When thinking about kegged beverages, the first things that come to mind are probably beer, cider or, if you’re especially trendy, nitro cold brew coffee. But kegged cocktails are just as much a part of the on-tap tastiness as these other beverages. Keeping cocktails on tap may seem like a difficult endeavor, but the benefits of having your most popular mixed drinks ready-made at the pull of a handle are well worth the practice needed to find perfection.
Benefits of Kegged Cocktails
The biggest advantages of having draft cocktails on tap are seen most clearly at happy hour. The ability to dispense ready-made mixed drinks from a tap allows for faster service than making each cocktail individually. The cocktails being delivered are also far more consistent, since they’re all coming from the same batch. These are beneficial for both the bartender and the customer: the bartender can serve up dozens of drinks at greater speed and accuracy, which reduces waste and increases profit, and the customer receives their drink quickly. Customers also have the option to sample different cocktails without committing to a full drink if they’re new to the scene or just want to mix things up at cocktail hour.
To Sum Up the Benefits of Kegged Cocktails:
- Faster service
- Greater beverage consistency
- Reduced waste
- Increased profit
- Sample-size cocktail options
Challenges of Creating & Keeping Kegged Cocktails
Creating kegged cocktails is more complicated than simply making a giant mixed drink and storing it in a keg. Adjustments need to be made when you’re creating mixed drinks in large volumes, and finding the right levels of dilution and homogenization are crucial to creating a flawless cocktail with every pour. You can dilute your kegged cocktails after they’re poured by stirring or shaking with ice, but that reincorporates prep time that pouring it ready-made straight from the tap would eliminate. As for homogenization, the amount of effort depends on how many ingredients are used and their densities. For example, mixed drinks made with syrups, like Mojitos and Lemon Drops, will separate over time and create an unbalanced drink if the keg hasn’t been properly agitated.
It’s also important to note that not all cocktails are meant to be kegged. Mixed drinks with fresh fruit juice like Gimlets spoil quickly, so unless you’re certain to go through a keg’s worth of them in a night, you’re better off making them by hand — otherwise you’re creating more waste than you’re saving. It’s best to stick with spirit-heavy beverages that can improve with time as the flavors mingle with each other, like a Manhattan.
Additionally, since cocktails use ingredients like sugars, syrups and (sometimes) egg whites, your kegs and draft lines need to be cleaned thoroughly and regularly to prevent clogs and the growth of mold and bacteria.
Lastly, but potentially most importantly, be sure to brush up on your area’s laws for serving alcohol. In some regions, pre-batching cocktails is actually illegal. Better safe than sorry!
To Sum Up the Challenges of Kegged Cocktails:
- Determining large batch proportions
- Finding the right levels of dilution and homogenization
- Serving cocktails that won’t spoil quickly
- Cleaning and maintenance of kegs, taps and draft lines
How to Make Cocktails in Kegs with a Homebrew Kegging System
In order to get your cocktails on tap, you’ll need the equipment to do it right. Luckily, kegs for mixed drinks are the same ones used for beer and cold brew coffee, so if you already have some at your bar or brewery, you’re already well on your way to delicious, party-sized cocktails.
Equipment for Making & Serving Kegged Cocktails
- Cocktail kegs: try a reconditioned or new ball lock keg (aka, Cornelius kegs or Corny kegs) from our wide selection of keg sizes and styles
- Keg parts and accessories: including ball lock gas lines, liquid lines, carbonating lids, o-rings and ball locks
- Nitrogen cylinders and/or CO2 tanks: to carbonate your cocktails straight out of the tap
- Gas regulators: Beverage Elements carries single, double and even triple gauge regulators
- Tap handles and faucets/draft towers: tap handles are functional and add to the unique experience of serving draft cocktails, but draft towers add an extra level of classiness
The Making of Great Kegged Cocktails
In order to make satisfying and consistent kegged cocktails, you need to have a strong understanding of how long ingredients will keep, how flavors will change over time and under pressure and the types of gas you want to use to dispense your mixed drinks. There’s a lot of trial and error involved, but also a few guidelines that provide a great jumping-off point for making awesome kegged cocktails.
- A good mixed drink is usually one-fifth water once it’s been shaken or stirred. Use this measurement to create your kegged cocktails and adjust as needed. Alternatively, you can create an undiluted cocktail mix that you shake or stir in later, although this will cost you time.
- Use filtered water for greater cocktail consistency.
- Multiply the recipe’s proportions by the number of servings you’d like to make, then resize to accommodate the size of your keg.
- If you will be serving still cocktails, use nitrogen gas. For carbonated cocktails, use CO2.
- To determine PSI, find the pressure that both allows your kegged cocktails to flow freely and have the right level of carbonation. If your cocktails aren’t carbonated, just choose the pressure that pours the smoothest.
- Alcohol resists CO2, so keep in mind that the higher your cocktail’s alcohol content, the longer it will take to fully carbonate — up to 48 hours, in some cases.
- Keep your kegs as cold as possible during carbonation, as this helps the CO2 stay in the drink mix longer — this is especially important for traditionally fizzy drinks like Gin & Tonic.
- If your cocktails have elements with varying densities, like syrups and proofed alcohol, be sure to agitate them appropriately to improve viscosity and ensure your mixed drinks don’t become unbalanced.
- Side Note: Stick to kegging your most popular, spirit-heavy cocktails to churn them out quickly and avoid waste from spoilage.
Find Kegging Equipment & Accessories at Beverage Elements
Beverage Elements carries new and reconditioned cocktail kegs for mixed drinks that will help get your foray into kegged cocktails off to a running start. We have a variety of ball lock keg sizes and all the parts and accessories to go with them. Want some additional help getting started? Contact our friendly team of beverage experts today.