Tavernita Unveils Innovative Beverage Program

CHICAGO - Tavernita, the forthcoming Spanish and Latin-inspired restaurant from Mercadito Hospitality, is pleased to announce its pioneering beverage program developed by renowned beverage consultants Tippling Bros, Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay.

When Tavernita opens its doors in September, guests can expect a multifaceted drinking experience unlike anything available in Chicago. Tavernita will showcase innovations including kegged cocktails and exciting small-production wines offered on tap, as well as three distinct beverage programs at the restaurant's three bars, to reinforce the different dining experiences available throughout the versatile space.

Tapping into Cocktail Creativity, Tavernita's 24-seat main bar will boast 48 tap heads, but the thoughtful selection of craft beers will be just the beginning. Tippling Bros. have developed a system to accurately batch their signature cocktails and seal them in airtight Cornelius kegs, and they will debut this ground-breaking method at Tavernita where about eight drinks will be offered on tap at any given time. Manning the taps will be the head "batchologist," who will be tasked with mixing Tavernita's on-tap cocktails, using fresh ingredients.

"We have been experimenting with kegged cocktails for a while now, and we finally feel confident that it really works," says Tanguay. "We discovered that mixing cocktails in large batches is both an art and a science. You can't simply take the recipe for a single cocktail, multiply the measurements by 100 and expect it to taste the same. There's a lot more tinkering involved in obtaining a balanced result. The way we look at it, it's about creating one five-gallon cocktail, and that's where the batchologist comes in."

As opposed to the recent trend of barrel-aging cocktails - wherein straight-spirits cocktails such as the Manhattan are the only viable option due to the porousness of wooden barrels - kegging allows for the use of fresh ingredients such as citrus juices, which would not survive the barrel aging process. Carducci and Tanguay are experimenting with a variety of gases that will be used to purge the cocktail kegs. Carbon dioxide, for instance, imparts a slight effervescence, while gases such as nitrogen and argon impart none at all.

"We have taste-tested our kegged cocktails against the same drink mixed to order," says Carducci, "and we were surprised to find that, if anything, people seem to prefer the flavor of the cocktails from the kegs. We suspect it has to do with the fact that the ingredients are able to marry, producing a rounder, richer flavor."

For Tavernita's guests, the option of ordering a cocktail on tap will mean enjoying a handcrafted libation with significantly less wait time and consistently high quality. It also will allow guests the option to order half-cocktails, encouraging more adventurous sampling from Tavernita's extensive cocktail list. Several of the drinks on tap at Tavernita will be ready to serve from the keg, with only last-minute garnishing required. Others will be bases, such as a fresh sour base for Margaritas, and various Sangria bases, which will require the addition of a spirit or other "a la minute" elements and a quick shake from Tavernita's bartenders to get them ready for the glass. This also allows bartenders to tap into their creativity, adding different ingredients just before serving to create endless custom variations. In addition to the on-tap cocktails, several additional cocktail options will be offered. Tavernita's bar will also tap house-made vermouth, a nod to the Spanish tradition of "vermut de grifo." In many Spanish bars, several varieties of vermouth are offered on tap, alongside the beers. Dispensed into tall glasses and served with ice and a slice of orange, Spaniards savor vermouth's refreshing flavor balance of sweet and bitter notes. Guests can look forward to tasting two house-made vermouths at Tavernita, which will be produced through a rapid-infusion method that dramatically reduces the amount of time needed to suffuse the aromatic herbs, roots, and bark into the fortified wine base.

A Glimpse at the Bottle-Free Future of Wine
In addition to cocktails and vermouth, the Tippling Bros. are also working to assemble an eclectic collection of uncommon wines from around the world, which will be kegged at filling stations and offered on tap. Guests can expect wines selected to complement Tavernita's diverse mix of European-inspired dishes with Mediterranean and Latin flavors. The wine selection will have an emphasis on international selections, while focusing on esoteric varietals as well as well-known producers. A greener option, kegged wines drastically reduce the amount of bottle waste, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint for Tavernita and its guests.

"While it is currently impossible to go 100% bottle-free, due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure for wine keg circulation and filling, as well as European wine regulations, we're excited to offer guests at Tavernita a sneak peek at what we believe will be the future of wine," explains Tanguay.

Three Bars, Three Beverage Programs

A core component of the Tavernita experience will be the flexibility to have a variety of distinct experiences in the same restaurant, and Tavernita's beverage program reflects this goal. The restaurant will feature three different bars, the 24-seat main bar, the casual San Sebastian-inspired corner Barcito, and the bar in the elevated lounge. The beverage options available at each of these bars will reflect the different "personalities" of each of these spaces. While the main bar will be the centerpiece of Tavernita's beverage program, the Barcito will offer a more casual drinking experience inspired by Spanish pintxos bars, to match its food offerings. There will be a large by-the-glass wine program, a wide selection of bottled beers, as well as a separate selection of cocktails from those offered at Tavernita's main bar. The bar in the elevated lounge will feature the same beverage options as the main bar during dining hours, but will morph to offer a different menu during late night hours. About Mercadito Hospitality Mercadito Hospitality has grown from their first New York City location in 2004 to become a renowned restaurant group specializing in Latin American cuisine. The popularity of these restaurants can be attributed to the innovative interpretations of traditional Mexican cooking created by Chef Patricio Sandoval, and their partnership with renowned beverage consultants Tippling Bros., who add creativity to their beverage programs by merging complex flavors, drinkability and the unexpected. The group currently owns and operates four acclaimed restaurants: Mercadito and Mercadito Grove in New York City, Mercadito in Chicago, and Mercadito in Miami. They also own and operate Double A, an intimate, exclusive cocktail lounge located beneath Mercadito in Chicago. Tavernita will also open in Miami this fall. For additional information, please visit www.mercaditohospitality.com.

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