Webinar – Questions and Answers

Answers From Our Speakers

During our webinar, How to Execute Different Drinks on Tap, we received several questions about kegged drinks. While we didn’t get to ask every question during the virtual event, we followed up with each operator and got your questions answered! And don’t worry, we are working on the recording and will be releasing that soon!

Below, you’ll find the answers to all of your questions relating to kegged cocktails, wine, and so much more!

Jim Wright Headshot

Q & A With Jim Wright

Director of Operations at Stanley Beer Hall, The Golden Mill, Broadway Market, and Malcolm Yards

Jim has been in the Food & Beverage industry for 25 years, allowing him to gain invaluable experience in the field. He’s worked at a variety of venues where he has helped set up operations and style venues. He came to Stanley Beer Hall to change over the style of service due to the difficulties they were having with their traditional dispense method. Stanley Beer Hall now has 2 self-pour beverage walls, one inside and one outside. Eventually, Stanley Beer Hall evolved into a greater collection of locations – The Golden Mill, Malcolm Yards, and Broadway Market. Jim’s expertise and advice are so well regarded among the community that even one of our other PourMyBeer customers is taking his lead and offering margaritas on tap (one of his best-sellers!).

Getting involved is not difficult. The biggest piece is the restaurant/hospitality knowledge. Layering in the self-pour component, especially when choosing PourMyBeer, actually makes your operations easier.

We eliminated the bar completely at most of our facilities and will not build another bar in any of our future projects.

We do everything with fresh juices and fresh juices and alcohol don’t play well together over time. We haven’t had anything in a keg longer than 3 days. If you’re making anything with fresh juice, you have a very short window. We have not had any issue with tossing any kegs. 

The lines are food-grade materials and therefore do not absorb flavors. You will need to clean the lines regularly (we recommend at least every two weeks). Additionally, when you change the product to a very different flavor profile (such as IPA to cider), you will need to clean the lines before making such a change, or you will have some mixed flavor profiles.

There are products specifically kegged to maintain the carbonation or “bubbly” component of the product. We have not experienced a degradation over time in the products.

Dirty guests’ hands in the middle of a fruit jar are not ideal. For our margaritas, we have some pre-salt-rimmed glasses out for guests so they have some sort of garnish. At Stanely Beer Hall, we do table service for food so if guests ask for a garnish we can bring them limes for their margaritas. 

With our self-pour bloody mary, guests can buy the “bloody mary meal,” which comes with two strips of candied bacon, celery, olives, etc. We charge $2.50 for it and it works pretty well.  

I have and it typically works very well. Sangria typically has a great fruit garnish (which is a whole other conversation on the cocktail side). You want to pay attention to keeping your lines cleaned because they will get sugar sticky. They sell very well.  

The way the PourMyBeer system monitors the consumption actually gives you measurable metrics so if you need to see anything on record of what a specific customer has had to drink, you have all of that to protect yourself. We don’t have as much of an issue with over-served customers. It’s been very rare that we’ve had to cut anybody off due to the nature of the self-pour wall and the social aspect. 

We have never been asked for customer data. Our policy is that any data that is linked to an individual requires a subpoena from the court.

Our red on the direct draw is outside of our beer cooler. We designed the space specifically for that. When you do your install, you have to have a different gas blend that goes into your beers and cocktails. Your beer tap installer or provider can take care of that. But you do need to plan for it. 

In our first installation at Stanley Beer Hall, we put our red wine outside the beer cooler, but the lines were inside. So in the morning, the first glass of red wine was chilled. We restructured that so it was at the correct temperature.

When you first implement a self-pour wall, you will have a “learning curve” for your clientele. The length of this period will depend on your establishment. We experienced a significant steepening of the curve at about 2 months. After that, you will start to see guests bringing in new guests to show them the system and will train them themselves.  They like being “in the know.”

You will find that the vendors will contact you.  If you are asking about non-alcoholic beer, there are now many microbreweries that offer far superior products to the national brands.

I will give you some examples of what are our most popular – as you can imagine, our recipes are proprietary, and I do have partners to respect.

    • Margarita
    • Moscow Mule
    • Bourbon Ginger Cider
    • Mint Julep (especially this time of year)
    • Raspberry Vodka Lemonade
Matt DiMare Headshot

Q & A With Matt DiMare

Bar Manager and Beverage Director at 2 Tapster Locations and Walden Events 

Matt, a Chicago native, grew up in an Italian household, which led him to develop a passion for food and wine. His interest in cooking and being in a kitchen eventually turned from taking the same concepts of blending flavors in a pot or a pan to doing it in a shaker or glass. He’s worked at various bars in Chicago from swanky cocktail lounges to sticky dive bars, craft breweries, and everything in between. Matt used the same techniques he learned behind the bar to develop and manage the largest draft cocktail program in the city (possibly the country) at Tapster. He also works as the beverage director and bar manager for a 250 person event space and venue that focuses on an elevated bar experience featuring draft wine, beer, and cocktails.

Sure, how bar nerdy do you want to get? 

There is a basic formula you can follow as a starting point to give you the extrapolated measurements of each ingredient. It essentially goes like this: 

Divide the measurement of each ingredient (x), by the total ounces of the individual cocktail including dilution (y), multiplied by the total ounces of the desired batch size (z). 

x (divided by) y (times) z (equals) the measurement of each ingredient. 

