August 26

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Bartenders Say, These Are The Cocktails Sweeping The Nation In 2016…

Bar 2Written By: Tales of the Crocktail.

As part of our ongoing research with consulting firm Trepwise, we recently asked over 1,500 bartenders, industry professionals and cocktail enthusiasts to share their thoughts on the most significant and substantial movements within the cocktail industry right now. Their answers give insight into some of the movements and patterns that are sweeping across the industry, from renewed focus on locally sourced ingredients to cocktails with an emphasis on health (and less emphasis on ABV). Read on for a few of the most common answers we received:

We asked 1,500 industry professionals for their opinions on the most significant trend of 2016 so far. Above, a word map featuring the most common keywords in their responses. Graphic via trepwise.

  1. Ingredients with a Backstory

“Not just that the ingredients are sustainable and clean, but also that the production of the ingredients is socially responsible as well. This will dovetail into what we are seeing in the food industry.”

“Bartenders are respecting fresh and local produce the way chefs do, and will learn to work with the ingredients.”

“The continuation of craft cocktails and sourcing of local ingredients.”

“Continued emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients and collecting bottles from different small distilleries around the U.S.”

“Evolution of custom craft cocktails using proprietary mixes, bitters, etc., created with natural fresh ingredients.”

“Farm-to-bar ingredients.”

“Focus on smaller independent producers and sourcing local ingredients.”

“Healthier drinks, organic ingredients, going green in the industry.”

“Consumers are looking for fresh and local ingredients, grain-to-glass, etc. We’re tired of added flavors, sugars, and colors. Infusions are simple and I think bars would be wise to use local produce to add what flavors their spirits are missing.”

Bar 3Sustainability and transparency of ingredients.”

  1. Using Beer, Wine & Aperitifs for Low-ABV Drinks

“Beer and wine cocktails need to grow. They are a great bridge for non-cocktail drinkers!”

“Beer-strength cocktails (low ABV, fizzy, but not containing beer), to compete with the trending hard sodas.”

“Beer/wine license cocktails. The full alcohol license is prohibitively expensive for many bars, but you can craft delicious beverages with <21% ABV.”

“More integration of micro-brews & micro-distilleries in cocktails (beertails).”

“More science, more thoughtful pairing with food, more cocktails involving craft beer.”

“Spirit blends: wine and beer cocktails. Crossovers and mashups. Draught cocktails are still high up there. Herbal and savory.”

“Sours and gose beers are becoming a newer trend in brewing. They take on so many flavors if you want to add a spirit or fruit flavor to accompany them it will be a next level thing in big cities.”

“Fortified wine cocktails. I think they are already being exposed, but in the next year they will really start to shine.”

“I think there will be huge growth in lighter, lower proof cocktails using aromatic ingredients such as wine, vermouth, sherry and port as a base.”

“The fusion of wine and spirits in cocktail creation.”

“Lower-ABV cocktails. With the popularity of amaro, sherry and non-alcoholic mixers, I think that we will see a shift towards lower octane cocktails being served.”

“Amaros, bitters, vermouths, sherry, etc. They require much history artistry to produce and are associated with healthy digestive practices.”

  1. Tiki (and with it, rum)

“Although it’s well established already, i really have seen a substantial rise in the tiki movement at everywhere from the industry leading bartenders to beginners.”

“Because of the resurgent tiki interest, rums will become the new hot spirit.”

“I see a lot of tiki rearing its head, as well as just having fun in general.”

“We are focusing on tiki and frozen drinks going into 2017.”

“I hope palates shift more towards the funk: more agricole and funky Jamaican rums.”

“More people will discover rum, some of the better rum will be coveted and over priced when we can find it.”

Rum will skyrocket, especially ultra-premium aged r(h)ums and characterful white r(h)ums.”

“The return of rum and an appreciation of drinks where sweetness is a key balancing flavor element.”

“Rum gateway-ing to smaller regional brands, as well an appreciation of rums made without molasses, but instead either pure sugar cane juice, or pure sugar cane syrup.”

  1. Mezcal and other agave spirits become more mainstream

“Tequila and rums enjoying more regional and historic interest, for example: tequila gateway-ing to mezcal, and small production items like sotol.”

“As more good & sustainable mezcal makes its way into smaller markets, we will see it shift to be a more mainstream market trend.”

“Mezcal, tequila, singani and cachaça will all be incorporated into more U.S. bar programs as distribution opens up.”

“The rise of agave-spirit centric (i.e tequila and mezcal) cocktails and bars … no great surprise there as these spirits have been increasing in popularity for several years, but 2016 seems to be the year that agave-centric bars are popping up all over the place.”

  1. Hospitality and service are prioritized over what’s in the glass

“A more relaxed attitude towards service. Less white gloves, more high fives.”

