Caught in the Draft
For those not accustomed to the protocol in craft cocktail bars, being told a drink may take 10 minutes or more to make is enough to send them out the door, never to return. Until recently, though, the issue of rapid service of classics and craft cocktails seemed insoluble. Not anymore.
Given the proliferation of draft wine, expected to experience growth of more than 75 percent, it's not that many more steps to draft cocktails. Tad Carducci of Tippling Bros. consultancy has created beverage programs using draft cocktails for some time now, with Mercadito in Las Vegas currently serving 7 on tap. He predicts, based on numerous conversations with national account restaurant execs, that by the end of 2016 there’ll be draft cocktails poured in some major national chain restaurants. In fact, he's been working for a supplier company on a soup-to-nuts guide to making, serving and maintaining a draft cocktail system for any size operation.
“Operators are now seeing the long-term value and return on investment possibilities, and there are now so many more vendors in the game, for everything from tubing and fittings to installation, that it’s far easier to set up,” Tad says.
Installers are seeing the upswing as well, especially since draft wine programs have awakened many operators to the necessity of using different grade stainless steel, plastic tubing, and gas compared to beer. Even the beer draft world is experiencing change since many craft beers require the so-called "Guinness mix" of mostly nitrogen to serve beers best. And with the advent of cold draft coffee, soon every new operation will have the equipment in place to serve almost any drinkable beverage from a draft system.
Customer resistance is minor, especially when a guest can have a cold Negroni served as quickly as a draft beer instead of that 10-minute hand-crafted house specialty. And when that first or second chain account Carducci posits finds out how quality control, portion control and consistency is improved, it won't be long before draft cocktails are in place anywhere volume is key. Even ordering Manhattans, among the simplest of classic cocktails to make, can be iffy unit to unit, region to region, chain to chain. If standardization, a byword at most chains, has any real meaning, once any remaining kinks are worked out, draft cocktails will be everywhere.
Once something can be done well, it will be done.