At The Baxter Inn, bar manager Lewis Jaffrey makes us an Old Fashioned. At most high-profile cocktail bars this drink is ritualistic. It might start with a sugar cube at the bottom of a heavy-footed tumbler to then be crushed and stirred with aromatic bitters, followed by ice, more stirring and occasional pours of rye whiskey to slowly aid the cube in dissolving. Then, more stirring and more of the above repeated until we finally reach the desired amount of liquor, dilution and chill to be finished with a twist of orange and perhaps a fresh cherry. At the Baxter Inn, it comes straight from a tap, a beer tap, with all the trimmings.
From hotel bars to hole-in-the-wall dives, venues around the city are taking their most popular mixed drinks and cocktails, batching the mixture in old (but clean) beer kegs and dispensing it from the rig that once housed local brews. It’s not just cocktails though. You’ll find a variety of wines pouring at Sweethearts Rooftop Barbecue and Besser on Crown Street, Gin and Tonics tapped and carbonated at The Powder Keg and even nitro coffee dispensed freely from taps at Pablo & Rusty’s in the CBD.
Why? The ritual of cocktail making is a beautiful thing that in certain bar environments elevates the drinking experience. Part of the price of drinking in fine cocktail bars is watching your bartender make the drink from start to finish. While we’ll always have our purists and traditionalists, bars are a business and with the growing demand for high quality cocktails, certain venues have to find an answer to keep up with the need for their now well-educated clientele, and they need to come out fast.
Enter the cocktail on tap. It comes out as fast as a beer on draught, the existing system chills it to four degrees and the pressure in the keg retains all the quality of a well made cocktail that might otherwise take twice as long to make.
Jules Marchetto of Casoni in Darlinghurst has two cocktails on tap; a Negroni and an Aperol Spritz. “What it comes down to is speed, efficiency and most importantly, consistency,” he says. The kegged cocktails are measured in bulk, sealed and then hooked up to their tap system. All it takes to make a quality cocktail is for anyone of the staff to physically pull the tapped liquid into an iced glass, garnish it and you’re good to go.
Since putting the two cocktails on tap, the restaurant has seen a spike in sales, which is attributed to the speed and ease of the rig. “It really is a no-brainer. We can provide the best cocktails possible through the tap system and dispense them in no time at all, which keeps our guests (and us) happy. To cater for a party of 25 people who have all ordered Negronis is in no way daunting anymore, we can bust them out in a matter of seconds and subsequently it gives us more time to focus on other aspects of the night’s service.” Similarly, the Baxter Inn put at least 400 Old Fashioneds over the bar every week, a figure simply not possible without the tap system they have behind the bar.
Tapped cocktails might not make it to every bar in the city and whilst it may seem a novelty, it is with its merits. A ‘cocktails on tap’ system allows bars to provide mixed drinks in a consistent and time-saving fashion to groups of guests of any size without a substitute of quality.