What Defined 2016 For Bartenders…

In-Depth

2016-bartenders-2

Aisha Tyler, actress, director, talk show host and founder of Courage + Stone, Los Angeles

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Mezcal — so much mezcal; mezcal inside of my soul.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Weird candy garnishes that don’t actually augment the taste of the drink. I’ve had some pretty delicious candy-based garnishes this year (check out Gabriella Mlynarczyk’s brilliant program at LA restaurant Birch), but put some thought into it. A Lifesaver ain’t doing nothin’ but turning my tongue red.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

I love innovation but I think the best part about the spirits industry is that it is driven by hospitality — by the desire to make others happy. In this world of unwritten astringent menus and impenetrable no-sign speakeasies, we need to remember that cocktails are meant to bring people together, not make them feel isolated, inadequate or uncool. Be nice to that guy in the fleece jacket and fanny pack! He’s there to learn.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

Bottled, tapped and house-aged cocktails will continue to make inroads into the craft bar scene. Bartenders will continue to gravitate towards the complexity of taste and consistency of drinking experience that premade drinks provide.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

If you’re running a bar, please pay attention to the quality of your ice. There’s nothing more disappointing than getting a properly made drink that decays almost instantaneously due to crappy machine ice melt. Take the time to get some decent ice into your program. You don’t have to be the dude cutting it yourself with an electric knife. Just get a better ice maker.

2016-bartenders-3

Simon Ford, maker of Fords Gin, Los Angeles

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Innovative! Since the beginning of the cocktail renaissance that started around 1998 or ’99, the spirits and cocktail industry has mostly been relearning classic techniques and recipes and using that as guiding principles to build from. But in 2016 I saw more bars and companies break these rules and conventions and innovate new ways to enjoy drinks. It’s been one of the most creative years I have ever witnessed for cocktail culture and it’s happening all over the world.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Fluffy orange juice and Cafe Dante’s take on the Garibaldi. It might be the quickest I have seen a cocktail appear on cocktail menus around the world as a result of one bar doing it. 2016 was also a great year for gin, and I saw a lot more low-ABV cocktails on menus.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Complaining about customers on social media. If that is how you handle disgruntled patrons, your hospitality skills probably need some work. Leave the complaining to Yelpers.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Equality in the work place and sexual harassment were highlighted as major issues in 2016, and while both have been going on forever, it seems like 2017 is the year were we need to work as a community to eradicate these issues from our industry.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

In 2016 certain bars such as White Lyan in London and Potatohead Beach Club in Bali started looking at improving their environmental sustainability practices, and I believe this will become a more prominent trend across bars in 2017 as the issue of global warming remains a hot topic and issue for the world.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

I would like to see more Calvados and Calvados cocktails in bars, because it’s delicious and an underused spirit in my opinion. I would also like to see our industry continue showing itself as a socially responsible one.

2016-bartenders-4

Philip Duff, director of Liquid Solutions, New York

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Upheaval.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Craft.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Skilled mixologists drinking shitty spirits or beer in an effort to appear ironic.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Our understanding of how cocktails are only a part — a small part — of the business as a whole.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

Sustainability, bartenders opening their own bars, bartenders starting their own brands, amaro.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

It would be great if bartenders used Facebook for Facebook more, and not as a substitute for Google.

2016-bartenders-5

Kara Newman, spirits editor of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, New York

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Cocktail and bar culture moved toward a less formal, more fun space.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Cocktails on draft, fewer age-statement spirits and a flood of new whiskey bottlings.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Cocktails made with activated charcoal. Moody black drinks were fun for about five minutes, but now it’s time to move on.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

We’re seeing a small but growing movement toward environmental sustainability in bars. I’d like to see that move forward in 2017.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

More consolidation in the spirits space — echoing what happened in the craft beer world, now craft spirits are getting bought by larger entities.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

I’d love to see more spirits brands devote resources to supporting charitable organizations. We need meaningful change in the world; we don’t really need more brand-sponsored parties.

