On the eighth day, God made a Manhattan. On the ninth day, He put it in a keg.
No one knows exactly how or where it started, though legend has it beginning in New York City (as trends are wont to do). It infiltrated Chicago, seeped into San Francisco, and is slowly, quietly growing in Texas. And now (hallelujah!) cocktails on tap have arrived in Los Angeles.
At Eveleigh on Sunset, it began with an extra beer tap: They had four lines but only three different kinds of beer. General manager Jeremy Adler wondered if they could turn that unused fourth handle into a cocktail tap, making it easier to serve the nightly crush at the bar. After a few weeks of tinkering,
bartender wizard Kiowa Bryan finally unveiled the Blood Orange Negroni on Draught: Aviation gin, sweet vermouth, Campari and blood orange shrub. (A shrub is both a woody plant and strained fruit juice macerated with vinegar and sugar. Here they use the latter.)
What makes a Negroni on tap better than one made to order? "It does have a little effervescence that it doesn't have if we're making it by hand," Bryan explains. "And I think it mellows it out a little bit; it just meshes the flavors together because they're incorporating together for a longer period of time."
We did the math: A 5-gallon keg could make about 213 Negronis, and each takes about five seconds to pour, versus the 60 seconds of measuring, pouring, shaking and straining involved in the regular drink-making process. Those are numbers bar managers can get behind.
You'll find a Manhattan on draught at the Churchill that might even be better than a normal one: The intense pressurization of the keg keeps things evenly mixed (no sharp pool of rye at the bottom of the glass). When Nick Shultz hired Mia Sarazen to revamp the Churchill's cocktail menu last fall, she suggested the concept and Shultz chose the Manhattan -- they premix specific ratios of Templeton Rye and Carpano Antica vermouth, and they go through about a keg a week.
They're already contemplating their next one. "What's hard is you have to think of ingredients that will keep in a keg and that aren't going to spoil," Shultz says. "It has to be a mostly liquor-based drink."
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Expect this to pop up at a bar near you, although no one's making it easy. Says Bryan: "It was generally a simple process -- but there's nothing online about it. And the restaurants that have it aren't really explaining how they did it, so it was definitely a trial-and-error process."
Eveleigh may have birthed the Negroni out of weeks of trial and error, but the result is excellent -- a hint of sweetness from the orange, a hint of bitterness from the Campari and a dash of fizz to brighten it up. Plans are now in the works for a seasonal Negroni on tap ... and, eventually, a gin & tonic.
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