Dominate with Draft Cocktails

Silver taps on modern bar wall
Image: Getty Images

Bar professionals, veteran and new, attend the annual Nightclub & Bar Show for several reasons. One of those reasons is getting powerful advice from industry experts and icons.

Nightclub & Bar Show favorite Tobin Ellis, two-time (in one year!) Nightclub & Bar Show Award winner Erick Castro, and high-volume master Tim Rita rocked a fast-paced, hard-charging panel yesterday morning. The trio got the first day of the Show off to an amazing start.

One of the topics of discussion was draft cocktails. An increasing number of high-level operators are adding draft cocktails to their menus, including this panel. Ellis gave everyone who attended the panel session the draft cocktail recipe to begin their journey into the drink category: Tommy’s Margarita.

Batch a 2:1:1 ratio of tequila (blanco or reposado, lime juice and clear—not amber—agave nectar), find a keg that circulates its contents, and put it on draft. Of course, once the lines are hooked up, don’t use them for anything else or you’ll need to rip them out.

Read this: Top 5 On-Premise Cocktails Revealed

Obviously, one of the key attributes of cocktails on tap is speed. The other, convenience. However, they’re not a magic bullet. Castro cautioned all in attendance that draft cocktails may never be the top sellers, but they’ll help ease pressure on the bar when its slammed.

However, they may just end up as a bar’s top orders. Ellis explained that he once put a single cocktail on tap at an operation and they sold through the entire batch in about an hour. He and the bar team had to quickly start batching again to keep up with the demand.

Anyone choosing to add draft cocktails needs to bear a few things in mind:

  • Learn how to batch properly, including types of kegs and the temperatures.
  • A draft cocktail is still a craft cocktail—the crafting just occurs on the back end, not in front of the guest.
  • Don’t this with mediocrity in mind, do this to dominate the competition.
  • Take your time—there’s no need to rush and load a menu full of draft cocktails all at once.

To the point about domination, there’s a reason Castro is one of the most respected, most successful, and most sought-after bar professionals in the world (and why he took home two Nightclub & Bar Awards this year). He doesn’t do anything to be mediocre. He does nothing to be second best.

Read this: The Keys to Serving Cocktails on Draft with 18.21 Bitters

Which leads us directly to the last point: take the time to do this right. Ellis recommended nailing one draft cocktail, becoming known for it, sticking with it for a year, and making money on it before moving on to another. He also advised operators who are confident they’re best at something in their markets to research that thing for a week and becoming a student of it. In fact, he believes operators should become students of their menu items.

Want to learn more about cocktails on tap? Missy and Kristin Koefod are poring over the operational and technical details of draft cocktails during their session “Pouring Out Tips for Cocktails on Tap” on Wednesday, March 27 at noon in room S226. These two operators have built a business focusing on masterfully crafted cocktails with ultra-low cost. They don’t even require highly trained bartenders to batch or serve them!

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