It’s Friday night. You roll into a highly recommended bar with the finest date in the room. You crack open the drink menu to find they’ve got your favorite beer on tap. Crisp, clean, delicious… You can’t wait.
But, wait a minute… is that Beyonce over there?!
Shouldn’t she be home with the twins?
Wait, this is no time to worry about that. What’s that she’s drinking? Is that…? It is! Ladies and gentlemen, she’s drinking a draft cocktail.
Wait a minute… You’ve never heard of a draft cocktail? Psssh, of course you haven’t. It’s not like you’re Beyonce.
Alright, so we have no idea if Beyonce drinks draft cocktails. But, like Beyonce, draft cocktails are innovative, strong, and they definitely aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
Just like a draft beer, draft cocktails come from a keg through a gas-powered tap, no mixing or stirring required. Intrigued? Check out this step by step breakdown of draft cocktails. What are they? Where can you get one? Do you even want one? Don’t worry, we’ll answer all your questions, plus give you the inside scoop on how you can preview some draft cocktails from the comfort of your couch.
What on Earth is a Draft Cocktail, Anyway?
In short, a draft cocktail is a premade mixed drink, brought to you from a keg via a gas-powered tap. But there’s a lot of magic that goes on behind the scenes to bring perfectly crafted mixed drinks to your table in mere seconds.
It’s not as simple as tossing together the ingredients from your favorite cocktail times ten and throwing it in a keg. I won’t bore you with all the science behind it, but suffice it to say, it takes some work.
How's it Made?
First, cocktails need to be filtered several times to make sure their ingredients don’t separate, and all the equipment has to be designed to fight mold and corrosion. The drinks are preserved with citric or malic acid and any perishable ingredients are avoided entirely. According to bar owners, all this work in advance is worth it to ensure quicker and more affordable cocktails for the consumer.
How's it Served?
For a still (or non-carbonated) mixed drink like a Margarita, liquid-insoluble nitrogen is used to push the liquid through the line, but for carbonated mixed drinks, your typical CO2 tap will suffice. That means that bars may have to upgrade their tap lines to accommodate the needs of different draft cocktails. They must be saving an awful lot of money on shakers.
Are They Any Good?
What makes a draft cocktail superior to one mixed by hand in front of you? Well, to answer that let’s take a look at a draft drink with a longer history.
Draft beer is often thought to be superior to beer in a bottle or can. There’s plenty of reasons for that, and they apply to mix drinks as well.
1. Temperature Control
Beer is best when it’s kept at a consistent temperature, and away from light exposure. A keg helps ensure both of these things. Since kegs go from the distributor to the bar, they’re kept consistently chilly. No one likes a warm beer. A keg also keeps the sun from getting to the beer like it does in a glass. I’m not exactly sure how exposure to light might impact a draft cocktail, but I do know a thing or two about temperature.
Having ordered mixed drinks at a bar on many occasions, I can say with certainty… it sucks when your drink is quickly mixed over some ice and poured. Pockets of lukewarm liquor mixed with a splash of chilled chaser don’t make for a very appetizing drink. If the bar is busy, it’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll be greeted by a glass full of disappointment. You could always order your drink on the rocks, but then you’re faced with a time-crunch. Can you finish the drink before it’s a watered down shell of what it used to be? Draft cocktails eliminate this problem. They should be consistent every time you order them, kept at an ideal temperature, and easy to order, just like a beer on tap.
2. It’s An Investment
Putting something on tap is an investment. You have to be sure you’re going to be able to turn it over, which means it needs to be good. Many bars only have a few beers on tap, so they have to be particular about which ones they serve. Because draft beers tend to be the most popular option at the bar, they usually turn over a keg pretty quickly. That means you’re more likely to get a fresh beer from the keg than from a bottle or can, which have an ample shelf life and unpredictable sales.
The same is true for draft cocktails. It would be a bad investment to put crappy cocktails in a keg and try to sell them. The bar is going to invest in brands and blends they know are going to taste good and sell well. If they’ve perfected their draft cocktails, then they should have a pretty consistent and delicious product to offer.
3. Cheaper Than a Classic Cocktail
Just like toilet paper, socks, and beer, liquor is cheaper when you can buy it in bulk. Pre-made cocktails in a keg undoubtedly cost less than buying all the ingredients separately and paying someone to mix them together for you. Hopefully they pass those savings on to you as an extra incentive to give them a try. Although, in my experience, many places maintain the high price-tag as a cost for the novelty.
In fact, did you know that your favorite bar is charging you five times what it costs them to make a drink? It’s true, most bars aim for for a beverage cost of 20%. Meaning, the ingredients for the drink cost them 20% of what they charge you. Even if they purchase their cocktails premade in a keg, do you really want to pay five times the price for a cocktail you could make at home? #justsaying
Should I try One Then?
If you happen to be somewhere with draft cocktails, and mixed drinks are your thing, I’d suggest ordering one. It’s worth it just for the temperature control and consistency. Clearly I’ve been burned too many times by poorly mixed drinks. That’s why I prefer to mix my own. You can get cocktail kits delivered in 30 minutes here.
Where Can I Try One?
The first bar dedicated entirely to the craft of creating and serving draft cocktails opened in 2016, and since then there’s been no looking back. Brooklyn’s ‘Yours Sincerely” offers a full menu of craft cocktails on draft, with 20 unique drinks to choose from. For them, it was about being able to “bridge the gap between a cocktail bar and a fast, high-volume atmosphere like a dive bar or nightclub”. The faster you can serve a drink, the more you can sell in the same amount of time. Sounds like smart business.
Since 2016, draft cocktails have been becoming increasingly more popular. If you live in a city or metropolis, check the menu the next time your out, and chances are good they’ll have a cocktail or two on tap. Even some smaller and local bars are starting to invest in drinks on tap, so it’s always worth checking the menu.
How Do I Get One at Home?
If you’re like me and prefer to drink at home, basking in the gentle glow of Netflix, you’re probably wondering how you can try a draft cocktail without the stress of going to the bar. Unfortunately, as of now I was unable to find anywhere that rents kegs of cocktails with a hand tap, like a keg of beer. I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.
Unless you plan to install a tap-line in your kitchen or home bar, there’s no way to experience the fizzy premade freshness from home. However, you can make our at-home batch cocktail versions of popular draft cocktails. Unlike beer, and premade mixtures, bottles of liquor often improve with age. So, no need to worry about the age of your bottle. When you mix it yourself, it should always taste fresh. Check out these great batch cocktail recipes you can enjoy from the comfort of your couch, pants optional.
This recipe from SeriousEats is seriously simple. Get 8 ounces of gin, 5.5 ounces of sweet vermouth and Campari, and 6 ounces of bottled drinking water. Combine it in a glass bottle and chill overnight.The best part of this Negroni recipe? You can make it without ever leaving the house. Just open up the Saucey app, and you can have all the ingredients at your door in as little as 30 minutes.
Mix up some Manhattans at home with another simple recipe from SeriousEats. All you need is a bottle of rye whiskey, vermouth, and bitters. Combine it with some water and chill in a bottle or decanter until you’re ready to serve. Fast, easy, and all without ever leaving home.
Our Conclusions on Draft Cocktails
So, here’s where we landed on draft cocktails. If you happen to be out drinking at a bar or club, they’re definitely worth checking out. Fast, consistent, and easy to order. But otherwise, nothing beats making the real deal yourself, from the comfort of your own home. Whip up a batch to share… or not. We won’t tell anyone. Use code READINGROOM for $10 off your first order and get everything you need delivered to your door.