Americans are drinking more hard liquor — particularly in fancy cocktails. If you run a bar, this is good news to the extent that mixed drinks typically sell for more than beer. But this is potentially also a problem. Mixing a complicated drink is more time-consuming than just drawing a beer so service slows down. Further, you need to have enough trained staff. If your bar is competing on offering a variety of fancy craft cocktails, you need to make sure you always have a competent mixologist behind the bar at all times.
But there are creative ways around this problem. According to the Wall Street Journal, bars are now putting some drinks on tap (Mixed Drinks on Tap: Faster Manhattans, Negronis and More, Sep 10).
As demand for creative craft cocktails shows no sign of slowing, bartenders have struggled with how to serve drinks quickly while preserving the taste. From small bars to hotel chains, they are making large batches of cocktails and connecting them to tap systems like those used for beer. And cocktails on tap, also called kegged or draft cocktails, make it easier to serve mixed drinks at large events.
“You can sell it with the speed of a draft beer. It’s the best of all possible worlds,” says Anthony Caporale, a cocktail consultant and representative for Drambuie, the whiskey liqueur that sponsors a competition for kegged cocktails.
OK, first point: Can you read the phrase “cocktail consultant” without wondering if you have gone into the wrong line of work?
Second point, this is a really nice example of using inventory to shift capacity in time. Capacity has a use-it-or-lose-it quality, particularly when you think about services. A dentist might be in her office this morning but unless the patient shows up, she has nothing to do and there is nothing she can do to reclaim that idle time. Here, pre-making drinks can be done before the bar opens, getting productive use out of what would otherwise be idle capacity. Here is how one bars does it for a particularly popular drink.
Now they make a 5-liter batch at the beginning of a shift and store it in a steel keg kept in a walk-in refrigerator downstairs. The kegs connect to tubing that runs upstairs to the bar. The batch lasts up to two nights, serving approximately 45 drinks a night at $14 each, Mr. Schaal says.
Note that this also simplifies staffing. Creating the batch can be done by the most-skilled bartender and then every customer gets the best experience. As the article notes, this is particularly handy for hotels doing wedding receptions and other events. Rolling in kegs of already mixed booze is easier than taking in cases of bottles and the serving staff doesn’t have to be as skilled.
But what do customers think? That, in some ways, is the most interesting angle on this. Bars are obviously not presenting this as labor-saving practice. Instead they are pitching it as an example of their extreme skill. Further, they can actually improve service with the technology since they can now offer a taste of the drink before it is ordered.