EAST VILLAGE — A new neighborhood bar's on-tap cocktail service may be on the rocks.
Gin Palace, at 95 Avenue A, opened on June 15 with a host of traditional mixed drinks on tap — including the classic gin and tonic — to improve the drinks' quality and speed of service.
But on Monday, the State Liquor Authority reportedly hit the bar with a violation for serving alcohol in an unlicensed container, endangering the concept's execution — as well as the bar's bottom line.
"I think it will definitely have a chilling effect," said a Mayur Subbarao, beverage consultant for Gin Palace, of the ruling.
The SLA came down on the bar for serving alcohol in an unlicensed container, a Prohibition-era law that prohibits taverns from pouring liquor from a bottle into another container and then serving it, The New York Times reported. Basically, liquor must be served from the bottle it comes in.
A July 20 SLA hearing will determine if the bar can keep serving the pre-mixed drinks, but for now Gin Palace is allowed to keep the booze flowing, Subbarao explained.
"There is a lot of things I wouldn’t play with if it is banned," noted Subbarao, a 38-year-old former attorney, who developed the tap idea a few years ago when a party on a hot summer's day called for a refreshing and low-maintenance drink.
The gin and tonic isn't the only classic concoction on tap at Gin Palace, with Amor y Amargo — which is part of the larger Cienfuegos/Gin Palace complex at 95 Avenue A — also offering a "Prim and Proper" cocktail with Bittermans Commonwealth tonic cordial, Bittermans Citron Sauvage grapefruit liquor and sweet vermouth.
Subbarao could only speculate as to why the SLA sought to cite Gin Palace, despite other locations serving chilled and frozen mixed drinks.
"The theory is it stopped people from pouring cheap booze into expensive bottles," he said. The law was later altered to legalize machines with moving parts, such as those used for iced margaritas, the Times reported.
If Gin Palace is banned from serving its cocktails on tap, other drinks such as punch and sangria, as well as other bars that serve mixed drinks on tap, could also be in jeopardy, Subbarao explained.
The SLA did not immediately return a request for comment, a spokesman for the agency told the Times it can't comment during an investigation.
Gin Palace runs through at least one keg of gin and tonic per day, providing enough for about 110 drinks, the bar owners said.
"It brings life to a classic drink," said Colin DeCarutel, a bartender at Gin Palace, which sits below Cienfuegos. "It makes gin and tonic fun and exciting again."
On a busy night, DeCarutel can pour several of the drinks in seconds for $7 a pop.
For Subbarao, speed of service isn't the only benefit of the tap cocktails.
"You get a much better carbonation in the drink," said the consultant, who uses mixology to satisfy his childhood desire of being a scientist. "It has fine bubbles almost making the drink creamy."
The kegged drink needs to be kept near freezing — at 37 degrees — and it is also stored at high pressures to keep the liquid fizzy.
"The carbonation is a very different thing than when you are just adding tonic," Subbarao said of his creation, with includes Plymouth Gin, grapefruit bitters and Bittermans alcoholic tonic cordial.