability to serve masses in seconds saves time and money. Nightclubs for example can offer “hip” specialty cocktails on the fly. Hotels can serve premium classics to discerning travelers.  Even in “difficult” environments like Union houses and with “seasoned” bartenders who don’t want to learn new tricks can take advantage of having cocktails on tap as an option.

Pool bars often run lean on staff but have tropical drinks that can take time; batching and kegging cocktails allows for a more efficient one man/woman show.  Busy craft cocktail bars can put common classics on tap to take pressure off the well and open up more time for “bartender’s choice”.

Increasing sales of cocktails on tap is easy, as well, with Limited Time Offers (LTOs). It increases customer urgency to try new products before it’s gone and allows operators to test-drive new techniques, products and ingredients without long-term commitment. Operators can also introduce seasonal flavors and generate buzz and exclusivity through platforms such as social media.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of breaking it down. One 5 gallon batch is equivalent to roughly 150-200 individual drinks, explained the panel, and takes approximately 10 minutes from start to finish to prep a batch. With a 3.5 second average prep time per drink for tap cocktails and a 25 second average prep time per made to order cocktails, in theory you can produce 7 tap drinks for every made to order cocktail.


For more information on the most relevant industry information and trends make sure to attend the 2015 VIBE Conference for exclusive research for the chain beverage executive, taking place on March 31 – April 1, 2015 in Las Vegas.