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.

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.”

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