Giuseppe Gallo, creator of Italicus, London

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Mezcal keep[s] growing due bartender embracement. Amaro [is] the new bartender toy and Rosolio [is] the newest spirits in the market.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Social network propaganda.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

Aperitivos, low ABV cocktails, Rosolio.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

Take our profession to the consumer level: more approachable professional and less fancy bartender.

Stefan Was, owner of Porco Lounge & Tiki Room, Cleveland, Ohio

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Status quo, with minor innovation in cocktails, but shifting focus on service.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Use of non-traditional spirits in classic cocktails, bars working with one another for a greater good in terms of pop-ups, menu collaboration, promotion, etc.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Speakeasies. Smaller markets can barely support more than one, if that. Cocktails should be approachable and welcoming, not out of reach and pretentious.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Hospitality.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

Focus on service and a quality product as opposed to innovation or being different.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

We serve guests, not drinks. More focus on the guest experience than being a rock star or famous bar with obscure cocktails.

Gary Sharpen and Sandrae Lawrence, editors of The Cocktail Lovers, London

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

The sheer diversity of innovation, new initiatives and venues all around the world makes it almost impossible to define the year. Which is definitely a good thing, right?

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Becoming more conscious about not only what goes into our glasses but the effect our drinks choices have on our bodies, and the environment as well.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

Crazy drinks for crazy drinks’ sake.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Saying no to bev mats and plastic straws – every little [bit] helps…

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

Being more sustainably aware.

Peter Vestinos, bartender and consultant, The Sparrow Chicago and The BarMedic, Chicago

How would you sum up 2016 (specific to the bartending/spirits world) in one sentence?

Bar programs came into their own, meaning people developed more programs that were appropriate for their environment, neighborhood and clientele.

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

We speak a lot about terroir, which can rightfully be argued in spirit production, but I think what came into light this year was a sense of place in spirit products in terms of where and how things are produced and the people and environments which are affected, both positively and negatively. I think we’ll continue to see more of an awareness for spirit production in this regard.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

The layback.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Labor laws and health care/benefits.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

The year of the grape. Cocktail bartenders have had a growing interest in wine, consumers are heading back to wine, and some bar managers are recognizing this and providing better wine pours in a cocktail bar environment. American brandies are starting their long-deserved uptick, so keep an eye on that category. Consumers are also finally drinking more pisco, so we have to realize that although we have been pushing for it for years, it is just taking hold with a lot of our customers. And, of course, rum in a non-tiki application will continue to grow in terms of bars dedicated to it, space on a back bar, and consumer interest.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

I hope a lot bartenders and spirit professionals can achieve the long deserved work/life balance we have all been struggling for as we work to grow this industry.

Jad Ballout, manager of Central Station Boutique Bar, Beirut

What trend(s) or movement(s) defined the bartending/spirits world in 2016?

Bartenders are using a lot of culinary techniques in their drinks inspired from kitchen chefs. Also, I see simplicity and not over complicat[ing] things is also one of the 2016 trends, and a lot of people are looking for ways and methods to avoid as much as they can waste and trying to use the waste again in their cocktails.

What trend do you hope goes away in 2017?

The past few years there was a big trend of using crazy and complicated garnishes, but recently this trend start[ed] to go away and a lot of people start[ed] to be back again on a more simple and creative style rather than over-complicated ones.

What should we, as an industry, work to change or improve in 2017?

Keep sharing the knowledge between us so we can evolve faster and grow better.

What trends do you predict will be growing in 2017?

The trend that I see it growing a lot in 2017 is that a lot of bars will be focusing more on using local products and ingredients from their country and trying to reflect their culture through their drinks.

Any other hopes or dreams for the bar world in 2017 that you’d like to share with us?

I hope that our job will be more considered as proper and serious profession everywhere around the world like any other job and to have syndicates that protect the rights of bartenders and help them to evolve and develop.