Batching ingredients is now a common way for many venues to speed up service, maintain consistency and give bartenders time to concentrate on garnishing ever-more complex drinks; but taken to its extreme, batched cocktails can be dispensed via a beer-style draught system, offering novelty to the experience.

From Shoreditch House in London to Wylie Dufrense’s New York bar/restaurant Alder, the tap cocktail programme, while gaining traction in top bars around the world, still raises a few eyebrows in the bartending community. However, the point of this article is not to suggest that venues ditch the shakers and mixologists for dispense machines. Since many a cocktail bar will offer draught beers to cater to those who want something quick, and many a high-volume restaurant will have cocktails made at a dispense bar that guests don’t even see, why not pre-make your cocktails and simply dispense when ordered?

Here’s a run-down of the process and a few considerations should you wish to give this a try:

1. Make sure you have an empty line on your draught system, and make sure the lines are clean - ideally new. Pumping cocktails through an old yeast-encrusted line certainly won’t benefit them!

2. Ask your beer supplier for old (cleaned) kegs, or buy new or reconditioned from a wholesaler. Kegs generally start at 5 gallons (22 litres), but don’t have to be 100% full if you’re still experimenting with draught cocktails.

3. Pick your cocktail. Drinks that contain all alcoholic ingredients tend to be the most popular as they are stable (and therefore less likely to turn bad) and its components are less likely to separate in the keg. The Negroni, Aperol Spritz, Manhattan and Vesper Martini are all common choices. You can work with fresh fruit too, as the system will keep oxygen out, helping to preserve your concoction longer. Sangrias are particularly popular in this case as they are frequently ordered and sold in larger glass sizes, which means the ingredients don’t sit in the keg for too long.

4. Batch your cocktail by scaling up your ingredients, but don’t forget to add water if it’s a drink normally made with ice. Stirring down a Negroni or shaking a Vesper might add as much as 40% water when making a single serve. If you’re just going to pour over the rocks or straight into a cocktail glass, then you need to add that percentage of water for it to taste the same. Add your mixed ingredients to your clean keg and seal tightly.

5. Decide if you want to carbonate your cocktail or keep it still. Nitrogen will maintain freshness without carbonating so that your cocktail will keep for a few weeks. Carbon dioxide systems will add fizz, but also acidify drink (more so the longer you leave them kegged).

6. Once pressured in the same way as a beer keg, you’re ready to go!

7. Simple spirit and mixers are another popular draught option, such as a G&T, Mule or a Paloma, and can be easily tailored to your venue, whether it’s offering a simple serve at a good price point, or a more premium product such as a Tanqueray No. TEN G&T with an artisanal tonic and aromatic bitters, or a Don Julio Blanco Paloma with a home-made pink grapefruit soda.

8. With all of these options, what you get is a quick, consistent serve that can help during that peak rush, be a point of difference on your bar counter and free up some bartender time to keep your guests entertained as well as well-watered.


Paul Mathew is a bar owner, drinks consultant and writer. He is based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and owns a bar in London, so regularly travels in-between looking at bartending styles and trends.