Example: Classic Margarita 

Single Cocktail: 

2.0oz Tequila 

0.75oz Triple Sec/Orange Curacao

1.00oz Lime Juice

0.5oz Simple Syrup

1.0 Ice Water Dilution  

5.25oz Total Volume

Keg Cocktail:

238oz Tequila (~7 liters)

89oz Triple Sec/Curacao

119oz Ice Water Dilution

60oz Simple Syrup

625oz Total Volume

**Pro Tip: Most (if not all) cocktails should have an element of salinity. Salt, like in cooking, amplifies and bolsters the individual flavors in a cocktail. Cocktails with citrus absolutely should include salt (hence why margaritas come in salt-rimmed glasses), but there’s an easier more elegant way to get the same effect. Look up saline blends for cocktails (it’s just a fancy word for saltwater). I like to make a 20:1 saline solution for cocktails and use it as 50% of my water dilution. (Or, a 40:1 Saline solution for 100% of my water dilution). Salt in a cocktail makes citrus taste juicier and balances the acidity. It dulls any overpowering sweetness from the simple or curaçao and enhances the natural agave and oak notes from the tequila. Season your food, season your drinks y’all. 

Use that as a starting point. Make things to taste, dial in your own recipes. Taste is going to depend on the spirit you are using, the freshness of your juice, the ratio of your simple syrup. 

That said:

I understand part of the “self-serve” business model naturally eliminates the role of a traditional bartender, but I would urge everyone to seek the assistance of a skilled bar man or woman. Having someone with a strong knowledge of classic cocktails, classic builds, build combinations, acid to sweet balance, the role modifiers play in cocktails, how certain spirits interact with other ingredients like citrus and sugar, is absolutely indispensable. 

No – a centrifuge is the best way. Also the most expensive way by a mile. There are “lightly pasteurized” citrus juices you can buy from several produce distributors. I have used them in the past and they work fairly well (most of the time). Because they are pasteurized they have a longer shelf life. But if the concern is pulp, just invest in some ultra fine cheesecloth and pass it through several layers. You should be doing this anyway. Methods using agar and/or pectin are somewhat effective, fairly time-consuming, and tend to remove the flavor from your juices as well. 

Coffee filters work really well too, just take longer. If you’re moving the product fast enough, spoilage shouldn’t be an issue. If you aren’t moving it fast enough, make less of it. 

It’s not difficult, it’s just a big cocktail. A standard Cornelius keg is 676oz (or about 20L) so if you figure a typical cocktail is commonly 4-5oz, a full keg should be around 135 to 169 full cocktails. That doesn’t factor in waste or the total volume of your batch.

They are called Cornelius Kegs, or Corny kegs, or ball-lock kegs. Those are all the same thing, just different names. I’ve always purchased them used online, a quick Google search will help. Also, Google “cleaning.” I use PBL and then sanitize with Star-San. You fill Corny kegs from the top – the lid comes off. I would recommend searching YouTube and just type in “clean corny keg” and “fill corny keg.” There are hundreds of videos. 

3 to 4 days is my max at Tapster. There’s a slight difference between fresh juice on a bar and fresh juice in a pressurized keg with all of the air removed. There is some leeway there. Understand what your state and county liquor commission suggests. Any kegged drinks that don’t have fresh ingredients, give you more leeway – around a week would be fine. If you aren’t going through your cocktails somewhat quickly, you may want to reconsider what you’re offering to your customers. 

Understanding your ice is very important. Knowing what your ice is and how your clientele (especially if you’re in the self-pour business) is going to be using that ice. For example, many people at Tapster weren’t putting ice in their cocktails right away. We started directing them towards it a little bit. You must understand how your customers are going to be using the ice to know if it will be diluting the cocktails or not as this will determine how strong you make your kegged cocktails. 

We basically omitted the garnish aspect of the cocktail at Tapster. However, I tried to infuse whatever that garnish would impart into the cocktail itself. Think of a mojito on draft. We would infuse enough mint into the cocktail itself (as a cold infusion with the entire cocktail), strain it out into a cheesecloth, and carbonate it. We did something similar with the Old-Fashioned. I did a cold infusion of orange rind and dark cherry before kegging the cocktail. 

I personally wouldn’t put garnishes out as a sanitary issue in a self-pour establishment. It’s also difficult to upkeep. It’s a lot of prep and who is going to replenish the garnishes? How are you keeping it fresh? If you go the direction of self-serve, you have to understand you won’t have extravagant garnishes on your cocktails. In a lot of ways, you can get the essence of the garnish without actually having any. 

I would say the same time period. Clean your lines. Make sure they’re cleaned regularly. It’s an expense, but it’s well worth it. At Tapster, we were having our lines cleaned every other week. Our service provider came in and flushed them out. Also, whoever installed your draft system can provide you with a cleaning keg with a solution to flush your lines out too if you have a cocktail that was one flavor and one that’s completely different. 

I would say, every other week is a good starting point, and then having the ability to clean them and flush them out yourself. You can even just run hot water through them if you have the time and ability to before kegging another drink. 

I blend margins – I also think this might be regionally specific. I can charge $12 for an Old Fashioned in Chicago, not sure the same applies to smaller cities. You can see some margin info in the question below about recipes. 

In Chicago? Cream and Maverick are my favorite. Heritage is fine. 

Where you are located? I have no idea. Liquor distribution is pretty regionally specific. 

No, but I’m not opposed to it. 

PourMyBeer does this for you by putting in the ounce limitations on the card as you activate it. Then having the system there to go into everyone’s tab and card to check what they’ve had. It’s good to have staff in the building to monitor what’s happening and making sure no one is over-serving themselves. Set limitations at realistic numbers so customers do have to check in with you.

I think I did already. You can reach out to me privately for that if you like. Email: mdimare@realkitchenchicago.com

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