Skip to main content

2013 Trend: “Cocktails on Tap” Go West

Cocktails on tap may bring to mind a lazy bartender. But The Manual discovered that’s just not the case.  We caught up with Mat Snapp, beverage aficionado for Fox Restaurant Concepts, and Erick Castro, mixology extraordinaire, whose best known for topping Esquire’s top bar and restaurant list in the Bay area.

Both mixologists shared the art of the tap and why it’s trending in 2013. Popular Arizona and California eateries are imbibing this trend with old favorites like Negronis and Manhattans.

Related Videos

Snapp said the trend is taking off because people are noticing the consistency and on the bar’s end its all about efficient service, while creating less waste.

“People are realizing the key to great cocktail programs is integrity and consistency,” Snapp said. “A ‘cocktail on tap’ delivers both of those things every time.”

Snapp, beverage manager of Phoenix’s Fox Restaurant Group, crushed any false pretense that the “cocktail on tap” is not fresh and reliable. Their current Manhattan on tap at Culinary Dropout has Knob Creek rye whiskey and three different bitters among its ingredients.

Snapp told The Manual that there is one limitation to serving cocktails on tap: all the ingredients must include alcohol so the mixture does not separate. This limits your choices to a select few quality concoctions.

“The Manhattan and Negroni are cocktails with alcohol-only ingredients and once you mix them they stay ‘in solution’,” Snapp said. “It goes into a keg… but any time you have anything with natural ingredients it separates out. This would mean that the consistency would be off immediately.”

So the golden rule is: All liquor all the way.

And now you may be wondering how the how the hell you get a “cocktail on tap”. Snapp laid out the process. First it starts with good mixologists and exact measurements. But overall the system is similar to that of a “wine on tap”. They use a metal Cornelius keg to store the cocktail and push it out the spout with nitrogen gas.

“Its not rocket science, but it takes a minute to get all the parts in the right place,” Snapp said. Overall it’s still quality and well calculated.

Culinary Dropout bartender Ian Nelssen is behind the current Manhattan on tap, which will stay on spout until May. Snapp tells us that lighter cocktails will be on tap for the summer.

“We are thinking about a Vesper or a Corpse Reviver… It’s 50/50,” Snapp said.

Nearby in San Deigo, Erick Castro has relocated to his roots joining restaurateurs Consortium Holding. Their latest social engineering project is Polite Provisions in the up-and-coming Normal Heights neighborhood.

It’s their take on a former corner drugstore, with spirits and classic American cuisine. But what’s most impressive is that it features a 46-tap system with five “cocktails on tap”. We were told this is one of the most intricate in the country. Castro has made a reputation for bringing vintage cocktails to life and hopes to inspire the same pre-prohibition spirit ideas in Southern California.

“We’re using recipes inspired from the 1800’s and creating them in a format that no one would have been able to experience before,” Castro said. “It’s reviving a piece of American history in a new way.”

Editors' Recommendations

Why Juneau, Alaska Might Be the Most Interesting Food City on the West Coast
Roma Bistro

Juneau is the capital of Alaska and a modest town of just over 30,000 full-time residents. It's also home to one of the most interesting food and drinks scenes in not only The Land of the Midnight Sun, but the entire American West Coast.
Jared Cure, owner of local cocktail hotspot The Narrows, says a lot of people like him are moving back to where they grew up, bringing with them fresh ideas and creative energy. “Juneau seems to be having a resurgence in the food and beverage scene over the last number of years,” he says. “It’s great to see in our remote part of the world.”

Preservation is a big part of the Alaskan way of eating. “From smoking salmon to canning berries, we’re always looking for ways to eat our local product year round,” he says. At his bar, that translates to spruce tips frozen each spring, rhubarb in the summer, and blueberries in the fall. It also means using glacial ice in cocktails.
“The Narrows was born out of a love for craft cocktails and spirits,” he adds. Cure spent a combined fifteen years in the foodie west coast towns of Portland and San Francisco before returning to Juneau. “That time in larger cities shaped my idea of what a bar could be. It’s an aggressive concept for a small remote town, but it’s a small enough bar that it works.”
One of Cure’s favorite and most Alaskan cocktail concoctions is the Blue Bear. It’s a mix of Bacardi Gran Reserve 10 Year, fresh mint, lemon juice, and house-made wild Alaskan blueberry syrup, topped with Fever Tree ginger beer. Better still, it’s poured over glacial ice chards.
“Some of my favorite spots in town include Seong’s for some wild Alaskan salmon sushi, Roma Bistro for a cocktail and an appetizer, and Red Spruce to see what Chef Nel has been working on,” Cure says.

Read more
This New Cocktail Book Brings The Art Of The Mocktail Into Your Home
new alinea mocktail book for at home mixing zero spread bbq

In this age of wellness and self-care, zero- and non-alcoholic beverages are gaining ground fast. Being more aware and in charge of your overall health is trendier than ever, and with the negative health effects of excessive alcohol consumption widely known, there is greater demand for drinks that taste like different kinds of tipples but without the heavy calories, nasty side-effects (read: hangovers), and health detriments. So, where once upon a time you might have had to make do with bland, alcohol-free beer, now there’s a wealth of options, from beer to spirits to yes, even cocktails. 

A mash-up of mock and cocktail, mocktails are coming in hot as a drinking trend, offering all the flair and flavor of a regular cocktail but without the booze. Fun and inventive, even drinkers who aren’t trying to lay off the booze can enjoy them. 

Read more
The Wonderful Weirdness Of The Ramos Gin Fizz Cocktail
Ramos Gin Fizz

While whiskey and rum cocktails can stand up admirably to heavier cocktail ingredients -- the use of dairy in Irish coffees and coconut cream in piña coladas comes to mind -- gin tends to fare better in light, refreshing beverages that allow the spirit’s botanical notes to shine. Citrus, vermouth, even olive brine -- all cocktail mixers that don’t weigh down the gin and enhance those floral, juniper-esque flavors.

That’s why a gin cocktail that includes both egg whites and heavy cream sounds like the product of a fever dream ... that is, unless you’re familiar with the Ramos Gin Fizz, an unabashedly peculiar libation that uses both ingredients and that inspires the esteem of many professional bartenders. Curious about this gin-based cult classic? Read on for the full scoop on the Ramos Gin Fizz, along with two recipes to try at home.
What is a Ramos Gin Fizz?
Like so many other great cocktails, the Ramos Gin Fizz can trace its origins back to the Big Easy. In the late 19th century, bartender Henry C. Ramos created this beverage, calling it the “New Orleans Fizz.” The drink soon hit it big at Ramos’ self-owned NOLA bars, and fans eventually decided to credit him in the cocktail’s name. Hence, the “Ramos Gin Fizz.”

Read more