Shaken, stirred or poured from a tap? New cocktail method gaining traction in South Florida

 

icordle@MiamiHerald.com

Sidle up to a bar, order a fancy mixed cocktail and watch the bartender pull on a handle to dispense the richly hued drink.

Cocktails on tap are making a splash in South Florida, following a trend that has appeared in bars and restaurants , from Portland to Washington.

Bartenders tout the benefits, like faster service and consistent taste in the batched concoctions, underscoring that they are made from fresh ingredients. Yet, they acknowledge that some patrons may miss viewing the age-old performance of mixing and shaking.

Michael Mina 74 in the Fontainebleau Miami Beach and Batch Gastropub in the Brickell area of Miami recently began offering up the latest twist in drinks. Area 31 in the Epic Hotel in downtown Miami did, too.

“It brings another level of fun and excitement to a cocktail program,” said Rogelio Flores, assistant general manager of Michael Mina 74. The bistro, which opened late last year, is the first among the company’s 19 restaurants to offer draft cocktails.

At Michael Mina 74, four cocktails are available on tap: “Pimm’s 74,” “In the Air Tonight,” “Mojito Guarapo,” and “Rule #237.” Each drink, priced at $16, incorporates freshly squeezed juices rather than pre-packaged mixes. Other mixed drinks are priced the same.

“There’s nothing premade, except for the cocktail itself,” Flores said of the drinks on tap. Once the drink is poured over ice, bartenders add garnishes such as mint, fresh sage or an orange wheel.

Making huge batches of the cocktails every few days makes for a reliable drink, bartenders say. “There is a movement among bar professionals to really give better consistency,” Flores said. Even measuring with a jigger for each drink can lead to human error, with varying levels of acidity or sweetness.

“You try to do all the hard work ahead of time, so the quality of the cocktails is on par with anything you can get,” Flores said.

Cutting down on mixing time is also a huge plus for time-pressed mixologists.

Getting a round of drinks to the bar or a restaurant table can be done in a flash from a tap, as compared to as long as 10 minutes to put together a craft cocktail, Flores said. Still, the financial benefits are minimal, he said, because the same ingredients and labor are required.

Alexandra Sklansky, director of public relations at Distilled Spirits Council, said she first witnessed the novelty of cocktails on tap in New York a couple of years ago and expects the trend to keep spreading.

“As we continue to see consumers grow their interest in cocktails and spirits, we will continue to see bartenders find new ways to create a cocktail experience,” Sklansky said. “So many bars want to create bespoke and customized cocktails for the consumer, and to make it on tap, it creates a bespoke cocktail experience without requiring the bartender to spend a few minutes to make a drink. You can still get a bespoke cocktail experience without compromising quality.”

At Michael Mina 74, the batched drinks are made behind the scenes, then stored in kegs inside walk-in refrigerated coolers. The lines run through the ceiling down to the taps, which are alongside those for draught beer. Flores said the cocktail selection will change seasonally.

Batch Gastropub is going a step further in delivery. The restaurant’s cocktail lines run from kegs in a cooler outside, under the floor, to taps behind two bars — and, starting last week, to two 12-person communal tables and five other guest tables throughout the restaurant. Each table’s computerized system has a different batched cocktail, which allows patrons to taste as little as an eighth of an ounce, said Jerry Flynn, owner/operator of Batch Gastropub, which opened on New Year’s Eve.

“The computer system monitors and dispenses as much or as little as the customer would like,” Flynn said. All also can be served in a fraction of the time of a craft cocktail, he pointed out.

In all, Batch Gastropub offers eight cocktails on tap priced from $11 to $13: “305 Collins,” “Naked Zombie,” “Clover Bubbly,” “Santiago Sling,” “Long ‘Oolong’ Iced Tea,” “Perfect Margarita,” “King Clay” and “The Entourage.” Some of the drinks are carbonated, using forced carbonation in the keg.

The upshot: “You can turn people on to a spirit they would never normally endeavor,” Flynn said.

The downside: “Everyone likes the show,” he said. “What about the show behind the bar? We do that for 90 percent of everything else.”

Kerstin Thomson, 45, who was visiting from Orlando, sampled a 305 Collins from the tap at Batch Gastropub on a recent afternoon. She said she didn’t mind that it wasn’t shaken or stirred.

“It tastes very good,” she said. “I like it.”

Last weekend, Area 31 also started to offer one cocktail on tap — a combination of Kappa Pisco, homemade tonic with quinine sourced from fair trade organizations, passion fruit, and fresh tarragon from Paradise Farms in Homestead, said lead bartender Dean Feddaoui.

The batched cocktail, “Lost Mystics,” is priced at $13. It is poured from an 11-inch bronze statue figurine of Poseidon, the mythological God of the Sea.

“It’s different. It’s unique,” said Feddaoui, who arrived four months ago, after having offered cocktails on tap at restaurants in Washington and Alexandria, Va.

Bringing the trend here helps elevate the cocktail scene, he said.

“A cocktail menu,” he said, “opens our guests’ eyes to what potentially we can do, how many drinks we can play with, what flavors we can play with, what we can do to make this cocktail experience absolutely mind-blowing.”

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