Cocktail operator is van-tastic

By Alice Leader contact

- Last updated on GMT

In the mix: Tales & Tender’s cocktail draught system is set to speed up cocktail making
In the mix: Tales & Tender’s cocktail draught system is set to speed up cocktail making

Related tags: Cocktail

Tales & Tender founder Nick Whitby claims his cocktail contraption “is like having a bartender with 15 arms, under the counter and behind the scenes”.

Whitby has integrated his family business with an “Instagramable flair” to make a mobile bar that creates fresh cocktails at the touch of a button.

His family business, Whitby Morrisons – a specialist vehicle builder, has earned a great reputation over 57 years for being the “Rolls-Royce” of ice cream vans.

So, once put together with Whitby’s operational background – designing bars for New World Trading Company – and the bespoke cocktail draught system, the ball was rolling.

Sexy element

Whitby, founder of Tales & Tender, said: “Understandably, people tend to avoid cocktail vans at larger events, because how many times have you waited at a cocktail bar for far too long?

“If there's a queue that is moving constantly, customers will think ‘bloody hell, that must be good’.

“But, if there’s a big queue that’s not going down, and maybe rumours of it takes too long to be served, then no one bothers.”

It is for Whitby’s uniquely integrated cocktail draught system, introduced to him by Cocktail Supreme, that inspired him to change that perception.

He said: “I still stir the drinks and shake the drinks so it still has that theatre and ‘sexy’ element.

“I then garnish and serve but I’m reducing the pouring of the ingredients to about 10-12 seconds so we can deliver drinks at speed and volume.”

A robotic back bar

Whitby was introduced to the cocktail draught system by Cocktail Supreme.

He continued: “I met with a company that had produced the draught cocktail machine, and honestly, I thought there is no way it is going to function and deliver as well as they say. I was wrong.

“You can connect the machine to any ingredient, a bottle of vodka, gin, apple, lime, etc, and build your recipes into it and tell it to pour from each line.

“I’d then push ‘X’ cocktail' and it will pull from whatever lines I’ve built into that recipe and will take only as long as the longest ingredient to pour.

“So, rather it being a canister of 20 litres of Long Island mix, you can build individual cocktails – just like a robotic back bar.”

People-pleaser cocktails

As the system allows Whitby to build his own recipes, this has let Whitby adjust his menus to meet various expectations.

“While some events may want your classic and off-the-shelf ‘people-pleaser’ cocktails, like Cosmos, for example, there may be some events where the customers have a more demanding and adventurous palate, requiring more extravagant drinks.

“It's about tailoring our events to our clients in order to exceed their expectations, so each event isn’t the same, therefore, it's not the same cocktails.”

Whitby argues that pre-batched cocktails, often used in larger scale venues and events, can work and taste good, but can also see a lot of bad press due to production not hitting consumer expectation.

“With restaurants, understandably, they have the battle of preserving freshness in order to manage their stock in which they use preservatives or balancing agents in the pre-batched stuff.”

The extra mile

He continued: “But the way we do it, it's fresh ingredients like a bartender making it and as we run with short-term events, varying from a day to two or three days – we don’t have to use preservatives.

“It still needs the skill set, you still need to know how to build recipes, you still need to understand how to balance and deliver drinks at volume, etc. It’s not just a draught system where you pour and serve.” 

Whitby said Tales & Tender is booked in for a couple of weddings and a festival, and hopes, one day, to have a Prosecco van and a gin & tonic van.

“Maybe I’m making a rod for my own back, but I’d rather do things properly and go the extra mile in order to get to the top of the market.”

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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