"We get a lot of people that say, 'I came here to watch a cocktail made,'" says Lynn Thomas, one of the partners who owns South Side's Acacia. But Acacia also offers a different spectacle: cocktails poured from a tap. And while it may not be quite so visually impressive, Thomas says, "This is a completely different cocktail than you'd get if it were made by hand."
Acacia is one of a thimbleful of locations to offer pre-made cocktails straight from a tap. For a bar like Acacia, which has quickly become a go-to spot for beautifully crafted cocktails, pre-batching cocktails can help speed up hectic service. But Thomas says the real draw is the subtle differences in flavor between on-tap drinks and cocktails made on the spot.
The pre-made cocktails are delivered through a nitrogen-powered tap system, and Thomas says "The pressure of the nitrogen melds the flavors in a way that's different than a shake or stir would. It's a completely different taste, softer and a little smoother."
Acacia currently has two cocktails on tap: Lucien Gaudin (Beefeater gin, Campari, dry vermouth) and Backwards Manhattan (Jim Beam, sweet vermouth, Nonino Amaro, wormwood bitters).
The drinks are also served at a slightly warmer temperature than a "fresh" cocktail; flavor components that would otherwise be masked by cold become more prominent.
As a rule, on-tap cocktails are alcohol-forward. "You want the mix to be all booze," Thomas says, since elements like citrus juice can cause the drink to separate, or even go sour. Adding a little water, though, is OK, and mimics the dilution of alcohol that would normally be caused by ice melting when a drink is shaken or stirred.
Thomas says that he's just beginning to experiment with cocktails on-tap, and that a variety of drinks are in the works. It's just another way to engage a bartender's creativity, he says, adding that of the cocktails he's created, "For the most part they've been working really well."