Pull Me a Drink
We thought we had seen it all when the wine-by-the-keg phenomenon poured its way into bars across the country, but bartenders remind us that the wonders of the spirits industry never cease. From East Coast to West, they are introducing customers to a new kind of drinking experience, ordering a straight-spirited cocktail on tap.
Kevin Diedrich, bar manager of the fairly new Jasper’s Corner Tap & Kitchen in San Francisco’s Serrano Hotel, which has only been open less then a year, says, "We’ve been doing this since we opened. People had already been doing Jameson, vermouth, and wine on draft. It was something I wanted to do to separate us from everyone else who was already doing straight-spirit on draft. I thought, why not put a cocktail on draft?"
Diedrich instinctually took the concept behind wine on draft technology and applied it to putting a cocktail on tap. He hooked up one of the six taps on the back bar to an empty stainless steel Cornelius keg, commonly used by home brewers. Pressurized nitrogen, which does not carbonate the cocktail, is used to pump the beverage from the keg to the taps. If the cocktail requires carbonation, the nitrogen is substituted with carbon dioxide.
Since its opening last summer Jasper’s Corner has been offering customers the classic Negroni on draught. Diedrich takes the recipe for a single cocktail (1 ounce gin, 1 ounce Campari, 1 ounce sweet vermouth) and translates it directly into a large format batch (4 liters of gin, 4 liters of Campari, and 4 liters of sweet vermouth). Diedrich purposely chose a straight-spirited cocktail that isn’t comprised of sugars or syrups for two reasons: "A straight-spirited cocktail will not separate, but if the mixture includes syrup then the sugar will eventually sink to the bottom. The consistency of the cocktail is completely different and the keg will have to be shaken or stirred." Secondly, he adds, "I’m filling up the keg weekly, but the shelf-life is going to be forever because one, it’s sealed, and two, it’s straight spirits so there’s nothing in there that’s going to spoil, like citrus and sugar."
Practicality isn’t the only reason behind his choice of cocktail. Diedrich shares that there is something alluring about the Negroni being an "industry-driven drink." He says, "It’s an acquired taste that takes a little time for the novice to get used to. People who order the Negroni, know the Negroni." In keeping with that insider practice, Jasper’s Corner has very recently introduced a second classic cocktail to its bar taps, the Hanky Panky (gin, sweet vermouth, and Fernet Branca) — not that you would know it by looking at the drink menu! Diedrich explains, "We like it being this underground you-need-to-know kind of thing. There isn’t a giant handle on the back bar that says Hanky Panky or Negroni. It’s kind of a cultish following that everyone knows about."
— Vincenza Di Maggio, INSIDE F&B