Warren Kwa has always enjoyed cocktails. But he believes that there are still gaps between Malaysia’s cocktail culture and the masses.
As a beginner to cocktails in my early 20s, going to a cocktail bar and understanding the menu was confusing and intimidating as a lot of ingredients were unfamiliar, and the drinks were not cheap. These are limiting factors to the number of glasses a novice would try for the night.
TAP TAP, a bar serving cocktails on tap, wants to change that. With co-founders Warren as CEO and Kent Chua—who’s also the founder of The Beer Factory—as Director, they aim to bridge those gaps and make it easier for the masses to try and enjoy cocktails.
“Besides lowering the entry-level price, we also provide wide selections for different taste buds,” they told Vulcan Post. “It is not always about hard liquor, beer or wine only.”
Lowering the bar(rier) to entry
Each drink served at TAP TAP’s Bukit Bintang outlet costs between RM26-RM30. It is a lower price for cocktails when compared to what you’d find at cocktail bars in KL which can cost upwards of RM30 (take it from a frequent bar hopper).
According to Warren, cocktails on tap are something that’s been done in countries outside of Malaysia. He’s bringing the idea to the local market while ensuring that the cocktails on tap at his bar carry distinct flavour profiles that suit Malaysian tastebuds.
Looking at TAP TAP’s menu on its Instagram page, there are informative diagrams to help customers understand the flavour profiles of each drink.
For instance, the Lychee Lust is shown to be sweet, refreshing, and adventurous. With a slightly sour note, it has an alcohol by volume (ABV) of 14% as it’s made with white wine and tequila, complemented by lychee, dill, and lime.
Meanwhile, the Jack & Hill is made with gin, coconut, and jackfruit with an ABV of 7%. Its flavours are expected to be refreshing and sweet.
Malaysia’s iconic cocktail, Jungle Bird which is made with rum, Campari, pineapple, lime, and sugar, is also available on tap at the bar.
Fun fact: According to the first traceable Jungle Bird cocktail recipe in “The New American Bartender’s Guide” by John J. Poister in 1989, it was created in 1978 in the former KL Hilton’s Aviary Bar on Jalan Sultan Ismail.
Loading up the barrels
From my understanding of cocktail mixing, fresh ingredients (like fruits and citruses) often go into the drinks. Their freshness can also make or break the cocktail, so it seemed that this would be amongst TAP TAP’s bigger challenges in making them on tap.
When asked about the process, Warren explained that creating cocktails on tap isn’t too different from how traditional bartenders would do it, just in large batches instead of single glasses.
“We go through extensive R&D to make sure the flavour profiles for each drink is well maintained after kegging and with CO2 charged into the keg,” Warren elaborated, adding that all the 15-litre kegs produced and served are stored in 0-2°C cold room.
“For fresh ingredients, we use fresh Calamansi lime and jackfruits, and we will always unplug the pipes every night to ensure the freshness and taste profile for each cocktail are at their best.”
If there are leftovers after the night is over, the team will disconnect the pipes so that the keg is properly sealed. This should maintain the freshness and taste profile of each cocktail.
In addition, before the team opens the bar each night, it is part of their SOPs to taste every cocktail from the tap. Anything that starts tasting bitter or overly sour will not be served to customers, as the fruits are no longer fresh.
TAP TAP’s drinks are also served in cans (RM72 for a set of three, RM136 for six), as the business was launched amidst the pandemic when takeaways and deliveries were heavily relied on. Even now, Warren has received positive feedback from customers on how they’re able to easily bring TAP TAP’s canned cocktails to house parties, picnics, and vacations.
Tasters from the tap
To me, there is satisfaction in going to the bar and speaking to the bartenders while they make me a drink (sometimes bespoke ones too). Serving cocktails on tap may cut out this element of personal touch.
Bringing up this concern to Warren, he agreed that chatting with bartenders about his favourite spirits and watching them creatively incorporate them into cocktails is something he enjoys as well.
“Thus, in order to have a more personal touch in this factor, we chat up our customers and offer them free samples of our 12 tapped cocktails at The Rabbit Hole, Bukit Bintang.”
The team will share details about how the drinks are created, and the stories behind each cocktail. After all, it is in line with Warren’s aim that he hopes TAP TAP can fulfil.
My ultimate goal is to bridge the connection between the cocktail culture and public masses closer. Educating them that cocktails can be enjoyed in this way. We designed our recipes to be easier to down, but still have the kick [for those] who want to feel the buzz.
Warren Kwa, co-founder and CEO of TAP TAP.
Just six months after the launch of its first outlet in Bukit Bintang, TAP TAP expanded with a second outlet at YáN in Genting Highland. Each cocktail at the second outlet costs between RM30-RM35, which is reasonable considering the likely higher property rental rates there.
One of the team’s business directions for the year is to begin supplying to partners including restaurants, bars, and hotels.
By storing their cocktails in large kegs and in cans, it certainly makes it easier for TAP TAP to supply their cocktails seamlessly, both B2B and B2C. Restaurants, hotels, and the like wouldn’t need to stock on the raw ingredients or go through any training for mixing the drinks.
Whether intentional or not, these factors make TAP TAP’s cocktail concept strategically scaleable.
Featured Image Credit: TAP TAP