Bartenders putting the fun back in to their drinks and service.”

“Going back to the roots of hospitality, to giving great service.”

“Can we please continue to tone down the ‘exclusivity’ and entitlement of fancy drink places and just have fun with guests and, if lucky, have great ingredients?”

“I believe the trend will be getting back to our roots as bartenders. Making great cocktails in a fast and efficient manner. Good conversations, smiles and friendly service. The guy with the attitude that makes you wait 20 minutes for a drink is over. We, as bartenders, are here to serve the customer, have a good conversation (when you can) and make money. The customer is there to see the bartender because they know they will be served in a fast, efficient and pleasant nature. It’s this reciprocation between customer and bartender that each is there to see the other and keeps bars in business. the bartender who feels the customers are solely there for his cocktail-making abilities and nothing else, are over.

“A bigger emphasis on hospitality. Anyone can make a drink, but people leave their abodes to interact with people. It’s our responsibility ensure that each guest leaves the establishment with this ideal exceeded.”

“Fun bars and hospitality. Everyone is making good drinks, which makes providing a fun and lively experience critical.”

“Asking how a guest is doing before asking them what they would like to drink. Or, more simply, a bigger focus on hospitality (with a solid drink program to back it up).”

  1. A return to simple, basic drinks, with renewed focus on quality

“Mixology bars are passé. People are tired of waiting 25 minutes for a master mixologist to make a cocktail with obscure hard to find ingredients. Fresh, simple, local!”

Well executed classics with new ingredients.”

“Can we please continue to tone down the ‘exclusivity’ and entitlement of fancy drink places and just have fun with guests and, if lucky, have great ingredients?”

“Bridging the divide between craft and non-craft bars. Quality ingredients and more technique will show up in what were formerly considered dive or neighborhood bars.”

“Fresh and simple cocktails will continue to grow as opposed to umpteen-million ingredient cocktails.”

“A meeting in the middle mindset. The days of uptight cocktail bars are gone. The neighborhood ‘beer and shot bar’ can now make a Manhattan and a Negroni. Cocktail bartenders need to learn to pour a pint, shoot the breeze with the regulars and establish a neighborhood community, not just a cocktail bartender community.”

“Dumb fun. The elevating of supposed “low-brow,” frivolous imbibing to craft consideration. Indulging in our guilty pleasures while using good spirits and esoteric knowledge. Beginning to dismantle the ‘mixology’ framework in the drinking public.”

Other interesting comments…

“Strange liquors and flavors (example: olive liqueur, wild mushrooms, boisee); manipulating the flavors using time (aging) and temperature (room-temperature cocktails); intense use of kitchen techniques (sous-vide cooking, smoking, reducing).”

“Utilising practices that best serve the idea through scientific approaches, and a cross pollination of different cultures that directly, and indirectly affect the F&B industry.”

“All things Japanese; whiskies, sake, shochu, bartending, highballs, etc.”

“Attention [given] to what bars hire what kind of people, who pours what kind of spirits, made under what conditions, by what kind of people.”

Vodka. Hard and true fact. People are starting to invite it back into their bars with fervor.”

Equality in the workplace.”

“Bottled, barreled, and draught cocktails. General pre-prep and batching and moving away from the construction of each drink from scratch in front of the customer.”

“Cocktail menus that cater to food. Wine has long been the favorite pairing, but I think it is time for cocktails to step up as being dinner’s best accompaniment.”

“An emphasis on sustainability and increased interest in appealing to consumers with food allergy concerns.”

“Going green; acids, oils and vinegars taking the place of fresh fruits; minimalist but more complex cocktails; less ice but cold glasses & alcohol.”

“I ain’t no crystal ball, but I see vegetables and vegan alternatives being very big.”

“I think it’s just continuing the exploration of pulling elements from other subcultures — like cannabis and beer — into the cocktail world, which may be exciting, but I think it also makes it kind of confusing for newcomers who just want a well-made cocktail without all the hubbub. Also, it seems like everyone and their brother are opening distilleries, and I wonder: how sustainable is that, long term?

“Rising tide of interest/expecation for quality products (spirits and added ingredients) among “pedestrian” drinkers. I believe overall consumer sophistication is increasing and their discovery that quality doesn’t have to be cost-prohibitive.”

“Value pricing, as the cost has really gone up and volume has gone down. Many millennials are unemployed or under-employed and can’t afford current prices, so value options can increase volume and profits.”

“Sustainability! I really do believe we will see more bars eliminating plastic straws and go cups, creating less paper waste, and using fresh local ingredients.”

“What I see in 2016 is that restaurants, even chains, and casual dining, have all placed more importance in general in having a decent cocktail program, and cocktail culture has gone from being the New York/San Francisco secret society, to permeating the entire country and 50 states. That is what is exciting.”