Drinks Doctor: Should I offer drinks on tap?
Forget the old image of bag-in-a-box wine – take a chance on new brands and convert your ale tap to instant negronis, says Gordy McIntyre
Diversification is a very interesting and topical term in the world of pubs right now, as we continue to read the alarming statistics about the high rate of pub closures. But there is a great need for pubs to embrace and evolve to stay relevant for the progressive culture of the nation, who keep our amazing great British pubs alive.
These amazing institutions have been in situ for hundreds of years, so there's no need to alter the fundamentals, but maybe to use the existing infrastructure in a more modern way, not only for the guests but for us landlords to reap some benefits.
In our restaurant we have always championed the use of tap or keg wine, as not only does this cut down on storage space and waste collections costs, it has a more positive impact on our carbon footprint, because it allows us to serve great products consistently and without waste, time and time again. With this idea in mind when opening Hicce Hart, I wanted a tap that currently – as much as it pains me to say it – can struggle in the modern pub: the ale tap. By adapting the method slightly we now serve pulled wine as our house wine, directly from two of our hand pulls.
With over 40% of on trade sales attributed to wine and spirits sold in pubs, the ability to serve wine in a quicker and more guest-focused manner really makes sense to me. By using the keg or bag-in-box method we are helping our small, independent producers ensure they make 100% profit from their harvest, and waste is equally saved. I know what you are thinking – ‘bag-in-a-box wine' – but trust me on this, the quality of wine in cans, bag and keg are exceptional and many fantastic growers are using all of these methods to deliver their juice.
This swiftly leads me on to the notion of cocktails in pubs. The idea of someone shaking a Boston while there is a queue of punters waiting for a pint used to send shudders down the spine of the owners I first worked for in London. To be fair, the annoyance is still very relevant, let alone the fact the space needed for the paraphernalia attached to delivering a decent cocktail means redesigning your bar. To navigate both issues we, along with our trusty cellar gurus, have adapted the Grundy Coupler connection, purchased a refillable 15 litre keg and, hey presto, we have our own in-house pre-batched negroni on draft. The joy of pre-batching ourselves is we have the means to change it when we want and have control of the margin.
Along with making your bar unique and interesting in terms of the product range on draft, these two changes have saved us in terms of fridge space, waste collection costs, our carbon footprint and the ability to manage and control our margins better.
To make a long story short, in order for the pub to stay relevant, we must diversify, but not lose the fundamentals of what makes pubs great. The ability to use the existing infrastructure in different ways is one of the first steps to repositioning pubs and keeping them part of their communities.
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Cocktail of the week: Viajante87's mango Zapoteca
- 50ml sesame vodka
- 45ml mango cordial
To make the sesame vodka, toast sesame seeds and distil again in Crystal Head vodka to add a savoury, umami, flavour.
To make the cordial, add coconut water to a Superbag along with Italicus rosolio di Bergamotto, mango skin, lemongrass, lemon zest and sansho berries. Sous vide for two hours and then add citric and malic acid to stabilise the acidity of the cordial.
Shake both the ingredients together and pour into a double old-fashioned glass. Add a block of ice and sinapis alba (mustard seeds) for garnish.
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